AVONDALE, Ariz. – With only 20 laps to go in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix Raceway, playoff contenders Ben Rhodes and Austin Cindric made contact, bringing out the red flag and ending both Rhodes and his ThorSport Racing teammate Matt Crafton‘s night.
After Josh Reaume stalled on the track, Rhodes and Austin Cindric were running bumper to bumper on the ensuing restart. Contact between the pair saw Rhodes spin out, hit the inside wall, then took Crafton with him into the outside wall going into Turn 1. While Cindric’s No. 19 Ford came out of the incident virtually unscathed, Rhodes’ No. 27 Toyota and Crafton’s No. 88 Toyota were beyond repair.
“It’s almost like last year at Homestead in the Cup Series,” Austin Cindric told FS1. “I had a good run, Ben went to block and I was there. I had to hold my line. He went to block. That wasn’t his best decision. He was having a good run there and we were hoping to race it out. Obviously, nothing intentional there. I just held my ground.”
Rhodes entered Friday night’s race fifth in the playoff standings, and was therefore even more desperate to run well in this penultimate race. The only way he could have clinched a spot in the Championship 4 was John Hunter Nemechek not winning and beating Rhodes on points, or a victory himself.
“We gave [the No. 19 team] a chance to get to our bumper and they gave us a cheap shot,” said Eddie Troconis, crew chief for the No. 27. “They want to race like that and they won’t make a single lap at Homestead.”
Crafton, on the other hand, was third in the playoff standings. Therefore, all he needed to do to clinch a Championship 4 spot was earn either 37 points with a new race winner or 32 points with a repeat race winner.
Visibly upset after exiting the care center, Crafton only had this to say about the incident, “Just wrong place, wrong time. I told Ben [Rhodes] that the 19 better not finish Homestead.”
While Crafton still managed to clinch the third spot in the Championship 4, Cindric took the fourth and final slot with his ninth-place finish. Rhodes wound up fifth, just five points behind Cindric in the standings after Friday night’s race.
“They got me calmed down there in the medical center, so we’re just going to move forward from here and finish out the season strong and show everybody that had we not get taken out here that we should be the champion,” Rhodes said following the race.
Cindric and Crafton will now battle it out for the championship next week at Homestead Miami-Speedway in the season finale.
“It’s not the perfect circumstances the way to end the race here, but we deserve it just as much as any,” Cindric said.
Vivian Meza is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist
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