NASCAR Truck Champ Ben Rhodes Promotes Bristol Race Weekend and Throws Out First Pitch at University of Tennessee Baseball Game Wednesday in Knoxville

Two-time and defending NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Ben Rhodes helped raise awareness for the upcoming NASCAR race weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway on Wednesday afternoon in Knoxville by throwing out the ceremonial first pitch to get the University of Tennessee Volunteers vs. the Southern Indiana Screaming Eagles game underway at 6 p.m. at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

Rhodes, 27, from Louisville, will be one of the pre-race favorites in the 250-lap WEATHER GUARD Truck Race on Saturday night under the lights. He drives the No. 99 ThorSport Racing Ford and is a past winner at Bristol.

It is the first time Rhodes has participated in a first pitch at the nationally-ranked University of Tennessee Volunteers game, but he estimates prior to this he has done 10 first pitches at a variety of levels of baseball, including one in July 2022 at the Indianapolis Indians minor league game and another recently before a Cincinnati Reds game in 2015.

Rhodes, wearing a white and orange No. 42 Tennessee Vols baseball jersey, took the mound just minutes before the game and looked very composed as the righty fired the first pitch to special catcher and famed Vols relief pitcher Kirby Connell, who is one of the biggest NASCAR fans on the team.

“I didn’t bounce it, so that’s how I approach it, it was a good throw,” Rhodes said with a smile. “I get more nervous for throwing a first pitch than I do for racing my truck. I try to put a little loft on mine and make sure it gets there. I wasn’t the best at baseball growing up. I played, but I think I eventually ended up in right field. So far I haven’t been laughed off the field. I enjoy it. It’s a great honor, it really is.”

After the pitch, Rhodes took part in a Vols tradition in the dugout where the players all give each other high-fives in a lineup before the game begins. He was high-fiving and getting hugs from most all of the players. The Vols (11-1) are currently ranked seventh in the NCAA top 25 rankings and one of the favorites to advance to the College World Series.

Prior to tonight’s first pitch, Rhodes met with members of the Knoxville and Tri-Cities media at the popular nearby restaurant Calhoun’s on the River to give a preview of the WEATHER GUARD Truck Race. Although the competition is tough as ever, Rhodes likes his chances in the race on the all-concrete surface that features banking in the 24-28 degree range. The half-mile track has been called the “Holy Grail of Short Tracks” due to the number of drivers who dream of winning a race there and because of all of the amazing moments in NASCAR history that have taken place there.

“I really love racing at Bristol, but I must confess I loved the dirt,” said Rhodes, who won on the dirt in 2022. “It’s bittersweet, I really enjoyed the dirt, but I’m excited to get a sword on the concrete. I would really like to conquer that. I haven’t done it yet, so maybe this will be the year.”

Rhodes is looking for a nice finish in Bristol to turn around a sluggish start to the season which has included a 30th place finish after a crash in the Daytona season-opener, a 28th place finish in Atlanta after getting off the pace midway through the race and a 13th place effort in Las Vegas.

“It will be good to get back to a short track like Bristol after running three bigger speedways,” Rhodes said. “The speedways are great but you are at the mercy sometimes of your competitors. You are too on a short track to some degree, but you can have a better control at the short track because it comes down to aggression and how much you want to push an issue on a short track. What’s great about Bristol is that it’s more of a driver’s track with multiple grooves and you can really make things happen even if you have a bad truck, and on a speedway you are just along for the ride.”

The Bristol race weekend will feature action in the NASCAR Cup Series with the tradition-rich Food City 500 on Sunday afternoon, March 17 (3:30 p.m., FOX and PRN Radio) with current champ Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell, Joey Logano, William Byron, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin leading the way.

Saturday afternoon’s Bush’s Beans Practice and Bush’s Beans Qualifying for both the NASCAR Cup Series and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series will set the starting lineups for each race and precede Saturday night’s WEATHER GUARD® Truck Race.

In addition to Rhodes, other NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series stars who should contend include Grant Enfinger, Nick Sanchez, Las Vegas winner Rajah Caruth, Corey Heim, Ty Dillon and Christian Eckes, among others, and is scheduled to take the green flag at 8 p.m. ET for the 250-lap thriller (FS1, MRN Radio).

To purchase tickets for the Food City 500 or the WEATHER GUARD® Truck Race, please visit the BMS website, or call the BMS Ticket Sales Center at (866) 415-4158. For a limited time tickets can also be purchased at your neighborhood Food City store.