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Rhodes puts championship hopes in jeopardy with Eckes retaliation

There were a fair number of frustrated drivers following the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway, but Ben Rhodes tops that list.

Rhodes brought out the final caution at the 1.5-mile track in Sunday’s second Round of 8 race when he hooked the right rear on the No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports truck of Christian Eckes with three laps remaining.

The contact sent Eckes hard into the outside wall on the front stretch, ending his day while the pair were racing for the third position. Rhodes managed to continue as the race entered overtime but ruined his own chance of victory with significant damage on the left-front fender of the No. 99 ThorSport Racing Ford.

RELATED: Rhodes has choice words for Eckes, Kyle Busch Motorsports

Eckes exited his truck gingerly but mustered up enough energy to show Rhodes a pair of one-finger salutes before climbing into the ambulance for a trip to the infield care center.

On the radio following the incident, Rhodes was unapologetic and indicated it was retaliation for earlier, referring to Eckes running him up to the Turn 4 wall. After the race, his view hadn’t changed after finishing 20th with a race-winning truck.

“It’s two times the guy runs me out of the groove,” Rhodes said. “I almost knocked down the Turn 4 wall, completely out of the gas, hand over fist. I’m trying to catch it, I end up hitting him and then gets wrecked.

“These guys in the KBM trucks just run over everybody and race with no respect,” Rhodes added. “I’ll tell them they can have their own opinion, but I was in the truck. I know what happened. … It seems to be a lack of talent over there. I think that’s evident though when Kyle (Busch) hops in the truck and he goes and wins.”

To add insult to injury, Rhodes was involved in another on-track incident with Josh Bilicki on the final lap, making contact with the No. 00 truck.

Long after the checkered flag flew, Eckes waited outside of the No. 99 hauler to have a conversation with Rhodes. Once Rhodes emerged from the hauler, a confrontation escalated between the two drivers in the garage. Eckes later hinted on Twitter there could be more retaliation coming.

(Warning: The video below contains foul language. Viewer discretion advised.)

Now Rhodes faces a must-win situation heading into next Friday night’s Round of 8 finale at Martinsville Speedway if he wants to make the Championship 4 for the first time in his Gander Trucks career. Rhodes owns two top fives and four top 10s in nine starts at the Virginia short track. He’s now seventh in the playoff standings, 45 behind fourth-place driver Zane Smith.