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Thursday, December 8, 2022
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Ben Rhodes Feels He Has Advantage Mentally Over Fellow Truck Series Championship 4 Contenders

Ben Rhodes reaches the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Championship 4 in back-to-back fashion looking for a second career title. Photo by Matt Narváez / TobyChristie.com

Ben Rhodes put together a sixth-place finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Saturday’s Baptist Health 200, which was just good enough to reach the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Championship 4 to give him a shot at back-to-back championships.

The 24-year-old advanced by the slimmest of margins as he grabbed the final transfer spot over Stewart Friesen by a single point. A pair of Rhodes’ teammates ran behind him for the closing 10-lap stretch of the race, and while Friesen credited Rhodes’ teammates for him ultimately securing the Championship 4 berth, Rhodes states that it was not an advantage.

“I actually felt worse racing against my teammates,” Rhodes said. “If you haven’t noticed, if you watch all of us throughout the year, we all run each other harder than anyone on the racetrack and today was no exception. I had a blow-up on the radio at the end of the race, my teammates are good competitors.

“I knew it was close, they were filling me in, they told me that Stewart couldn’t exactly pass the guy in front of him but I had to pass my teammate and hold both of them behind me. They’re dragging me back, trying to pull slide jobs, they were doing everything they could take it. Just really difficult, but at the same time “I’m really happy because it’s all wiped clean.”

Saturday’s NCWTS race, the penultimate race of the 2022 season, sets up the final round of the Playoffs with Rhodes as the only champion in the four-driver battle for the title.

It’s a vast difference in momentum for Rhodes when compared to a year ago. Last season, Rhodes had bagged two wins and had a season filled with consistency. It was a scrappy effort this time around after having an up-and-down Playoff run.

“I had a lot of confidence last year coming off of Martinsville,” Rhodes explained. “I was able to leave that race almost putt-putting around and still running really, really well, we had such a fast truck at Martinsville. Whenever you can do that, gives you a ton of confidence. This race of ours was no slouch either, we were able to lead a bunch of laps at the beginning, get a stage win. When the track was in our favor, we did well with it.”

Not only was Rhodes happy with his effort on Saturday, which resulted in 37 laps led and a Stage Win, but he feels he actually holds an advantage mentally over his competition for the championship.

“The thing is about Phoenix, as far as I’m aware, these other guys I’m racing against, I don’t think [they] have a championship. We’ve done it before, we did it most recently. There is an advantage to that mentally,” Rhodes stated with confidence. “I don’t know about physically and with the race truck itself, but mentally there is an advantage for myself and all the guys on my team.”

For the first five seasons of Rhodes’ NCWTS career, he never finished higher than fifth in the championship. However, since partnering with crew chief, Rich Lushes, Rhodes has seen a drastic change in performance. This year marks the second campaign for the driver/crew chief duo as they earned the title in their debut season.

“We just have to work on short-run speed and I told my crew chief do what you know,” said Rhodes. “Whenever my crew chief, Rich Lushes, does what he knows, we are always really, really fast. He needs to stay in his wheelhouse, I’ll work on mine, it should work out well.”

The Kentucky native had his first multi-win year last season, by opening the schedule with two straight victories. Where in 2022, he led a substantial amount of laps despite only having a single checkered flag, which came in the Bristol dirt race.

It’s a benefit to have the experience of winning the championship in the NCWTS, but will the No. 99 ThorSport Racing Toyota team be able to extract the potential speed from their truck at Phoenix?

“I will say if there’s one track that gives me a lot of confidence was Gateway, we were leading until an alternator issue with about 10-laps to go took us out of contention,” Rhodes added. “That gives me a lot of confidence. I mean we were extremely fast at the end of the race (Phoenix championship event) last year.”

Along with Rhodes, teammate Ty Majeski also made it to the final round. 2022 marks the first season ThorSport has put multiple drivers into the Championship 4. It is also the first time since 2020 that an organization has achieved that feat.

The 2022 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Championship 4 finale from Phoenix Raceway is set for Friday, November 4th, at 10:00 pm ET, live on FS1.

Matt Narváez
Matt Narváez
Matthew is a NASCAR contributor apart of the TobyChristie.com team. A fan of racing since 2011, he has had passion for sports journalism since 2015 and is a current Mass Communications student at the University of South Florida.

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