By: Ashley McCubbin
Even though some things may be bigger in Texas, it does not mean they go away easily in the weeks that follow. The feud for Christian Eckes and Ben Rhodes ultimately came up at Martinsville Speedway on Friday night.
With three laps remaining at Texas Motor Speedway, Rhodes hooked Eckes coming off turn four, resulting in the No. 18 making significant contact with the frontstretch wall. The Kyle Busch Motorsports driver showed his displeasure, with a double finger salute for Rhodes.
Rhodes was then taken out of the event on the ensuing restart due to contact with Eckes’ teammate Chandler Smith in turns one and two, resulting in him sharing his frustration with the KBM duo post-race.
Though following the weekend, Rhodes stated he got Eckes’ phone number from series director Brad Moran and reached out to him.
“I texted him and said, ‘Hey, I’d like to get together before the race, buy your lunch, and talk about what happened,'” Rhodes told POPULAR SPEED following the Martinsville event on Friday. “I said, ‘I don’t want to have negative things happening between our teams because we can go back and forth and wrecking each other each and every race.’ Obviously, he hates me and I hate him, but let’s find a way to move forward on the race track and not have issues and find a way to get back to racing respectfully. I didn’t really hear anything back from it and I was hoping I could because I was hoping to seal that up.”
Although the pair did not create any fireworks on the race track, there were signs of the rivalry at the track, with crew members offering insults to Rhodes as he was walking down pit road en route to his truck before the race. He also did not make matters easier on himself tonight, as he spun Raphael Lessard out of the lead following contact with Grant Enfinger.
“As I was talking to (crew chief) Rudy (Fugle) on pit road, that was 100% my fault,” Rhodes admitted. “I was cleared initially to the bottom and I tried to cut across the bottom and when I did that, I got hit in the left rear, and by the time I was trying to correct it and my nose straight, I got into the 4. So that was 100% my fault.
“But I don’t appreciate the threats or the insults that are coming along with that when it’s a separate team and separate incident, and as far as I’m concerned, the 51 got payback on me last week for his teammate. So everything was even steven leaving that race in my mind, but the threats and insults aren’t ending, which is kind of par for the course.”
Ultimately, Rhodes would like to put everything behind him as quickly as possible.
“I don’t like controversies at the race track,” he commented. “I want to go here and focus 100% on running our race, and making speed with our team; I find all of this other stuff a distraction. Obviously, what happened with the 4 (Lessard) tonight isn’t good and again, I don’t appreciate all the things that were said and things that people are saying they are going to do. That was kind of a Martinsville racing incident, again, my fault. I will try and seal it over the best that I can.
“I’ve always tried to take the high road and tried to do the right thing as that’s how I was raised. I don’t know where it will come from. I don’t know what people will say or what they’ll do. I’m just going to try and do right by what I think is right and move forward.”
For now, though, Rhodes says he is fine in handling everything and thankful for the escape that he is offered with ThorSport Racing being based in Ohio rather than North Carolina like the other teams.
“As Duke Thorson would say, we’re out of the swamp so life is great up there,” he commented. “So coming to the race track is where I have to meet everybody and see everybody. I mean, it doesn’t bother me and I understand everybody is racing for their career and so am I and I’m not doing this to give spots and positions away on the race track. I always grew up racing with respect and I’ve always tried to be respectful in years past. It’s just crazy that some of the things have happened, and unfortunate some of the things that have happened happened.
“If I have to be the bad guy in the truck series, than so be it.”