Ben Rhodes wins again at Daytona on a wet Road course under the lights.
With wet weather conditions that would normally delay a regular oval NASCAR race, the green flag dropped at around 7:45, and with it were trucks starting with rain tires, instead of the usual slicks. Even with the rain tires, there were a handful of spin-outs, turn-arounds, and missed turns on the first road course of the season.
For much of stage 1, it was essentially a two-car race between John Hunter Nemechek and Sheldon Creed; who were in first and second respectively throughout the stage. A spun-out and stopped number 04 car, driven by Cory Roper, caused a caution flag on lap 8 (with 4 laps to go in the stage), which caused Stage 1 to resume on the final lap. John Hunter Nemechek won stage 1 in dominant fashion, followed by Ben Rhodes, Chandler Smith, Brett Moffitt, and Ryan Truex to round out the top 5. Matt Crafton, Johnny Sauter, Austin Hill, Sheldon Creed, and Riley Herbst also earn stage points in 6th-10th place respectively.
Stage 2 began with the same two drivers in the front row as did to begin the race with John Hunter Nemechek leading the field in front of Ryan Truex. It did not take long, however, for Sheldon Creed to drive around Nemechek on fresher tires. Creed expertly drove through lapped traffic to widen his lead, even being slammed in the side by the number 3 truck, who was one lap down at the time.
The slicks finally came out, led by Sheldon Creed, with 3 laps to go at the end of stage 2, which then caused a good part of the field behind him to pit and follow-suit. The yellow flag came out with 3 laps to go due to the stage 1 winner, John Hunter Nemechek, losing oil and fuel pressure, which forced him to come to a complete stop. Stage 2 ended under caution with Raphael Lessard winning his second stage of the season, followed by Kaz Grala, Zane Smith, Austin Wayne Self, Todd Gilliland, Matt Crafton, Hailie Deegan, Sheldon Creed, Chase Purdy, and Brett Moffitt all collecting stage points.
The final stage began with Sheldon Creed’s blank white Chevy leading the pack, who at this point were all on slick tires. An incident exiting pit road involving Teammates Ryan Truex and Carson Hocevar brought out the 4th caution of the night.
After 4 laps under caution, the final stage finally resumed with 10 laps left to go lead by Riley Herbst after Sheldon Creed lost five spots for not keeping up with the pace truck under caution. Creed was trying to conserve fuel by shutting off his car intermittently, and while doing so stalled-out a bit, not allowing him to keep up.
After a 5th and then 6th caution relatively close to each other, the race went into its first overtime. Ben Rhodes was perhaps just a hundred feet from getting the white flag before the caution came out, causing a re-rack for the night’s second overtime restart.
It didn’t take long before Jennifer Jo Cobb’s car was involved in an incident in which she couldn’t restart her car, triggering the third overtime of the night. The final overtime restarted with Ben Rhodes and John Hunter Nemechek in the front row, followed by Sheldon Creed and Kaz Grala in the second row.
This race ended with the three most competitive trucks racing each other hard, and those three cars all finishing in the top three with Ben Rhodes winning, followed by Sheldon Creed, and John Hunter Nemechek in third.
Much of the conversation was about when drivers would switch from their rain tires to the slicks and how putting them on too early would risk having less grip, but the potential payoff would be faster lap times if the track was mostly dry. Different tire types are something you’re used to hearing about if you watch F1, but it’s not something typical to NASCAR unless rain is involved on a road course; adding another exciting variable to an already exciting race.
John Hunter Nemechek ended the night with an impressive finish after not being able to restart his truck, getting the lucky dog in the 4th caution, and ending the night in third place. It also seemed as though whoever started on the inside would get a better start than the outside, which makes sense with the first turn being a tight turn to the left, but it’s something to look out for in the Xfinity and Monster Energy Cup Series’ races this weekend.