After experiencing a breakout campaign in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, many people expected Ben Rhodes to be one of the first announced returning drivers. However, it wasn’t just until last week that it was revealed that he would be back to ThorSport Racing for a third consecutive season.
Before the news was released, though, Rhodes’ name was being thrown a couple of different directions in the rumor mill as to where he would be in 2018. While admitting there was interest shown by a couple of teams, some of those were lies, too, as he recalled people saying he toured certain shops when that wasn’t indeed the case.
In his mind, though, ThorSport is where he always wanted to be for this coming year, and that is solely based on the belief that Duke Thorson has for him.
“The deciding factor to me is Duke Thorson himself,” Rhodes said. “He is investing in me as a person and a driver. He is putting a lot of time and energy and effort into me, and I just have a ton of respect for that. Nobody else has done that for me. He has faith in me to do that. I think that is amazing and I am kind of indebted to him for that. Really, he was my option. That was the place.”
After success in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series, Rhodes made the jump up to NASCAR’s top-tier divisions but was unable to find himself a full-time ride. He made four Truck Series starts in 2014, before running a partial NASCAR XFINITY Series schedule for JR Motorsports. The phone call from Thorson for the 2016 campaign changed the game for Rhodes, and that is something which has continued to stick with the driver of the No. 41 Ford F-150.
“Duke has believed in me 100%,” he said. “If it wasn’t for him I don’t know if I would be right here right now. In some sense, whether I would be a part-time driver or what. Maybe I was full time in something else but certainly not with a chance to run for the championship like Duke has offered me.”
So far, Rhodes has been doing a good job paying his owner back, as he was able to place fifth in the series standings last year, following six top-fives and 12 top-10’s, highlighted by his first career victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Ready for his third full season, there’s an enormous amount of faith in his team, knowing that this will be the second straight year working with Eddie Troconis.
“When you have three years in a row you start to build a rapport with your team and people that are there,” he said. “You develop relationships that I think will be lasting, even if I were to move up in other series’. I consider them great friends.”
It’s the right combination that will hopefully lead Rhodes to the success that he wants to have to thank Thorson in return for his support.
“I want to perform to the best of my ability and give them a championship, and multiple race wins, give them everything they deserve,” he said.
After the success last year, Rhodes went on to say that anything less than being part of the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway would be disappointing this year.
“After the performance at Homestead, that boosted their confidence and my confidence,” he said. “I know we can do this. It is a matter of cleaning up our mistake from last year and making our whole season a little more polished.”
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