A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Louisville’s Rhodes making an impact on and off track as he shoots for second straight NCWTS playoff

By Benjamin Shipp
NKyTribune reporter

For NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Driver Ben Rhodes, Thursday’s Buckle Up In Your Truck 225 at the Kentucky Speedway is much more than just any other race.

Provided photos

The 225-mile sprint to the checkered flag is but another chance to edge closer to his goal of becoming NCWTS Champion, it also stands as an opportunity for Rhodes to show his home state who he is on and off of the track.

As a Louisville native growing up just a short drive away from the Kentucky Speedway, this race is a homecoming of sorts for Rhodes.

“It’s good to be back in Kentucky and at my home track,” he said.

Since his arrival in the commonwealth, Rhodes has been making the most of his time, wrapping up his promotional campaign dedicated to helping raise funds and awareness for first responders, “All Rhodes Lead to the Kentucky Speedway.”

“It’s a big week for us,” said Rhodes. “We want to give those heroes the recognition they’re due.”

Between his efforts in the community and his time at the track, Rhodes has been enjoying being back home. Since the NASCAR season spans February through November, drivers cherish the rare moments spent resting at home and Rhodes is no exception.

“I still live in Louisville and I never get to sleep in my own bed or eat my meals at my home then go race that same night,” said Rhodes. “It’s weird — until the race — but it’s nice. For most of the drivers, their weekend to stay at home is Charlotte but for me, this is the one and only race that I have. It’s nice. It’s a quick drive down the road and I’m there.”

Rhodes on track at Chicagoland, where he finished second.

Fate has seemingly lined up perfectly for Rhodes because he will need to be well rested for Thursday night’s race.

Currently situated in the eighth and final playoff qualifying position in driver points heading into race week at Kentucky, Rhodes understands that a good finish is of the utmost importance. With only five more races left in the season Rhodes is more than up for the challenge.

“I’ve got a lot of confidence coming into this race weekend. The big thing is that we have chassis number 35 here, which we nicknamed El Chupacabra because he’s coming here to stomp a hole through everybody in the garage,” Rhodes said. “I really do believe this is one of the best trucks in our stable and it actually won the first stage here at Kentucky last year. I think it should have a couple wins this year.”

With that being said, if Rhodes were to land in victory lane at Thursday’s Buckle Up In Your Truck 225, he would secure a playoff position.

Rhodes reached a NCWTS victory lane for his first and only time in September 2017 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. His success in late 2017 carried over into the beginning of the 2018 season.

Despite a fast start, Rhodes has run into a somewhat lackluster middle portion of the 2018 season. Regarding his current standing in points, Rhodes was all too eager to express his disappointment saying, “I’m not happy with being in eighth place at all.”

Until week six at Kansas Speedway, Rhodes and his number 41 Ford were in second place in the season point standings, then things started to fall off track. According to Rhodes, “After Kansas, that’s when we just had this horrible string of bad luck plague us and that is when we went from second to eighth in points.”

In his last outing at Chicagoland, Rhodes’ luck seemed to have changed; he posted a season best second-place finish.

“[Chicagoland] was the first race this year where things outside of our control didn’t hinder us,” Rhodes said. “Things didn’t necessarily go right, but they also didn’t go wrong. We finished second and I wasn’t even really happy with the truck. If anything, this shows the strength of our team and the speed of our truck coming into this week.”

Rhodes said that he and his team are familiar with their current position because last season, they qualified for the playoffs via tiebreaker.

As race day approaches, Rhodes is optimistic for Thursday and the remainder of his season.

“With us being in this [points] position, we have just as much experience as anybody in the field. I’m used to this,” he said. “We all know how to perform. We know where we should be. We haven’t taken a look at the points because we know it’s going to take care of itself.”

Benjamin Shipp is an intern at NKyTribune and a student at the University of Cincinnati. Contact the Northern Kentucky tribune at news@nkytrib.com

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