Ben Rhodes was inducted into the 2014-2015 NASCAR NEXT class at Richmond International Raceway on Friday afternoon due to impressing the voting panel by being the current K&N East points leader and winning multiple races in the NASCAR WHELEN All-American division last season.
“It’s an honor to be in the NASCAR NEXT class this year,” Rhodes expressed to Speedway Media following K&N East qualifying at Richmond on Friday. “We had so much fun last season going to Chicagoland and meeting track presidents across the country and other people who make the (racing) industry what it is today.”
“It was just really cool to be a part of those big events, it’s just an honor, I can’t say enough about (the program).”
The 12-drivers who were elected to this elusive class were placed in a tent prior to the announcement, and most of them were messing around, acting like best friends, while in reality, many of them are meeting each other for the first time.
“It helps a lot,” Rhodes explained about having mutual, if not great, relationships with other NASCAR NEXT inductees. “When you’re close (friends), you get to talk about the cars and tracks, but when you’re not so close (friends), you don’t share anything with anybody.
“It (is helpful) to develop those strong relationships with people, which is really an advantage, but once you step onto the racetrack, it’s war.”
Rhodes, 17, currently leads the K&N East points standings by 18 markers following a second place finish at Richmond on Saturday, which has allowed him to carry confidence and momentum approaching the remainder of the season.
“I think it puts the pressure on the other (competitors),” Rhodes described about being the current K&N East points leader. “We are just going to keep doing what we’re doing, the stats are in our favor from our progress and results, we (finished) 15th at Daytona, (the season opener), and in two races we’ve (rebounded) to become the points leader.”
“Plus, our hauler’s at the front of the line (because) we’re the points leader, that’s always nice.” Rhodes said with a smile across his face.”
The Turner Scott Motorsports driver appears to be the favorite for the championship this season, and scoring that wouldn’t just provide him more recognition, but possibly an entire career within NASCAR.
“It would mean a ton,” Rhodes explained about what a K&N East championship would mean this season. “A lot of the big teams in the NASCAR Touring Series look at how you’ve improved, what you’ve done, and your results.”
“Racing is a very tight family, everybody knows everybody and they all talk, and you just really have to wow the people you’re working with, you have to establish good relationships with everybody because the word spreads quickly in racing.”
Rhodes and the K&N East Series return to the racing surface on May 17, 2014 at Iowa Speedway where the new NASCAR NEXT drivers will look to prove their legitimacy within the sport.