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Carson Hocevar took the lead late from Ben Rhodes on Saturday (Oct. 21) at Homestead-Miami Speedway to win his fourth race of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season and officially secure his spot in the Championship 4.
Hocevar was not the dominant truck, as Corey Heim led the most laps and swept the stages. But the Niece Motorsports driver found himself in the mix all day and took advantage of a better handling truck than most late in the going to pick up his first victory of the playoffs.
Meanwhile, another relatively clean race at Homestead set the Championship 4, with Rhodes once again squeaking through to the championship race, joining Heim and Grant Enfinger.
The Top Truckers at Homestead-Miami Speedway
Top Storylines of the Race
- Just one race after Zane Smith collided with tire carrier Charles Plank at Talladega Superspeedway, another crew member was hit. While pitting under the stage 1 caution, Memphis Villarreal carried too much speed into his pit box after a collision with Mason Maggio (who was pitting in the stall in front of him) and collided with Cory Selig, his tire carrier. Selig was shown on FOX Sports 1 cameras in visible discomfort and was taken to the infield care center. He was later transported to a local hospital for further evaluation. Reaume Brothers Racing provided an update on Selig’s condition later in the evening. Villarreal finished 29th.
- The race saw the first caution for cause since 2021. Spencer Boyd stalled his No. 12 on the track on lap 54. There were two others after that, a crash between Jack Wood, Hailie Deegan and Colby Howard on lap 74 and a spin by Maggio on lap 80.
- Playoff drivers were not without issues. Christian Eckes incurred two separate penalties, one for a restart violation at the end of stage 2 and another on the final pit stop for speeding on pit road. Eckes finished 21st as a result. Meanwhile, Smith, in a must-win situation, was in a prime position to win before suffering from ill-handling and ending up finishing second to Hocevar. However, Smith was later disqualified after an issue with the supports on the windshield caused the No. 38’s windshield to visibly flex at full speed, akin to Kevin Harvick’s “Flexgate” debacle in the Cup Series in early 2018.
- Bayley Currey rebounded from an early exit at Talladega to finish fifth, his first top five since finishing fifth at Nashville Superspeedway. It’s his third top five of the year.
The Winning Move
When the final caution of the day came out for Maggio’s spin, Rhodes’ crew chief Rich Lushes made a bold call to bring the No. 99 to pit road and put their last set of tires on the truck, hoping the race would stay green and Rhodes could cycle to the lead or at least a top three.
Most frontrunners pitted 15-20 laps later than Rhodes. Heim was among the frontrunners, but he pitted only around 10 laps after Rhodes did and fell out of contention for the win despite his domination. That left Smith in a prime position to take the victory once he ran down Rhodes.
However, Smith fell victim to an poor-handling truck. Hocevar, who had previously been passed by Smith by way of Smith’s fresher tires, suddenly caught back up and passed Smith back. He then took off to pass Rhodes with just 11 laps to go. Smith also made his way around Rhodes but was unable to get the handling back and had to settle for second (prior to disqualification).
As for Hocevar, the win is his fourth on the year and the first since winning the regular season finale at Richmond Raceway.
The Championship 4 is set.
Hocevar joined Heim as the drivers who punched their ticket to the championship by virtue of a win (Heim won the opening race in the Round of 8 at Bristol Motor Speedway). Joining them is Enfinger, who finished a solid fifth at Homestead to make the Championship 4 for the first time since 2020. Rhodes finished third and locked himself into the Championship 4 for the third straight year by just one point.
Sanchez and Ty Majeski joined Smith and Eckes as drivers on the wrong side of the cut line. For the four of them, their championship quests officially come to an end.
Now it’s no longer about points. The championship is a winner-take-all showdown. Three drivers have a shot to win their first championship, while the other driver (Rhodes) has a chance to win his second championship.
This should be fun.
There was a point in the race where it looked like Caruth was on rails with the fastest truck on the track. Getting as high as third at one point, Caruth finished a solid eighth, earning him Rookie of the Race.
