It took a lot of debris and an official “race finish review” on the final lap on the high banks of Talladega Superspeedway, but longtime competitor Matt DiBenedetto earned his first NASCAR National Series victory in Saturday’s Chevy Silverado 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race.
As the race ended under a caution, NASCAR officials reviewed video to determine who was in the lead when the crash froze the field approaching the checkered flag. After all, it was the first and only lap that former NASCAR Cup driver Di Benedetto ever led in the truck series, and it earned him his first trophy.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Ben Rhodes finished second with young rookie Brett Holmes third.
It was the fifth consecutive truck race at Talladega in which the winner only led on the final lap.
“Oh man, it’s been so long,” said Di Benedetto, 31, of California, who recently signed a contract extension with the No. 25 Chevrolet Rackley WAR team. “I’m so thankful.
“It feels so surreal,” added Di Benedetto before wishing team-mate Jordan Anderson, who was taken to hospital after the lap 19 crash, well.
“I think my heart rate was higher in anticipation of that [taking] white flag”.
It was a typically competitive afternoon at Talladega — with 11 leaders and 25 lead changes in the 95-lap race — only to end with a dramatic push to the checkered flag in green-white-checkered overtime.
The 25-year-old Holmes – the 2020 ARCA Menards Series champion – led the white-flag lap and thought he was ahead when the final yellow and checkered flags waved and he made his way to the trophy stand where Di Benedetto would later be drawn.
“It definitely showed that we deserved to be here,” Holmes said. “It’s hard to lose that for sure.”
Ryan Preece and playoff driver Christian Eckes round out the top five. Haley Deegan – the series’ lone regular – finished a career-best sixth. Chase Purdy, Colby Howard, Parker Kligerman and Tyler Ankrum round out the top 10.
Anderson, who came out of the fiery one-truck crash on lap 19, was taken to a local hospital where he was awake and alert.
As for the playoffs, only two contenders for the title of pilots – Rodas and Eckes – finished in the top 10. After Ty Majeski’s victory at Bristol Motor Speedway on September 15, he became the only driver to have already secured a top-four finish in the championship.
Chandler Smith was 14th, Zane Smith 17th, Stewart Friesen 20th. Majeski finished 23rd, while polesitter John Hunter Nemechek, who won Stage 1, was 24th.
The playoff table continues to be very tight outside of Majeski. Chandler Smith holds a 12-point lead over Zane Smith, with reigning series champion Ben Rhodes in a crucial fourth, 27 points behind Chandler Smith.
Eckes and Friesen trail Rhodes by three points. Nemechek is five points clear of the cutoff line, while Grant Enfinger, who crashed on Saturday afternoon, now trails Rhodes by 26 points.
Although DiBenedetto didn’t win a championship this season, he will leave Talladega with a full heart and high hopes for next year thanks to getting that memorable first win.
“We’ve come so close to this track so many times that I felt like Talladega — more than Bristol or any of those places — owed me one nice one,” DiBenedetto said, adding, “It’s worth the wait. »
The final playoff race to decide which four drivers advance to the series championship is Oct. 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway (1 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The trucks last raced at the South Florida track in June 2020, where Kyle Busch earned his third series win at the track.