Ben Rhodes wins Truck season opener at Daytona


Ben Rhodes won Friday night’s season opener for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Daytona International Speedway in a wild overtime finish.

On the final lap, Cory Roper took the lead in Turn 1 and looked poised to score an upset victory. But off Turn 4, Rhodes was able to get to the outside of Roper. As multiple drivers behind him wrecked, Rhodes completed the pass in the tri-oval to win.

“As a driver, you’re always asked about what your biggest accomplishment is – this is it,” Rhodes told FS1 after the race. “This is, hands down, it. This is the place to be. I can’t even believe it.

“… I’m gonna soak it up for as long as I can. That last Darlington win went by too fast, and you just don’t know when you’re gonna get it again. But I’m gonna enjoy this night. Best night of my life, right here.”

Jordan Anderson took the white flag in 10th place, but made a stellar charge to the front and passed Roper to finish second. It’s the second consecutive runner-up for Anderson in the Truck season opener at Daytona.

Roper’s third-place finish was a career-best for him in the Trucks. Niece Motorsports teammates Ryan Truex and Carson Hocevar completed the top five.

In her full-time Truck debut, Hailie Deegan ran inside the top 10 for much of the race, but spun on Lap 81 and hit the inside backstretch wall.

She drove back to pit road for damage repair and returned to the race. She finished 24th, three laps down.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Raphael Lessard

STAGE 2 WINNER: John Hunter Nemechek

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Reigning Truck champion Sheldon Creed overcame involvement in a restart crash at Lap 65 to finish sixth … John Hunter Nemechek, who ran as a Cup Series rookie last year, finished seventh and earned a playoff point in his first race for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: A mechanical problem kept Tanner Gray from going at the start of the race and led to a stack-up behind him that eliminated James Buescher and Gus Dean. … Derek Kraus was involved in three spins and a run-in with Kris Wright on pit road during the Stage 1 break. Kraus was knocked out of the race after spinning into the Turn 4 wall on Lap 53.

NOTABLE: The race’s 10 cautions was one shy of tying the record for a Truck race at Daytona, which was set in 2019. The last of the cautions was the biggest, involving 10 drivers; it came out with six laps to go and sent the race into overtime.

NEXT: The Truck Series returns to action for its second race of the season next Friday, Feb. 19, on the Daytona road course (7:30 p.m. ET, FS1). Sheldon Creed won the Trucks’ inaugural race there last August.

Alex Bowman confident as he returns to racing from back injury


CONCORD, N.C. — Alex Bowman watched the rain-filled skies over Charlotte Motor Speedway Saturday with more than a touch of disappointment.

As weather threatened to cancel Saturday night’s scheduled NASCAR Cup Series practice at the speedway, Bowman saw his chances to testing his car — and his body — dissolving in the raindrops. NASCAR ultimately cancelled practice and qualifying because of rain.

MORE: Wet weather cancels Charlotte Cup practice, qualifying

Bowman suffered a fractured vertebra in a sprint car accident last month and has missed three Cup races while he recovers. Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, the season’s longest race, is scheduled to mark his return to the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet.

“It would have been really nice to kickstart that with practice today,” Bowman said. “I haven’t raced or competitively driven a race car in a month. I’m trying to understand where my rusty areas are going to be and where I’m still good.”

Bowman ran 200 laps in a test season at North Wilkesboro Speedway this week, but, of course, that doesn’t compare with the faster speeds and tougher G-forces he’ll experience over 400 laps Sunday at CMS.

Bowman admitted that he is still experiencing pain from the back injury — his car flipped several times — and that he expects some pain during the race. But he said he is confident he’ll be OK and that the longer race distance won’t be an issue.

“I broke my back a month ago, and there’s definitely things that come along with that for a long time,” he said. “I have some discomfort here and there and there are things I do that don’t feel good. That’s just part of it. It’s stuff I’ll have to deal with. But, for the most part, I’m back to normal.

“I’m easing back into being in the gym. I’m trying to be smart with things. If I twist the wrong way, sometimes it hurts. In the race car at the end of a six-hour race, I’m probably not going to be the best.”

The sprint car crash interrupted what had been a fine seasonal start for Bowman. Although winless, he had three top fives and six top 10s in the first 10 races.

“I’m excited to be back,” Bowman said. “Hopefully, we can pick up where we left off and be strong right out of the gate.”

He said he hopes to return to short-track racing but not in the near future.

“Someday I want to get back in a sprint car or midget,” he said. “I felt like we were just getting rolling in a sprint car. That night we were pretty fast. Definitely a bummer there. That’s something I really want to conquer and be competitive at in the World of Outlaws or High Limits races. Somebody I’ll get back to that. It’s probably smart if I give my day job a little alone time for a bit.”




Charlotte NASCAR Cup Series starting lineup: Rain cancels qualifying


CONCORD, N.C. — William Byron and Kevin Harvick will start Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series 600-mile race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on the front row after wet weather cancelled Saturday night qualifying.

Rain pelted the CMS area much of the day Saturday, and NASCAR announced at 3:45 p.m. that Cup practice and qualifying, scheduled for Saturday night, had been cancelled.

MORE: Alex Bowman confident as he returns to cockpit

The starting field was set by the NASCAR rulebook.

Following Byron and Harvick in the starting top 10 will be Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Bubba Wallace, Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

The elimination of the practice session was particularly problematic for Alex Bowman, scheduled to return to racing Sunday after missing three weeks with a back injury, and Jimmie Johnson, who will be starting only his third race this year. Johnson will start 37th — last in the field.

Charlotte Cup starting lineup

Wet weather cancels Charlotte Cup Series practice, qualifying


CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR Cup Series drivers will start the longest race of the season with no practice or qualifying.

Wet weather and predictions of more to come led NASCAR to cancel Saturday night’s Cup Series practice and qualifying in mid-afternoon. The field for Sunday’s 600-mile race was set by the NASCAR rulebook, placing William Byron and Kevin Harvick on the front row for the  scheduled 6 p.m. start.

MORE: Charlotte Cup starting lineup

MORE: Alex Bowman confident as he returns to cockpit

Weather also could be an issue Sunday as more rain is predicted for the speedway area.

Drivers were scheduled to practice at 7 p.m. Saturday. That session was to be followed by qualifying at 7:45 p.m. The cancellations were announced at 3:45 p.m.

The time-trial cancellation marked the first time in 64 years that qualifying has been canceled for the 600.

Charlotte Xfinity race postponed to Monday by weather


CONCORD, N.C. — Persistent rain forced the postponement of Saturday’s scheduled 300-mile NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway to Monday.

The race is scheduled to start at noon ET. It will be televised by FS1 and broadcast by the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Driver introductions and other pre-race activities were held at the track Saturday, but rain that had dampened the track in the morning hours returned. After several attempts at drying the track, the race was postponed after heavier rain returned in mid-afternoon.

Justin Allgaier will start the race from the pole position.