Jordan Anderson found himself opening the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in a similar spot to last year, edged by less than a truck length after a frenzied overtime charge. Cory Roper was in unfamiliar ground altogether, in sight of the checkered flag at Daytona International Speedway with no top-five results in his previous 27 efforts in the series.
The two underdogs found common ground in Friday night’s Next Era Energy 250 at Daytona, with Anderson matching his career-best from a year ago in second place and Roper right behind him, scoring a personal high of third. Both avoided the last-lap carnage that thwarted their rivals, and the pair were just a short distance behind Ben Rhodes’ race-winning No. 99 ThorSport Racing Toyota at the end.
For Anderson, his result was a near replay of the 2020 Daytona opener as he came home second behind another ThorSport contender, Grant Enfinger. This year, it was Rhodes with the upper hand, but his nifty carving act through the field — “a pure Moses moment,” he said, describing his run from outside the top 10 to the podium on the final lap — was a highlight-reel performance.
Like last year, the outcome prompted an emotional post-race interview with the engaging South Carolinian, who has grown his racing operation working within a strict budget. Anderson plans on competing for championship points with a move to the Xfinity Series this season, but the 29-year-old owner/driver opted against shuttering his Truck Series outfit — a move that paid off with his second career top five.
“It’s pretty crazy. It’s a huge boost,” Anderson said, noting Bobby Reuse would drive his No. 3 entry next weekend at the Daytona Road Course. “… We almost shut this truck deal down. We wanted to keep it going because we had so much blood, sweet and tears put into this program the last three years and wanted to keep it going to hopefully provide an opportunity for drivers like myself that just needed a shot to come run a truck some this year. Excited to see how that might shake out.”
Roper’s rally to final-lap victory contention didn’t equal Anderson’s in terms of positions gained, but it was no less dramatic. His No. 04 Roper Racing Ford scraped the outside retaining wall shortly after the white flag flew, but it didn’t slow him as he snatched the top spot away from defending series champ Sheldon Creed, with Rhodes in tow.
Rhodes pressured then bypassed him out of Turn 4 as a chain-reaction crash broke out behind the lead fray. Anderson kept his momentum to push Roper back one spot in the final rundown, but the 43-year-old Texan was all smiles after easily topping his previous best finish of ninth at Texas Motor Speedway in 2019, despite coming so close to a breakthrough win.
“It’s bittersweet. I mean, you can’t be upset with a third in this series,” said Roper, who had indicated his team’s intent to run the full season after part-time campaigns the last three years. “This is probably the most competitive series on the circuit, I believe, just to make this race. We were this close to not making it, right? We were the last truck making it on speed, which we knew we were going to be struggling. … To get a good finish like that, you’ve got to be happy for your guys who work on it so hard.”