Grabbing the lead from Carson Hocevar after a restart on lap 111 of 134, Ben Rhodes pulled away to win Friday night’s North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Rhodes, the ninth different winner in 11 NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series races this season, also collected a $50,000 bonus for winning the first of three events in the Triple Truck Challenge, a bonus program that could mean $500,000 for a driver who can sweep all three.
“I didn’t think we were that good in practice,” said Rhodes, who beat runner-up Corey Heim to the checkered flag by 2.398s, as Heim, third-place Dean Thompson and Carson Hocevar battled for the second spot over the last 24 laps.
“I didn’t qualify the best, and here it came to life at night… Oh, man, I had so much fun. This is so much fun. Charlotte is a track that we come to—ThorSport Racing, we’re based in Sandusky, Ohio—we come to the North Carolina guys’ house, and we like to win.”
The victory was Rhodes’ first of the season, his first at Charlotte and the seventh of his career. In addition to the Triple Truck Challenge bonus, Rhodes is locked into the CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Playoffs.
“The whole season is so hard to put together,” Rhodes said. “It’s unbelievably hard, and it’s only gotten more difficult over the years…. A championship being locked in, I’ll take that. The last three races have been so unbelievably hard on my team. We’ve been wrecked in the last three and haven’t had very good showings because of it.
“So I’ll take the points—thank you.”
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Hocevar held the lead for the lap 111 restart but was trapped in the middle of a three-wide situation and dropped to sixth in the running order. Heim took second and Thompson third, while Hocevar rallied and swapped the third position with Thompson before finishing fourth.
“Me and the No. 42 (Hocevar) and the No. 5 (Thompson) were probably the best trucks,” said Heim, who led a race-high 49 laps and held off Hocevar to win the first stage. “But the No. 99 (Rhodes) just came along really strong, and once we got to second on the restart where the No. 42 got put in the middle there, I really thought we had a shot at it.
“But it just proves that clean air is king here, but I feel like if I did a better job of getting by as soon as possible rather than waiting on a run, we might have had a better opportunity.”
Notes: Thompson’s third-place finish was a career-best. Hocevar led 43 laps and won the seconds stage by 5.746s over Heim. Rhodes, the 2021 series champion, led 37 laps—25 in the final run to the finish. The final two Triple Truck Challenge races are scheduled for World Wide Technology Raceway on June 3 and Nashville Superspeedway on June 23.
Results to come