BEN RHODES DRIVE F-150 TO FIRST TRUCK SERIES WIN AT CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY
- Ben Rhodes gave Ford its first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway with tonight’s win.
- The victory was the first of the season for Rhodes and fourth overall for Ford.
- It also marked the first win for ThorSport Racing since re-joining Ford at the start of this season.
- The last time Rhodes won with Ford was on Sept. 6, 2020 at Darlington.
- This marks the third NCTS win for Rhodes in a Ford F-150.
BEN RHODES, No. 99 Campers Inn RV Ford F-150 – VICTORY LANE INTERVIEW – YOU SAID YOU HAD A LOT OF WORK TO DO BEFORE THE RACE. HOW DID YOU TURN IT AROUND? “It came to life at night. I guess I need to give my crew a lot more credit than I did. They knew what they were doing. The night time, they planned for it, and even on my last stop, my pit crew was so good. Every track they pick up spots for us. Two races ago they got us nine spots on pit road. They did the magic again tonight and got us to the front. The truck was good once we got in clean air. The night time came to us and they made some adjustments. I was worried at first and they came to us again. They looked into a crystal ball tonight and they gave me everything I needed. I had a lot of work to do. We had to take it slow and methodical from 19th. It’s not easy to pass in the Truck Series, especially here at Charlotte, but I’m so happy to get a win here. This is the North Carolina guy’s backyard. We’re a Sandusky (OH) based team, so it means a lot to myself and the team owners.”
YOUR FIRST WIN OF THE YEAR AND NOW YOU’RE ALL BUT LOCKED INTO THE PLAYOFFS? “I’m not gonna say I was getting worried, but I was certainly feeling a little bit of the pressure, and it wouldn’t have been like that if it wasn’t for the last three races. We somehow found ourselves getting wrecked. We’d run the high side and get wrecked. We’d run the bottom and get wrecked. Lo and behold, here we are recovering and I can’t think of a sweeter way to do it. These guys have worked their absolute butts off. Again, being up north we have a different set of challenges and my guys work 10 times harder, I think, to fulfill that. They deserve it. I’m just so happy for them. It’s all theirs and I’m happy.”
THIS IS THE FIRST TRUCK WIN AT CHARLOTTE FOR FORD. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO DO THAT? “It means a lot. I spend a lot of time actually in Charlotte even though I live in Kentucky. I come down here to the Ford Performance Technical Center that is right down the road. This is their home track as far as that goes. They’ve got a lot of really hard-working people at Ford and they deserve this as much as anybody, too. To think that they’ve gone this long and not gotten a win in their backyard in that sense, that’s really cool. I’m just happy we could do it. I’m happy for my team, happy for Ford, everybody involved, and, of course, Campers Inn. They flew up from Florida and they’re here with us now and I don’t think they’ve been to a NASCAR Victory Lane before, so we’re gonna show them how they do it.”
WINNER’S PRESS CONFERENCE
BEN RHODES – “On that many laps until the end you start getting a little nervous. A caution flag is gonna come out and every single doubt goes through your head that something is gonna happen. I just knew that if a caution came out we’d be in trouble just because the Truck Series is savage restarts. Everybody just goes so crazy. They don’t care about finishing the race. They just care about winning the race, so I was really worried about a restart, but, thankfully for us, we had really good long run speed built into the truck with the last pit stop. That’s why Hocevar got passed us on the early laps. I was really loose and he was able to fire off good. We were hoping for a really long green flag run and luckily we got that. The track came to us and we were able to pull away to a big lead. That made me feel better. I really only felt better once I got the white flag, let’s be honest.”
