Rhodes to make 150th Truck career start at Texas

A significant milestone start is in the making for Ben Rhodes, the reigning NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion and driver of the No. 99 ThorSport Racing Toyota Tundra TRD Pro. By competing in this weekend’s event at Texas Motor Speedway, Rhodes will make his 150th career start in the Truck circuit. 

A native of Louisville, Kentucky, Rhodes made his inaugural presence in the Truck Series at Martinsville Speedway in March 2014. By then, he was contending for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East title for Turner Scott Motorsports. Driving the No. 32 Chevrolet Silverado for TSM, Rhodes started 12th and finished eighth in his series debut. He returned for three additional events throughout the 2014 season (Dover International Speedway in May, Bristol Motor Speedway in August, and Phoenix Raceway in November). During this span, he earned a season-best fifth-place result at Phoenix.

After winning the 2014 K&N Pro Series title before campaigning on a part-time basis for JR Motorsports during the 2015 NASCAR Xfinity Series season, Rhodes earned a full-time ride in the Truck Series with ThorSport Racing for the 2016 season, where he campaigned for the Rookie-of-the-Year title. Piloting the No. 41 Toyota Tundra for ThorSport, he commenced his rookie Truck season with a seventh-place result at Daytona International Speedway in February followed by a sixth-place run at Atlanta Motor Speedway. After starting on pole position for the first time in his career at Martinsville Speedway in April, where he finished 16th after spinning late, Rhodes was placed in the prime position of winning his first Truck event at Kansas Speedway in May. Running in second place behind veteran Johnny Sauter on the final lap, he made a bold move beneath Sauter in Turn 3 and ended up turning Sauter’s truck as both competitors veered into the outside wall with the finish in sight. Instead of a possible trip to Victory Lane, Rhodes settled in 18th place, a lap down.

As the 2016 Truck Series progressed, Rhodes received two more opportunities of winning his first Truck event: Iowa Speedway and World Wide Technology Raceway in June. At Iowa, he settled in fourth place following a two-lap dash to the finish. At the World Wide Technology Raceway, he settled in second place behind Christopher Bell following another two-lap dash. The strong results, however, were mingled with inconsistent results throughout the summer as Rhodes failed to make the 2016 Truck Playoffs. He managed to record four top-15 results during the seven-race Playoff stretch before concluding his first NASCAR Truck season in 14th place in the final standings.

Remaining at ThorSport Racing for the 2017 truck season while sporting the number 27 alongside his Toyota Tundra, Rhodes was battling for the victory on the final lap at Daytona in February until a bump from teammate Grant Enfinger entering the backstretch sent Rhodes sideways and triggered a multi-truck wreck that sent his other championship teammate Matt Crafton barrel-rolling in the air. Despite the accident, Rhodes limped home to a 12th-place result. He rallied during the second event of the season at Atlanta by finishing fourth, but fell back to 20th during the third event of the season at Martinsville. 

Then at Kansas in May, Rhodes led 25 laps and was running away with the lead over Kyle Busch when his engine blew up with eight laps remaining, which forced the Kentucky native to retire his truck in the garage. He rebounded during the following four events by finishing in the top 10 before finishing outside of the top 10 during the ensuing three. After finishing in the top 10 in three of the following four events, which includes a second-place result at Pocono Raceway in July, Rhodes was still in contention to earn a spot for the 2017 Playoffs. By finishing sixth at Chicagoland Speedway in September, which marked the conclusion of the 2017 regular season stretch, he secured the eighth and final transfer spot to the Playoffs in a tie-breaker over Ryan Truex, who finished fourth despite starting on pole.

Following a seventh-place result at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in September to commence his Playoff run, Rhodes earned his first elusive Truck Series career victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after storming to the lead with eight laps remaining and fending off Bell by 0.066 seconds. The victory earned Rhodes and his No. 27 ThorSport Racing Toyota team a spot in the Playoff’s Round of 6. After finishing ninth and 18th during the first two Round of 6 events, his title hopes evaporated at Phoenix Raceway in November after he was turned by Playoff rival Austin Cindric during a restart with 22 laps remaining and wrecked along with teammate Matt Crafton. Rhodes went on to conclude the 2017 season in 19th place at Homestead-Miami Speedway after running out of fuel in the closing laps and in fifth place in the final standings. By then, he doubled his overall top-10 results to 12 compared to five in 2016.

Photo by Simon Scoggins for SpeedwayMediaa.com.

