Last year, Ben Rhodes proved that he could run up front at Daytona International Speedway, running inside the top-five till contact resulted in being caught up in a big wreck, ending his race early.
With the lessons learned, the sophomore driver hopes this year will be a different story, possibly resulting in his first career series win.
“I’m excited for Daytona,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “I think that we can have a good run down there based on how well we ran last year. I feel we should be able to run up front and do well.”
After a solid rookie campaign, Rhodes will once again be driving for ThorSport Racing in 2017, set to build upon last year’s 14th place finish in the series standings.
“I’m really excited about the upcoming season,” he said. “I feel we can build on what we did last year. We’ve got new trucks coming out this year based on everything that we learned last year, so I feel we should run up front. There’s also a good camaraderie within the team as everybody is close. Everyone talks about a good driver-crew chief relationship, but we have that with all the guys so that should help us. Actually, with how close everyone is it’s like a fraternity. I’m excited for the year.”
Last season, Rhodes started off the season with four top-10s in the first 10 races, including a runner-up finish at Gateway Motorsports Park. However, following the fire at the ThorSport Racing shop, the summer saw the results fall off slightly with only one top-10 in the final 13 races.
“I felt last year that we had some good moments, but also some rough ones,” he said. “We faced a lot of adversity with the shop fire and some stuff on track. However, we had some good runs as we ran up front before the fire and you saw that start to happen again near the end of the year.”
Rhodes notes the biggest thing he learned over the season was aerodynamics, and how much the air affects the handling of his truck.
While Rhodes and Matt Crafton remain with the organization, they will have a pair of new teammates in Cody Coughlin and Grant Enfinger. The bonding among the team should go smoothly per Rhodes, as a result of a friendship already there.
“I feel like we have a good relationship with the guys,” he said. “I got along with Cody and Grant last year when we weren’t even teammates so I feel we should all work well together this year.”
Last year not as teammates, he pushed Enfinger up into the lead as part of the strong performance he had.
Perhaps this year, the tables will be turned, and the race can end off in a special way for the Kentucky native.
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