Two weeks ago, Ben Rhodes made his first trip to victory lane in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Rhodes, took his No. 27 Toyota to victory lane in the penultimate race of the first round of the Truck Series playoffs at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The win was big for a number of reasons for the ThorSport Racing driver. First off, he got the monkey off his back and won his first NASCAR race. Secondly, the win automatically advanced him to the second round of the playoffs. And third, he doesn’t have to worry about Saturday’s wildcard race at the Talladega Superspeedway. That may be the biggest point of the three.
See, with the points being so close and Saturday’s Fred’s 250 (1 p.m. ET/FOX/MRN) being the final race of the first round, anything can happen. With so much not being in a drivers’ control on restrictor plate tracks, it always adds to increased pressure in the annual Fall stop at the 2.66-mile superspeedway. But, with his win at Vegas, Rhodes can rest easy this week. He knows that even if he gets caught up in something not of his doing on Saturday, he’s still going to be championship eligible leaving the high banked Alabama race track.
That has him with a nothing to lose mentality for Saturday’s race.
“Being locked into the Round of 6 is certainly a blessing going into Talladega,” the Louisville native said ahead of this weekend’s race at Talladega. “It just takes all that unnecessary pressure off me, and the whole team. We have nothing to lose at this race, and essentially everything to gain, in the sense of playoff points and a win. So, I will approach the race with a different mindset, but not necessarily race it any different.”
In 18 starts this season, Rhodes has earned one pole (Pocono), and led 160 laps en route to one win (Las Vegas), six top-five finishes, and 11 top-10’s. His last seven starts on the season have seen him finish inside the top 11. Now, that mixed with his win finally sinking in, he’s ready for the next step, a championship.
“The win has finally sunk in, although it still feels like a dream,” said Rhodes. “I know the win means so much to everyone on our team given the adversity we had to overcome. This was the first win not only for me, but every single person on my team. It feels like we have finally gotten past that barrier. I know after the win got away from us at Kansas, earlier this year, it was on everyone’s mind, but now we can all breathe easy, relax, and just focus on the remainder of the season.”