No. 02 – Brad Perez (24th)
No. 2 – Nick Sanchez (17th)
No. 7 – Marco Andretti (18th)
No. 17 – Taylor Gray (13th)
No. 20 – Nick Leitz (23rd)
No. 22 – Mason Maggio (27th)
No. 24 – Rajah Caruth (eighth)
No. 25 – Trevor Bayne (14th)
No. 30 – Jonathan Shafer (26th)
No. 33 – Memphis Villareal (29th)
No. 35 – Jake Garcia (15th)
No. 43 – Daniel Dye (21st)
No. 46 – Armani Williams (31st)
One Thought About This Race
Never give up the fight.
Rhodes entered Homestead five points below the cut line, occupied by Sanchez. And the No. 99 team certainly didn’t have the speed that would have been necessary to point his way in — he only managed a 21st-place starting spot in qualifying.
Lushes was very aggressive with his pit call for Rhodes with around 50 laps to go. The team advised Rhodes once he cycled to the lead that they didn’t need to necessarily win, but a top three would guarantee them a Championship 4 spot. And of course, Rhodes finished third to secure his spot in the championship race.
Lushes’ last-gasp, Hail-Mary pit call for Rhodes paid off. But even that wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the restart violation Eckes incurred on the restart with two laps to go in stage 2.
Eckes technically finished sixth in the stage, but the restart violation forced NASCAR to drop him to the back of the field, resulting in no stage points. As a result, Rhodes was bumped from 10th to ninth, earning an additional point toward his cause.
And that one point was the difference.
Had Eckes kept his finishing position in stage 2, it’s more than likely possible that Rhodes does not move on to the Championship 4, and Sanchez instead assumes that spot.
Rhodes and crew is used to being backed into a corner. Last year at this very race, Rhodes was in a position where he needed all the help he could get to advance to the Championship 4. He got a little help from his ThorSport Racing teammates and eked his way into the championship race where he would come up just one spot short of being back-to-back champion with a shot at a third straight this year.
However, with Smith not moving on to defend his championship, maybe this year is a different story for Rhodes and his Sandusky, Ohio-based team.
“I love winning!” – Hocevar ecstatic about winning at Homestead:
“Just got way too tight.” – Smith discussed what went wrong in his (later rescinded) runner-up finish:
“I was so terrible the whole race, I didn’t know it could’ve worked out!” – Rhodes relieved about making the Championship 4 after a poor weekend otherwise:
“You can’t make those mistakes and expect to make the championship race.” – Sanchez dejected about race at Homestead and missing the Championship 4:
“We’ll take it and move on to Phoenix [Raceway].” – Currey was encouraged about sixth- (later fifth-) place finish but thinks there was more in the truck:
“I feel like I did good for my first time here.” – Caruth loves Homestead and wants the finale to return there:
“I feel like this was going into my first-ever race.” – Marco Andretti made his oval debut and was happy with his run:
Paint Scheme of the Race
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and as such, drivers show up to the racetrack in paint schemes that have been outfitted with pink, straying away from their normal paint schemes.
Such was the case for Caruth and GMS Racing, who collaborated with Caruth’s sponsor, the Wendell Scott Foundation, to abandon the typical blue that adorned his truck (and Scott’s car throughout his career) in favor of a pink, white and blue No. 24 that Caruth wheeled to eighth.
Although an honorable mention should go to the Baptist Health Cancer Center 200 trophy that Hocevar won — that thing looks gorgeous decked out in pink, and its design makes it that much cooler.
Next Truck Stop
This is it. The last stop. Time to crown a champion in the desert.
The Craftsman Truck Series has another off week before heading to Phoenix Raceway to kick off Championship Weekend on Friday, Nov. 3. Smith is the defending winner of the race, but he will not be able to defend his championship.
Coverage for the Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix Raceway will begin at 10 p.m. ET on Friday, Nov. 4. FOX Sports 1 will carry the television broadcast.
About the author
Anthony Damcott joined Frontstretch in March 2022. He is an editor and co-authors Only Yesterday (Wednesdays) and Fire on Fridays (Fridays); he is also the primary Truck Series reporter/writer and dabbles in SRX coverage too. A proud West Virginia Wesleyan College alum from Akron, Ohio, Anthony is currently pursuing a master's degree. He is a theatre actor and fight choreographer-in-training in his free time. He's a loyal fan of the Cincinnati Reds and Carolina Panthers, still hopeful for a championship at some point in his lifetime.
You can keep up with Anthony by following @AnthonyDamcott on Twitter.
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