For Louisville, Kentucky native Ben Rhodes, Thursday night is the Daytona 500, Super Bowl, and World Series all wrapped into one. That’s how much Kentucky Speedway means to him.
“This would be as close to the championship as you could get without winning the championship. This is like my Daytona 500,” says Rhodes. “I’ve said it before, it’s not because this track has a huge history. It’s not as old as Daytona or Martinsville, but it has a history for me because I’ve been racing here ever since I was a kid.
“I think if you asked me this question after we had won, I still don’t think I would have the words for it. I just know this is a race on my schedule that is marked every single year and would mean the absolute most.”
Thursday’s race is Rhodes’ third attempt at winning in Sparta in the Truck Series. In two previous tries, he finished 13th in 2016 and 27th last year. In the 2017 event, Rhodes led five laps and won stage one before a crash ended his night after just 41 laps.
“Ever since then I’ve really changed my driving style quite a bit as far as making sure everywhere I go I have an out and just looking at a bigger picture at the shop with the trucks we have in circulation. I have to make sure I’m taking care of my team,” Rhodes says.
Rhodes posted the fastest time during final practice Thursday afternoon. He says the track conditions are very challenging and should lead to some wild racing.
“It’s really tough. I feel like the groove is still pretty narrow compared to last year. There were a couple times I actually got my right rear tire outside the groove and I felt like I had a flat.
“I think to really get this thing rubbered in correctly you would need cars and trucks on it all day long non-stop. I think that would help a lot. I definitely think it’s going to be great for the Cup guys. For us, it’s going to be an awesome race, but there’s definitely going to be some close quarters racing and the restarts and going to be just as crazy as last year if not crazier. This is probably going to be one of the craziest races of the year.”
Following a month of nothing but bad luck and misfortune, Rhodes got back on track with a second-place finish two weeks ago at Chicagoland. He’s currently eighth in the Camping World Truck Series points standings and squarely on the bubble for making the playoffs.
“We need some good luck and we just need to be out front and have solid pit stops because once you get in the back it’s going to be hard to pass and people are going to be wild,” said Rhodes. “It’s going to be tough.”