Rhodes returned to ThorSport Racing for a third full-time season in 2018 as he also reunited with the number 41 alongside his truck. By then, ThorSport swapped manufacturers from Toyota to Ford. Despite finishing fourth at Daytona in February, Rhodes’ crew chief, Eddie Troconis, was suspended for one event and fined $5,000 after Rhodes’ No. 41 Ford was found to be too low during the post-race inspection process, which also resulted with a 10-point dock in the driver’s and owner’s standings.

Through the first 11 events of the 2018 Truck season, Rhodes had collected a total of four top-five results and was coming off a runner-up result at Chicagoland Speedway. Then at Kentucky Speedway in July, he claimed his second career victory after leading the final 24 laps and beating Stewart Friesen by nearly a second. The victory guaranteed Rhodes a spot in the 2018 Truck Playoffs, who capped off the regular season stretch with back-to-back top-10 results. During the Round of 8, however, he finished 14th, fourth and 16th respectively, which were enough to eliminate him from title contention early. Managing two additional top-five results during the final four scheduled events, Rhodes settled in eighth place in the final standings as he led a career-best 232 laps throughout the season and earned an average-finishing result of 9.9.

Remaining at ThorSport Racing for a fourth full-time season in 2019 with his number changed to 99, Rhodes was battling for the win at Daytona when he got clipped by Gus Dean with two laps remaining and was collected in a multi-truck wreck, which left him with a 14th-place result in the final running order. He rebounded during the following 10 events by posting three runner-up results, five top-five results and eight top-10 results. Rhodes, however, earned only one top-10 result during the final five regular-season events and failed to return to the Playoffs. He managed to record four top-10 results during the postseason by settling in ninth place in the final standings.

Photo by Bruce Nuttleman for SpeedwayMedia.com.

In a similar fashion to 2019, Rhodes’ 2020 season started with being involved in a late multi-truck wreck while contending for victory. At Atlanta Motor Speedway in June, he made his 100th Truck Series career start, where he went on to finish ninth. Three months later at Darlington Raceway, Rhodes persevered over an overtime battle with rookie Derek Kraus to snap a one-year winless drought and score his fourth Truck Series career victory. Returning to the Playoffs, he transferred from the Round of 10 to 8 despite posting a single top-five result at Talladega Superspeedway in October. Rhodes’ 2020 title hopes, however, came to an end after finishing 20th, 20th and second respectively in the Round of 8. He went on to cap the season in seventh place in the final standings with a career-high nine top-five results, 14 top-10 results and an average-finishing result of 10.0.

Prior to the 2021 season, ThorSport Racing returned to fielding Toyotas following a three-year partnership with Ford while Rhodes remained as the driver of the No. 99 truck. In his return to piloting a Toyota, Rhodes overtook Corey Roper on the final lap and edged Jordan Anderson by 0.036 seconds to win at Daytona. He then backed it up by winning at the Daytona Road Course event over Sheldon Creed. From there, Rhodes utilized consistency that included three additional top-five results and nine additional top-10 results before making his fourth appearance in the Truck Series Playoffs. 

Respective finishes of third, 34th and ninth allowed the Kentucky native to transfer from the Round of 10 to 8. After finishing second, 13th and seventh respectively in the Round of 8, Rhodes emerged as one of four competitors to transfer to the Championship Round at Phoenix Raceway in November and battle for the title. During the finale, Rhodes overtook title rival Zane Smith with nine laps remaining and was able to finish in third place, but claim the 2021 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship over Smith, John Hunter Nemechek and teammate Matt Crafton. With the accomplishment, Rhodes became the 19th different competitor to win the Truck title as he delivered the fourth drivers’ championship and first owners’ title to ThorSport Racing. His championship season was one to remember as he recorded two victories, eight top-five results, a career-high 16 top-10 results and a career-best average-finishing result of 9.3.

Photo by Christian Gardner for SpeedwayMedia.com.

Through 149 previous starts, Rhodes has achieved one championship, six victories, five poles, 46 top-five results, 82 top-10 results, 1,005 laps led and an average-finishing result of 11.4. He currently leads the 2022 Truck Series regular-season standings on the strength of winning the Bristol Dirt Course in April along with achieving six top-10 results through the first eight scheduled events.

Rhodes is set to make his 150th career start in the Camping World Truck Series at Texas Motor Speedway on Friday, May 20, at 8:30 p.m. ET on FS1.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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