NASCAR: Ben Rhodes wins 2021 Truck Series championship

Ben Rhodes won the 2021 Truck Series title with a third-place finish in Friday night's season finale at Phoenix.

Chandler Smith won the race ahead of Stewart Friesen and Rhodes, who passed Zane Smith with less than nine laps to go for third place and the championship.

Rhodes, 24, was racing Smith, John Hunter Nemechek and Matt Crafton for the title at Phoenix. Smith and Rhodes ran in the top five for most of the night while Nemechek spent a majority of the race a lap down after early contact from another truck cut his left front tire. Nemechek — the betting favorite to win the Truck Series title — got back on the lead lap after a caution at the start of the final stage, but the race went caution-free after that to deny him a restart or two to quickly make up more ground.

Rhodes wins the 2021 title without winning at a track outside of Daytona. He won the season-opening race on the Daytona oval and then won at the track’s road course a week later. He finishes the season with two wins, eight top-five finishes and 16 top-10s in 22 races. He tied with Nemechek and Todd Gilliland for the most top-10s this season.

Nemechek won a series-high five races. No other driver won more than three.

Rhodes finished in the top 10 in five of seven playoff races. He was able to get through to the second round after a ninth-place finish at Bristol following a 34th at Darlington. He then finished second at Las Vegas, 13th at Talladega and seventh at Martinsville to be among the four drivers racing for the title.

His title comes in his sixth full season in the Truck Series. Rhodes made his debut in 2014 as a 17-year-old and ran full time for the first time in 2016. He got his first win in 2017 and won three races in four seasons ahead of 2021.