There were pile-ups aplenty in a dramatic start to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, including a wall crash for Hailie Deegan that limited the rookie to 24th position and a chaotic finish as Ben Rhodes roared to victory.
Rhodes shot past Cory Roper in the final stretch of the 101-lap NextEra Energy 250 at Daytona International Speedway in Florida, surviving a nerve-wracking finish at the home of the Daytona 500 to inch to victory by 0.36 seconds.
A multi-truck collision erupted just before the line at the end of a race around the 2.5-mile circuit that had included an eight-vehicle crash with six laps left, as well as several similar skirmishes that sent a number of competitors out of contention entirely.
Teenager Deegan, who is in her first season and is one of the most popular racers on the circuit, lost several laps after hitting the inside retaining wall on the backstretch on her 80th lap.
“What a wild race,” the 19-year-old reflected afterwards, winning unanimous plaudits for her performance.
“Definitely didn’t get the finish I wanted but I felt like I learned so much from the start to the finish. Now we head back to Daytona next week for some road course racing.”
Rhodes was ecstatic. “This is so special – the biggest win of my career,” he gushed. “I can’t even believe this.
“As a driver, you’re always asked about what your biggest accomplishment is. This is hands-down it. This is the place to be. I can’t even believe it.
“This is special. I’m going to soak it up for as long as I can. I’m going to enjoy this night. Best night of my life, right here.”
Jordan Anderson finished second by that miniscule margin. “I’m almost speechless,” he said. “So much energy, so much emotion.”