Ben Rhodes wins in front of home state fans at Kentucky

Posted at 11:29 PM, Jul 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-12 23:29:58-04

SPARTA, Ky. (AP) — Ben Rhodes raced to his second career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win in front of his home state fans at Kentucky Speedway on Thursday night.

The Louisville native opted for only fuel on the final pit stop. The gamble paid off as he took the lead out of pit road with 24 laps remaining and then steadily pulled away from Stewart Friesen.

“I still don’t have any words,” said Rhodes, who led for 38 of the 150 laps. “This is amazing; a dream come true. This has been such a long time coming. These guys deserved it so much. They’ve been working their butts off and we’ve been having such bad luck this year.

“We’ve had trucks like this all year long, finally we could showcase it. I’m so proud of this team. This is exactly what we needed.”

Friesen’s team was forced to change engines prior to the race and came from the rear of the field to finish second — tying a career best — just under a second behind Rhodes.

“We had an engine problem during time trials and the whole team stepped in,” Friesen said. “It was awesome. We had less than an hour to go to swap ’em out and we had a good finish. We led some laps. Didn’t get off the way we needed to on pit road at the end and it was the difference of about 100 yards and a lot of clean air. Proud of the guys, but I made a little mistake there and it cost us.”

Matt Crafton, Brandon Jones and John Hunter Nemechek rounded out the Top 5.

Rhodes surged ahead of pole-sitter Noah Gragson to win Stage 1.

Gragson retook the lead and won Stage 2. He led 62 of the first 73 laps but after his Stage 2 win he came out of pit road in 13th place and finished eighth despite leading the most laps.

On being better on the longer runs and traffic, Rhodes said, “Traffic was a huge factor. You would lose so much momentum on the lapped cars and you had to be so careful. But our truck just stayed really consistent. That was just such a fun race.”

Series points leader Johnny Sauter finished 15th. He has a 42-point lead over Gragson.