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Ben Rhodes won the 2023 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship Friday (Nov. 3) at Phoenix Raceway following four overtime restarts that allowed chaos to erupt on the track.
Christian Eckes won the race over Jake Garcia, making it a McAnally-Hilgemann Racing 1-2. It was Garcia’s best finish of the season and his first Truck Series runner-up finish. Eckes wins this race fresh off of being denied a Championship 4 spot following a string of penalties at Homestead-Miami.
In his post-race interview with FOX Sports’ Amanda Busick he was asked if the race win alleviates the pain of being eliminated: “I think it makes makes it worse, yeah that one’s gonna sting. It still stings. I mean it’s awesome to win, it’s always awesome to win, especially with our great partners. Coming short of the goal of winning a championship and being able to come and win the final race kind of stinks.
“It is what it is now, we can always look back and monday morning we can quarterback it and say that we could be champions but at the end of the day we aren’t and at the end of the day I’m also really proud of the whole No. 99 group, that was my team last year at Thorsport.”
The race ended on Saturday (Nov. 4) morning on the East Coast due to back-to-back crashes that forced Grant Enfinger pit for fresh tires and restart from the rear of the field. The next two restarts allowed Enfinger to rise from 17th place to right on the bumper of Rhodes’ No. 99 F-150. Rhodes had major damage to the front of his truck from contact with Zane Smith, who missed a shift on the second overtime restart.
“I was just stressing for 25 laps in overtime, a messed up hood, transmission not shifting properly, wheels knocked out of whack and here comes Grant on new tires but thanks to him for racing me clean,” Rhodes said in his post-race interview. “I think we all raced each other very well tonight, I just love it, this is great.”
Despite Tyler Ankrum impacting the outside wall coming to the last lap, the white flag flew and Rhodes managed to hold fifth place as Enfinger sent it out of the final corner but was unable to make anything happen on the outside, allowing Rhodes to take the championship.
Ty Majeski took the lead on the first lap and it only took five laps for the first caution to fly when Stewart Friesen spun out. It would be far from the last incident as the race saw 12 total cautions, only one away from tying the Truck Series record at Phoenix.
Heim endrf up winning the second stage and was in the running for the title until midway through the final stage.
With 33 to go, Hocevar and Heim were battling to be the highest running Championship 4 driver when Hocevar spun Heim on the backstretch. The caution came out as a result.
Hocevar restarted in the fourth position, but Heim was far outside of contention in the 21st position.
This would not be the end of it between them because Hocevar fell back to 18th after the restart. Following a huge crash between Stefan Parsons, Daniel Dye and Bayley Currey, Hocevar pitted for four tires in an attempt to make up track position.
Meanwhile Heim had climbed the leaderboard since he only received minimal damage from his spin and was running sixth. With three laps to go, Hocevar had caught Heim on the racetrack and while Hocevar went for the pass on the outside, Heim doored him, putting them both out of contention.
“It wasn’t retaliation, I had no side force, he put it on my door and I wrecked,” Heim said in his post-race interview.
Hocevar would end up having to retire and was scored 29th at the end of the day. Heim was still able to continue, but had major damage and finished in 18th.
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