DO YOU LOOK LIKE YOU STOLE ONE FROM THE NORTH CAROLINA TEAMS? “It feels that way, for sure. We enjoy racing here and performing good for that simple reason. It’s kind of like a pride thing. We want to come here into their backyard knowing that we travel and work so much harder because we have to go out and get our resources. For me, I live in Kentucky. I have to travel up to Sandusky, Ohio. I come down here almost basically every week right now because this is where the simulator is at, so I’m in Charlotte a whole lot and it’s not easy. To come here into their backyard and win a race is a really good feeling. It just gives you a good feeling. I’m lost for words right now. I’m just happy.”
HOW MUCH OF A PRIORITY IS IT TO BUILD ON THIS AND WIN MORE NOW? “What’s funny is the last two years I put a huge emphasis on points racing and the last three races – Kansas Busch hit the wall and knocked our front end off. We got wrecked by Garcia at Darlington. We got wrecked by Eckes at Wilkesboro. It just seemed like every single thing that could go wrong this season, I mean, you name a race and I can tell you some severe adversity we had to overcome, and some of them we just flat-out didn’t finish the race. I look at the point standings and we’re just falling further and further back. We’re not getting the stage wins that I’m used to. Last year, we had the most stage wins of anybody. I think this year I still have a goose egg for stage wins, so I’m not gonna say I was feeling the pressure, but I thought something’s got to turn around at some point. I’m really happy it happened here, but I hope now at this point I’m not gonna say we’re gonna start stage racing and points racing because we haven’t really been able to do that yet this year, but we’re certainly going to focus on the wins. Right now, our strong suit has been the mile-and-a-halves. Our weak point is the short tracks and the good news for us is we’ve got the trip and we’re going to Gateway next, and that has been a really good track for ThorSport, so I’m really pumped for that.”
HAS IT FELT LIKE FOREVER SINCE YOU WON ON ASPHALT? “A little bit. Yeah, I guess it was the road course on asphalt when I won last. We won a road course. We went dirt and now we’re on a mile-and-a-half, so I guess we’re just trying to win on whatever we can get a win on, but, yeah, it felt like a long time. Anytime you get a win you don’t know when the next one is gonna come. You celebrate it as much as you can, enjoy it while it lasts because it’s just a really tough sport. I was saying on the frontstretch that I’ve been in the Truck Series full-time since 2016 and since then I can think back to ‘16, ‘17 I worked on my restarts religiously. I mean, really, really hard. I analyzed everything that Kyle Busch did because he was the best at that time and now I think you’ll find when Busch comes in the Truck Series you don’t just say, ‘Oh, he’s gonna wax somebody on the restarts.’ They’re really hard and they’re really competitive. Everybody upped their game and I think now it’s harder than ever to get a win in the Truck Series. I think he had a quote or something about that and how he wants to run more truck races so he can win in his equipment. It’s just tough.”
HOW MUCH DOES THE TRIPLE TRUCK CHALLENGE UP THE INTENSITY? “I think it helps the competitiveness with parity through the field. You look at the depth of the field and the depth of the field shows up really deep at the Triple Truck Challenge and when the playoffs start. It just gets so closely competitive, but the driving by the drivers is 100 percent like idiocy all the time. So, you know what, I can’t say that the drivers are doing anything different, but I can tell you that the way the trucks are prepared and how close the field is – for sure the competition level gets packed in more. The same thing with the playoffs. When you get there you can feel it. You walk into the garage and you can feel it. There’s something in the air and you feel that. When the money is on the line that happens, but the drivers are always checkers or wreckers it seems like in the Truck Series.”
DOES THIS PAVE THE WAY FOR ANOTHER CHAMPIONSHIP RUN? “I hope so. It wasn’t looking like that early on for this year. If you look at my stats, we’ve typically been able to get our wins early and like this time of year it seems like we struggle. I really do feel like our stats for the season do not reflect the level of competition and competitiveness that we’ve had. Again, with the DNF’s and stuff that have shown up. I analyze those races and I’m like, ‘What could I have done different. We could have done this on this restart or this, this or this.’ You Monday Morning quarterback it, but in reality you don’t know what’s gonna happen. It’s like trying to look into a crystal ball and predict the future. There’s no way of knowing that until afterwards, and those situations I couldn’t have done anything different, but I do feel like we were still just fine for a championship season. When I look back on my last two seasons we finished second last year because I was like 200 feet from the white flag, and we won the championship before but we transferred both times on tiebreakers to the next round, so the pressure we’re used to. That stuff doesn’t bother me, it’s just getting some momentum built. Last year, we were here and then we started building the momentum back for the playoffs. Right now, I feel like hopefully we’re putting the stop to the bleeding that had occurred for the previous 10 races or whatever and I hope we’re starting an upper trajectory now.”
