Less than three years ago, Ben Rhodes looked well on his way to NASCAR superstardom. He dominated the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East with five wins on the way to its 2014 championship. Soon after, the Louisville, Kentucky, native signed a deal to run part-time in JR Motorsports’ No. 88 “star car” in the NASCAR XFINITY Series.
Rhodes struggled in the JRM No. 88, posting only two top-10 finishes in 10 starts during the 2015 season. In 2016, he moved on to ThorSport Racing, recording two top-five and five top-10 finishes in 23 starts – a solid, yet unspectacular campaign considering ThorSport’s resources were depleted following a mid-season fire at its race shop.
Last week at Kansas, Rhodes had a hefty lead with eight laps remaining and was on his way to his first NASCAR national series victory. His perseverance through two tough seasons seemed ready to pay off. But then a piece of debris went through Rhodes’ radiator, blowing his engine, and relegating him to 23rd.
“Ben Rhodes had that race won,” eventual race-winner Kyle Busch said. “I was trying everything I could to try to chase him back down but I just didn’t have enough speed.”
Rhodes will attempt to bounce back at another 1.5-mile track in Friday’s North Carolina Education Lottery 250 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“We’ve moved on from Kansas,” the 20-year-old Rhodes said. “You have to move forward if you expect to win a race. We are actually having fun with it now. My crew chief (Eddie Troconis) has taken the ‘debris’ that went through the radiator and made a necklace out of it. He says it will be our good luck charm at Charlotte.”
Rhodes tested his Toyota Tundra at Charlotte two weeks ago and finished 17th there last year.
“Last week we proved that what we learned at the Charlotte test, all the hard work we put in, is enough to win a race,” he said. “We plan to do just that at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Friday night.”
Can young Rhodes put Kansas in the rear view mirror, keep his eye on the ball, and put himself in a position to win at Charlotte?
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!