Champion: Ben Rhodes
Champion crew chief: Rich Lushes
Wins leaders: John Hunter Nemechek (5)
Most top fives: John Hunter Nemechek (12)
Most top 10s: John Hunter Nemechek, Ben Rhodes, Todd Gilliland (16)
Laps-led leader: Sheldon Creed (708)
How 2021 ended:
Entering the championship race at Phoenix Raceway, John Hunter Nemechek was looking to fulfill his destiny of winning a championship. Nemechek returned to the Truck Series after spending the previous two years competing in Cup and Xfinity. But on the opening lap at Phoenix, the No. 4 Toyota made contact with Kris Wright, cutting down Nemechek‘s left front tire. Despite going two laps down, Nemechek rebounded to finish seventh. It wasn‘t good enough for the championship, though, as Ben Rhodes passed Zane Smith with less than 10 laps remaining to cruise to his first championship. Rhodes bookended the season with many career bests, including wins (two), top 10s (16) and average finish (9.3).
At times during the 2021 season, the Truck Series drivers showed little respect for one another. That, however, was not the case in the series‘ inaugural race at Circuit of The Americas, all the way back in mid-May. Todd Gilliland came out victorious, swapping the lead back and forth with Kaz Grala multiple times. This was the same race that started in wet conditions, where GMS Racing teammates Sheldon Creed and Tyler Ankrum made three passes for the lead on one another in the closing laps. Evidently, Gilliland squeaked by before running away with the race, winning by nearly eight seconds.
Additional season highlights:
Toyota dominated the season, winning 15 of the 22 races. Nemechek led the way with five checkered flags, while Rhodes, Kyle Busch, Chandler Smith and Austin Hill all contributed two wins each. Christian Eckes and Martin Truex Jr. won one race apiece. It‘s the seventh time in the last nine years Toyota has won the manufacturer‘s championship.
The series added five first-time winners, with the first coming via Truex dominating the Bristol dirt race. Cup Series driver Ryan Preece won in his first career truck start, passing Grant Enfinger for the lead late in the going. During a three-race stretch in the playoffs from Bristol Motor Speedway to Talladega Superspeedway, there were three consecutive first-time winners, beginning with Smith. Eckes won in a ThorSport Racing 1-2-3-4 sweep at Las Vegas, while Tate Fogleman upset the field at Talladega.
Throughout the season, four different drivers won consecutive races: Rhodes at Daytona International Speedway and the Daytona Road Course; Nemechek at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway; Hill at Knoxville Raceway and Watkins Glen International; and Creed at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway and Darlington Raceway.
Stats to know:
• Though it seemed like Nemechek dominated the season — winning five of the opening 13 races — it was Creed who led the most laps on the year at 708. Of those 708 laps led, 547 came in the playoffs, which included three straight races of the No. 2 Chevrolet leading north of 100 laps (Gateway, Darlington and Bristol).
• By finishing seventh at Gateway in August, Hailie Deegan scored the best finish for a woman at a non-superspeedway in Truck Series history.
• At 2 hours, 44 minutes and 46 seconds, the Daytona International Speedway Road Course race in February was the longest race in series history.
Ben Rhodes will look to repeat as champion in 2022, as he will return to ThorSport Racing. Championship 4 competitors John Hunter Nemechek and Matt Crafton will also be back with their respective teams, though the No. 88 team will have a new crew chief. Spending the last three years in the Truck Series, Creed will jump to the Xfinity Series with Richard Childress Racing, where he will be joined by Austin Hill as a teammate.
Competing for GMS, Enfinger will run a full season. The series will make new stops at Sonoma Raceway and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, before returning to Lucas Oil Raceway for the first time in 11 years.