Austin Cindric got a good jump on the restart, he said, and moved his No. 19 Ford low as he held his line. Ben Rhodes saw him coming and scooted his No. 27 Toyota down the track to block Cindric from passing.
And on Lap 129 of the Lucas Oil 150, Cindric tagged the rear bumper of Rhodes’ Toyota, sending him spinning at Phoenix Raceway. Rhodes took out the No. 88 Toyota of Matt Crafton in the process – and ended Rhodes’ hopes of advancing to the Camping World Truck Series Championship 4 in Miami.
Rhodes and Cindric had been battling for the fourth and final available spot in the playoffs with just 21 laps remaining as Christopher Bell, Johnny Sauter and Crafton all had already clinched spots in the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Rhodes had just been one of a handful of trucks to pit following a caution on Lap 121 – along with Cindric – which resulted in him restarting just ahead of Cindric.
“He put me in a bad place and I’m trying to do everything I could to keep my spot,” Rhodes told FS1. “I’m not sure it was the right move on his part.”
Rhodes’ crew chief, Eddie Troconis, and Crafton both had far harsher words for Cindric.
“I believe NASCAR should park them, they should penalize them,” Troconis told FS1. “They’re going to hurt someone one of these days. … It was a cheap shot from them. If they want to go like that, that’s fine.”
Said Crafton: “I told Ben, the 19 better not finish Homestead.”
WATCH: Crafton’s harsh words
Cleanup for the wreck brought the red flag for 17 minutes, 7 seconds.
Cindric compared the wreck to what happened in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series finale at Miami last year when Carl Edwards went to pass Joey Logano, and crashed out of the race when Logano moved down the track to block him.
When Edwards exited his car after that wreck, he immediately went to Logano’s pit stall to ensure there were no hard feelings.
“Obviously it was nothing intentional,” Cindric told FS1. “I just held my ground. I can’t be pushed around because I know that was our chance to get by him. He was faster than us the whole night.