THOUGHTS ON THE NEXT FEW RACES? “I feel really good about Gateway. Over the years, that’s a track that we’ve had tremendous speed and somehow we’ve never been able to bring one home. It’s been up and down for us. In 2017, we were wicked fast in practice, popped a tire and hit the wall. In ‘18 we were OK, in ‘19 OK, 2020 fast. Last year, we were leading with like 15 to go and the alternator goes out and we’re starting to lose horsepower and losing voltage and Eckes, which is the truck that we’re taking, this was his team with Jariod Prince and Brian Ralston, all those guys, he actually passed me for the lead and then ended up losing it on the last restart, I think. So, they’ve got speed. It gives me a lot of confidence for that reason.”
CAN YOU TAKE ME THROUGH THE LAST RESTART? “He came up after the race and he’s got a lot of respect for the guys that are on this team because they were his guys for two years really, and the incident last week we talked about and he talked to the guys about and wasn’t a good deal. So, I appreciate him pushing me hard and then he also cut me a little bit of a break going in one and two because as we were coming up the track he got more to my outside than I thought and he actually had to check up as we were going towards the wall. It was one of those things where he was probably for sure gonna hit the wall if he stayed in it, but then we may have also hit the wall, too. I’m not sure. So, I thanked him for it nonetheless because I don’t like racing so aggressively with people, but in the Truck Series it’s something you have to do and it happens so fast, too. As you’re taking that last restart, you’re getting this monster run. You’re holding the bottom and you know he’s gonna go where you’re not and you know the outside lane is the dominant lane, so he’s gonna go to that. Well, I’m just trying to predict it and move my truck in unison with his and he jerked the wheel a little bit faster than I can move mine and that’s what happens, but, all in all, I hope he got a good finish because he gave us a heck of a push and cut us some slack.”
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO GET FORD IN VICTORY LANE FOR THE FIRST TIME AT CHARLOTTE IN THE TRUCK SERIES? “A whole heck of a lot. It’s one of those things you pride yourself on being able to be the first to do something. We got a big number for Ford’s win at one point. I think it was my win at Kentucky Speedway in 2018. I forget what it was. We’ll just call it 50,000 because it’s Ford and they win a lot. Anyways, it feels good knowing that we can set that as a stat. You want to add stats to your name whenever you can and I don’t know, I’m just glad we could do that for them and hopefully when somebody looks back on the stats, we’ll pop up.”
WHAT BECOMES OF THE HAT AFTER TONIGHT? “This is my new grass mowing hat. I’m pretty proud of this hat. It’s gonna be like the hardest earned grass mowing hat ever. I mow a lot of acreage actually, so it’s gonna keep my neck from getting so red.”
WHAT WAS IT LIKE AT THE END FROM AN ETIQUETTE STANDPOINT? “Possibly. It’s tough to say because everybody has been doing it well enough now and the field has become so competitive that there are still extremely aggressive moves being made, we’ve just all found a way to not wreck tonight. The funny thing is I think drivers are starting to get to a point where they know who far they can push the envelope. They get right to the event horizon without getting pulled into the wreck and then they back off, so they’re really good at figuring that out right now. I just hope we can keep that up, but the moves are still like uber aggressive. It’s tough to deal with sometimes and then keeping calm when that happens you’ve just got to chalk it up to say it’s good hard racing, I suppose.”