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Ben Rhodes

Getty Ben Rhodes (front) showed off the race-winning strategies.

The Camping World Truck Series took on the dirt version of Bristol Motor Speedway on April 16, officially kicking off a unique race weekend. The reigning champ returned to Victory Lane while rebounding from a surprising mistake.

The winner of Stage 1, ThorSport Racing’s Ben Rhodes turned heads with what appeared to be an odd decision. He stayed out on the track instead of heading down pit road for fresh tires and fuel. This created questions about whether he had made a mistake or focused on a new strategy.

FOX Sports analyst Michael Waltrip asked Rhodes during his post-stage interview if he had made the mistake. The driver of the No. 99 initially shied away from the question, but he later revealed that he had messed up by thinking that the entrance to pit road was in a different spot.

“I thought we gave it away for a moment,” Rhodes told reporter Josh Sims after the race. “Michael Waltrip asked me on the radio ‘did you mean to mean to stay out?’ The real answer is ‘no.’ So driving back through the pack like that was really, really tough and not something we wanted to do.”

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The mistake didn’t sink Rhodes’ prospects of winning. He had the best truck in the field all night, and he used it to move back through the field. His slide job on Hocevar put him back at the front of the pack, and then he just built up an insurmountable lead.

Rhodes Showcased Race-Winning Moves

Rhodes showcased speed and control during a strong performance in which he led 95 of the scheduled 150 laps. He showed that fresh tires were less important during the second stage as he built up a large lead and held off such names as John Hunter Nemechek, Parker Kligerman, Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, and dirt track ace Buddy Kofoid.

Along with holding off drivers with fresher tires, Rhodes also showcased an important detail. He revealed that the top lane was much better throughout the race, marking a significant change from 2021. The inaugural race weekend on the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt track featured the drivers primarily running in one groove, but the 2022 iteration featured drivers making big moves in multiple lanes. Rhodes, in particular, made several key passes on the outside while running up by the wall.

Rhodes clarified during his post-race press conference that having to work his way back through the field during the final stage was not an ideal situation. He would have preferred to pit earlier in the race and spend the final stage near the front of the pack. However, he showed other drivers that they can make big moves during the final stage.

Cup Series Drivers Gained Crucial Experience

Joey LoganoJoey Logano

GettyJoey Logano (bottom) gained some important experience at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Logano, Austin Dillon, Elliott, and Harrison Burton all suited up for the Truck Series race, and they completed all 150 laps at the iconic short track. They achieved varying levels of success with both Logano and Elliott finishing inside the top 10 in all three stages.

Burton ran near the middle of the pack in the No. 17 Ford F-150 throughout the evening while avoiding some incidents. He posted a 20th-place finish in his return to the Camping World Truck Series.

Dillon rounded out the group. He started 10th overall after winning his heat race, and then he spent the majority of the Pinty’s Truck Race on Dirt inside the top 15. He didn’t contend for the win or any stage points, but he learned how the track surface changed over the course of the race.

There is no guarantee that this experience will benefit the drivers that made a one-off start in the Truck Series, especially with the differences between the Gen 7 cars and the trucks. However, they will have more knowledge about the track surface, the preferred lanes, and when to head to pit road.

READ NEXT: Racing Returns to Iconic North Carolina Track

Source: Heavy

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