By NASCAR Wire Service
At the beginning of 2015, Ben Rhodes’ NASCAR future looked as bright as any other of the sport’s young prospects.
The then 18-year-old Louisville, Kentucky native, fresh off a dominant run to the 2014 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship that included five wins and 11 top fives in 16 races, inked a deal with stalwart JR Motorsports to compete in 10 NASCAR XFINITY Series races.
With the talent he showed in the NKNPSE and the power of the JRM cars, Rhodes was expected to succeed quickly.
Instead, he struggled.
Rhodes earned only two top-10 finishes in the 10 starts and could not easily adjust to the new cars with his lack of consistent seat time.
Now competing full-time in the No. 41 Toyota for ThorSport Racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Rhodes looks like he’s found his groove again. He ranks seventh in the series standings and leads the Sunoco Rookie of the Year hunt after finishes of seventh and sixth in the first two races.
Rhodes will attempt to continue his early success in Saturday’s Alpha Energy Solutions 250 at Martinsville Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET on FS1)
“What (racing full-time) does for you mentally, I can’t even put it in words,” he said. “Especially when you’re able to contend for points, championship, rookie of the year, there’s just something, an unspoken nature that it does for you mentally and to just be able to have that bond with all of your guys. Not to say that I didn’t have that last year, but I wasn’t in the car full-time. That was the hardest thing for a learning driver – to not be in there.”
No stranger to Martinsville, Rhodes made his NASCAR national series debut at “The Paperclip” as a 17-year-old in March of 2014 and finished eighth.
“It is certainly wild at Martinsville Speedway,” Rhodes said. “The Alpha Energy Solutions 250 is going to be no different. All of the guys are going to be competing for the same piece of track position from the bottom to the front and it makes it really difficult.
“You just have to have fast truck, and try to stay out front and away from everyone else.”
Image: Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images