The last time the NASCAR Gander RV and Outdoors Truck Series visited Darlington Raceway was 2011, nine-years ago. And the last driver to win the Truck race prior to Sunday was former Cup Series star Kasey Kahne, who piloted the No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota to victory lane that day.
Fast forward to nine years later and the Truck Series returned to Darlington amid the COVID-19 pandemic and state restrictions. The Darlington event was supposed to be the annual Canadian Tire Motorsports Park race. But, with strict travel restrictions to other countries or continents, NASCAR decided to return to Darlington to replace the CTMP event.
Speaking of returns, Ben Rhodes returned to victory lane this past Sunday after taking advantage of an overtime restart and fending off rookie Derek Kraus to snap a winless drought. The victory marked the first time in two years since Kentucky where Rhodes collected a race-winning checkered flag.
While some fans may look at the victory as a fluke due to race leaders Sheldon Creed and Brett Moffitt electing to come to pit road prior to the final restart, Rhodes had a consistent day in his No. 99 Tenda Ford F-150.
We’ll take a look at Rhodes’s day and others in this week’s Power Rankings following the Truck Series race at Darlington.
- Ben Rhodes – The victory was finally a weight lifted off of Rhodes shoulders, who has had an up and down season through the mid portions of the schedule. Leading up to Sunday’s victory, Rhodes had six top fives and 10 top 10s. By scoring the victory, he upped his average finish to a solid 9.1 and has a spot in the Playoffs. In both stages, Rhodes finished fourth before leading four laps en route to victory. If Rhodes can continue this momentum throughout the Playoffs, he easily could be a dark horse or championship favorite.
Previous Week Ranking – Fifth
- Sheldon Creed – It was what could have been for Creed had he not elected to come down pit road for fresh tires. Though the No. 2 team really didn’t have any choice as his tires were eaten up, and the team elected to pit. Once Creed was mired in the back of the field, the spots he lost prior to the restart were too much to make up in a short amount of time. While finishing 18th may not look like a great outing, the Californian dominated the majority of the race by leading 82 laps and winning Stage 2. Had it not been for pitting with two to go, or for the late yellow, Creed easily could have ended up in victory lane.
Previous Week Ranking – Third
- Brett Moffitt – Like Creed, Moffitt had a great shot of challenging his teammate for the win late or finishing in the runner up spot, if the caution hadn’t come out late in the race. Unlike Creed, Moffitt was one of the few that could rebound in just two laps to a 10th place finish, earning him his 10th top 10 of the season. Excluding the finish, Moffitt won Stage 1 and placed second in Stage 2. In addition, the Iowa native led 63 laps.
Previous Week Ranking – Second
- Austin Hill – It was a good day for Austin Hill, all things considered, after finishing in the third position. The Georgian was runner up in Stage 1 and wound up third in Stage 2. There were a few moments throughout the race when Hill contended for the victory but ultimately, third place was all Hill could do in his No. 16 Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota. The top-five finish was his eighth of the season.
Previous Week Ranking – Fourth
- Todd Gilliland – From first to seventh in a week for Todd Gilliland, who finished seventh after 152 laps in an overtime finish. He didn’t score any points during Stage 1 but the Front Row Motorsports driver did gain points in Stage 2 by finishing ninth. Gilliland currently sits 10th in the last playoff spot. If he has a good race on Thursday and a new driver does not win a race, Gilliland would be a part of the 2020 Truck Series Playoffs.
Previous Week Ranking – First