Avondale, AZ – We all knew that entering Friday night’s Lucas Oil 150 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at the Phoenix Raceway that the battle for the fourth and final spot that advances to the Championship 4 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway would be very intense.
Tonight didn’t disappoint.
All night, Ben Rhodes has the better truck between him and Austin Cindric. When the duo were separated by just a handful of points heading into this weekend’s cutoff race, it was likely shaping up to see the ThorSport driver advancing past Cindric for that final position.
See, Johnny Sauter won at Texas and automatically advanced. Both Christopher Bell and Matt Crafton held enough of an advantage ahead of the cutoff line and didn’t have much to worry about.
But Rhodes and Cindric, they had a fierce battle on their hands.
For most of the evening it was Rhodes that was in, but on a late race pit stop under caution, Rhodes was running in the top five while Cindric was outside the top 10. Cindric, we knew would be pitting to get four new Goodyear tires. Rhodes, well that wasn’t a guarantee. Do you give up track position to get new tires and be on the same strategy as Cindric, or do you stay up front and see if he can catch you?
Rhodes, chose to come down pit road.
When they exited, Rhodes led Cindric by a mere one point on the restart with 21 laps-to-go in regulation. Cindric, made a move to the inside of him, but Rhodes countered and blocked him. Unfortunately, both made contact that sent Rhodes’ No. 27 Toyota into the inside SAFER barrier on the front stretch and back up the track into his teammate Matt Crafton.
It took both out while Cindric moved on.
That crash did allow Crafton to advance on due to points, but Rhodes was eliminated and Cindric advancing on.
Cindric, is the lone Ford driver left driving for a Brad Keselowski Racing team that’s folding at the end of the season. But, he’s now getting criticized by some for that move. At Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, he purposely crashed Kaz Grala on the final lap which gave him the win and a playoff spot.
Now, he’s involved in a crash at the end that puts him into the Championship 4.
“There’s definitely a time and place to go three-wide and that wasn’t it,” Rhodes said. “He put me into a bad place. I’m not sure that was the right move on his part. We were better than him most of the day. It looked like a desperation move at that point but if I were in that situation I don’t blame him.”
Crafton wasn’t happy either.
“I was in the wrong place at the wrong time but I told Ben (Rhodes) that, that kid better not finish Homestead,” a disappointed Crafton said after the accident.
But, it didn’t come easy. The final 21 laps of the race saw three red flags totaling over 30-minutes. The first was 17-minutes, the second 14-minutes. The third crash that involved the red flag lasted minutes.
Cindric, was back inside the top 10 but he had to hope John Hunter Nemechek didn’t win. Well, Nemechek skated by the crash with 16 to go in Turn 3. He then narrowly missed a crash among Kyle Busch Motorsports teammates of Christopher Bell and Noah Gragson as the duo was battling side-by-side for several laps at the end before they got into each other in Turn 4 causing Gragson to spin and crash and Bell to get into the outside SAFER barrier.
Gragson, would get hit by Justin Haley while Nemechek missed it. He went from fifth to third as a result. Nemechek would finish second while Cindric was ninth.