By: Ashley McCubbin
When NASCAR announced the addition of several road courses to the schedules for their national series, the intent was to add excitement to the action through the year. If Friday night’s BrakeBest Brake Pads 159 was only indication, they have certainly hit the nail on the head – mostly.
While the event started out quiet with the field spread out at parts trying to survive on the wet surface, there were still battles throughout the field. It only intensified through the second half, with everybody pushing the boundaries in an effort to gain track position and inch closer to victory lane. It got wild at times over limits set by everyone, in seeing the field battling four-wide through the infield slippery portion, giving you a reason to never take your eyes off the action.
Truthfully, though, excitement on the road courses is something the Truck Series has delivered for a long time. Just look at all their trips to Canadian Tire Motorsports Park through the years – enough to fill a couple highlight reels. The fact it has taken this long for multiple attempts at turning left and right to be on the calendar is the bigger surprise.
Unfortunately, a lot of those moves did not work out – and yes, the cautions were plenty. Trucks seemed to be spun around sideways at multiple points throughout the course. Some of them were honestly not a surprise give the aggressive (but fun) nature, but others just made you shake your head. Other series have adapted local cautions – where you roll at a slow speed through the section of the spun vehicle until the safety crew has rectified the situation, and that may be something for NASCAR to look at adapting if this carries through to the Circuit of the Americas,
Ben Rhodes got the opportunity to celebrate in victory lane for the second week in a row, and did so in deserving fashion with heavy challengers on his tailgate through the final series of green-white-checkered attempts. He got shoved out of the lead at one point, though his aggressive nature that has caused ill-will with competitors at times ultimately paid off on Friday night.
Rhodes may have led 13 of the 59 laps, but was in no way the dominant truck as Sheldon Creed and john Hunter Nemechek proved to be faster at times. Creed may have won there last year and found his way around again, but it seemed getting in too hard on the brakes proved costly for the 2020 series champion as he faded out of Rhodes’ rearview mirror. Nemechek had set himself up perfectly coming to close the second stage, until a mechanical problem caused the truck to shut off. Restarting deep in the field behind the wheel of the No. 4, sheer determination is the only phase you can use in watching him battle back to third, including dives three- and four-wide along the way that kept you on your toes.
The combination of these three, along with others whom showed speed in Todd Gilliland and Raphael Lessard, among others, ensure the rest of the road course events will not to be missed this year.