By Brian Eberly, Contributing Writer
JOLIET, Ill. — The month of June hasn’t been kind to Ben Rhodes with finishes of 16th, 17th and 19th in the past three NASCAR Camping World Truck Series events. But the end result in Friday night’s Overton’s 225 at Chicagoland Speedway was just the momentum Rhodes and his ThorSport Racing team needed at this point in the season.
Rhodes crossed the stripe in the second position to earn his best finish of 2018 and best since his victory last September at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. And with the way things have been going of late, Rhodes was most happy for his team.
“It’s just good to finally have a good finish because we’ve been having the world’s worst luck here lately. It’s very rewarding because our guys have been working so hard at ThorSport Racing, 70-80 hours a week. I know it’s rewarding for them. Our new pit crew we have on board, it’s rewarding for them. And Ford, they’ve been helping us out a lot through these issues we’ve had and trying to figure out what’s been going on and I’ve been very thankful for that to have the support to help right our program.”
Rhodes rolled off from the ninth position in the No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions Ford and gained a few positions in Stage No. 1 before hitting pit road for four fresh tires, fuels and adjustments under the yellow for the stage break.
“We made a bad move in the beginning. The track went through this major swing. I actually almost thought I had a tire going down because I’ve never seen a track go through such a swing from sunshine on the track to dark. It just got really, really loose and then finally tightened back up. I don’t know if that was just the age on the track or what it was but it was definitely new to me so we got ourselves a little behind making an adjustment a little prematurely I think but we righted the ship. We came back from it.”
After the completion of the second stage, Rhodes came down pit road for four tires and fuel but was happy with his truck and made no adjustments. He would gain several positions in the early going of the final stage and was running third when the field restarted for the final time with 24 laps to go. Unable to chase down leaders John Hunter Nemechek and Brett Moffitt, Rhodes picked up one more spot when Nemechek ran out of fuel on the final lap.
What was going through Rhodes mind on that final restart of the night with 24 laps to go, given the issues he had lately?
“I was thinking about trying to do the Vegas 2017. I was thinking about trying to pull down and make the pass and make it three-wide and take the lead but it was a little risky. I didn’t quite get the restart that I wanted and that was due to in part because in the restart zone John Hunter didn’t get going as fast and I couldn’t pull out until the start-finish line. I didn’t time it quite correct so I had to end up just pushing him and we ended up pushing him all the way to the lead by Turn 1. Kind of unfortunate for me because I was trying to use that momentum to my advantage and take the lead like Vegas as that worked out so well for us. It was an interesting race. Very tempting and I thought about making it really interesting but I thought better of it. We just needed a good finish tonight.”
The Truck Series is off next weekend before heading to Kentucky Speedway, a home-game for the driver out of Louisville, Kentucky.
“It’s just so good for morale. This is awesome momentum. It’s a huge story line for me going in to my home track.”