The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season came to an end on Friday, November 5, with one final battle in the desert. Zane Smith, John Hunter Nemechek, Matt Crafton, and Ben Rhodes entered with the goal of taking home the championship trophy, but only one ended the night with a celebration. Rhodes finished ahead of his peers and won the 2021 title after an intense battle with Smith.
Rhodes, the driver of the No. 99 entry for ThorSport Racing enjoyed the smoothest ride during the first two stages. He finished fifth and second at the breaks and remained ahead of his championship contenders. However, Smith made a late charge and passed him with fewer than 40 laps remaining.
The No. 21 GMS Racing entry remained at the front of the championship drivers as the laps counted down, creating conversations about how he could win the first title of his career. However, lapped traffic slowed Smith down before Rhodes tapped the rear of the truck and made the pass with six laps remaining.
Rhodes held on for the final six laps of the race and locked up third place overall while Kyle Busch Motorsports driver Chandler Smith won his second race of the season, as well as Rookie of the Year honors. Rhodes didn’t win the race, but he locked up the first-ever Truck Series title of his career while ThorSport Racing won its first owner’s title.
Rhodes bookended the best season of his career. He won the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway, returned to Victory Lane at the Daytona Road Course, and then he capped off the season with the championship title. He also locked up a special $140,000 bonus from Camping World.
Nemechek Dealt With Major Issues Early
The regular-season champion had a horrific start to his championship race. He started 16th but fell back in the pack after moving up the track. Kris Wright then collided with the side of Nemechek’s No. 4, causing damage that would eventually cut both tires on the left side.
The Toyota driver headed to pit road during Stage 1 for new tires, and he fell multiple laps behind the field. He proceeded to try to gain ground for the majority of the race before finally receiving the second free pass to get back on the lead lap.
Nemechek displayed impressive speed during the final stage while fighting to get back into contention for the championship. He passed Crafton and then cracked the top-10. Though he began to run out of time while Smith and Rhodes battled for position in the top-five. Nemechek ultimately finished third in the championship standings after clawing his way back into contention.
Nemechek gave an emotional interview after the loss and explained that his truck “was killed” after contact with the fence and other vehicles. He expressed gratitude for the partners that helped him lock up five wins during the season but added that he fell short of his ultimate goal. Though Nemechek reiterated that he will be back in 2022 to pursue the championship.
Sheldon Creed Locked Up a Massive Bonus for His Team
The driver of the No. 2 GMS Racing entry saw his championship hopes come to an end at Martinsville Speedway, but he entered the season finale with another goal in mind. He set out to lead the most laps of the Truck Series season and secure a bonus for himself and his crew.
Creed entered the Phoenix race with 602 laps led in 2021, 30 more than Nemechek. He proceeded to add 106 more to his total to ensure that he would walk away with a $50,000 bonus. His road crew also secured a $25,000 bonus for helping Creed achieve this goal.
With the Phoenix race complete, Creed will move to the NASCAR Xfinity Series to join Richard Childress Racing. He will depart GMS Racing with eight career victories, the 2020 Truck Series championship, and the most laps led during the 2021 season.