By Ben Rhodes, Driver Columnist
(Editor’s note: Ben Rhodes, driver of the No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions Ford F-150 forThorSport Racing, one of the longest-tenured teams in NASCAR competition. Rhodes will contribute to Motorsports Tribune throughout the season, providing a firsthand look behind the scenes of his 2018 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series campaign from behind the visor.)
Rhodes outlines his season ahead and what he’d like to see accomplished with the No. 41 team, while reflecting on this past weekend’s NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway, and his successful 2017 season.
Rhodes and his ThorSport Racing teammates head next to Atlanta Motor Speedway, with coverage of the Active Pest Control 200 benefiting Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta airing live on FOX Sports 1, Saturday, Feb. 24, at 4:30 p.m. ET.
This year, the 2018 season is go big or go home for us. We’re looking at winning the championship and as many victories and poles we can get. Personally, I’d like to have about three wins or more at the end of the year. In setting goals for the season, I consider my goals the team’s goals – I’m ambitious, and three wins or more would satisfy me, but I’d really like to get six. Anything less than that, I’m not happy with.
Looking back on last year, even though we won at Las Vegas and had a strong season, I feel we could’ve improved and done better. Now that I have a second season with Eddie [Troconis], I think this season those goals can easily be attained and reached. I feel at least three wins can certainly be a reality for us.
Stemming from last season, I’d love to move forward and work on mistakes we made. We had a lot of them that shouldn’t have happened, and small things were overlooked. We want to make sure we eliminate those and run the season smoother – that’s the biggest change from 2017 I’d like to see.
Ahead of Daytona, the team made a rather big change, impacting our program with switching to Ford. I don’t think the change was met with any apprehension – it was met with excitement from everyone. Even though the switch was quite a bit of work, and still is as we speak, I still think people are excited about the change.
The support from Ford has been great – they’ve really welcomed us into their family, and I think everyone is enjoying this new relationship and seeing where we can all go. In Daytona this past weekend, I thought for switching as late as we did over to Ford, and how well Grant [Enfinger] and Matt [Crafton]’s trucks ran in qualifying, we really showed how strong the Fords can run. We were able to go out and do that well. Qualifying aside for the No. 41 Ford F-150 team, my truck ran really well in the draft during the race, we just found we needed more straight-line speed.
The real goal going into Daytona was to survive and get a top-five. I think we certainly accomplished that goal. Obviously, I wanted to win, but coming out of Daytona in one piece and rolling onto the truck after 100 laps was great. That was my main goal in mind, and to accomplish it was a breath of relief. That said, it really sets a positive tone for the rest of the season.
Expanding on our momentum from last season, I’m really excited about heading to Atlanta this weekend with our truck “Jasmine.” We led a lot of laps with her at the end of last season in Homestead, along with capturing a pole at Pocono. She’s a fast one, and in addition to the strong run we had at Daytona last weekend (in a different truck), I think we have a great shot at winning this weekend and keeping momentum rolling in a positive direction.