When Ben Rhodes takes the green flag Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, he will cross a major milestone in his career. Remarkably, the fourth race of the season will mark 100 starts in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series.
Last week, I was able to speak with the young driver from Louisville, Kentucky to chat a little past, present, and future regarding his career.
Terra Jones: First, let’s reflect on your 2018 Kentucky win. What did that home track win mean to you and your family?
Ben Rhodes: What immediately comes back to my mind isn’t the win itself, it’s the fact that it was my last win. As a driver, you’re always looking forward to the next win. It’s a little bittersweet to know that was my last win, but at the same time, that was so, so, so special for myself and my family. That was kind of a culmination of my career. I raced there in Bandos and Legends, and really in a sense, that’s where I got my start in pavement racing.
To think that the very first NASCAR race I saw was the Truck Series race at Kentucky Speedway, then 10 years later, I was able to get a win there. That’s pretty neat…. Now that it’s come and gone, my eyes have been set on the next big thing… a championship, and not just in the Truck Series, but the series beyond that.
Jones: You’ve compiled quite a stat sheet in 99 starts – 48 top-10 finishes, 25 being top-5s. Additionally, you also have six poles and two wins (Las Vegas in 2017, Kentucky in 2018). What are other memorable moments from your career?
Rhodes: It’s funny that my mind instantly goes to the crazy things that happen. You know, the anomalies on track. The one that always comes to my mind is what I thought was going to be my first win in the Truck Series – when Johnny Sauter and I got together at Kansas Speedway. Then a year later, I thought I was going to beat Kyle Busch at the same track and a bolt goes through my radiator with only a couple laps to go while leading the field. Those are things you don’t forget… Even though those are the ones that sting the worst, they seem to stand out in my memory.
Jones: You have some incredibly experienced teammates at ThorSport Racing. After some number crunching, I discovered they have 46 years of combined Truck Series experience! How have you learned from and leaned on them over the years?
Rhodes: 46 years?! I’m going to say most of that is Crafton, followed by Johnny, then Grant’s got a little bit there. Crafton’s been solid ever since I showed up. He’s won a championship since I’ve been there, and before I showed up, he had two. Since I’ve come into the Truck Series, Johnny’s made a name for himself…Grant and I are kinda doing that together. The big ones that I try to lean on are for sure Johnny and Matt.
I’ll be honest, it took a minute for me and Johnny to get acquainted. Before Johnny came to ThorSport Racing…we got together at Kansas in 2016, that was my first run-in with him. In 2017, we got in a wreck together at Canada, and then the year after that, he spun me in Canada again. So Johnny and I have a love-hate-history. Ever since he’s been at ThorSport, it’s been an awesome relationship. We’ve hit it off pretty well.
Jones: Consequently, do they come to you now that you’ve had a few full-time seasons?
Rhodes: They’re so experienced, and their crew chiefs are so experienced, that they kinda do their own thing. We all bounce ideas off each other, we all share set-up notes pretty openly. But for me, it’s been fun to see how they have been communicating more with me recently. And it’s not really about sharing sensitive information – they already know that. It’s becoming better teammates, gaining that respect on the race track, and working together on the race track…helping for the overall achievement of the race team. So it’s been really cool to see that overall transformation.