By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Not even seconds after the green flag dropped in Friday’s Camping World 225 at Chicagoland Speedway, Ben Rhodes’ night was over.
After qualifying 18th, Rhodes’ No. 99 Carolina Nut Company Ford F-150 was hoping for a stellar result as he’s struggled matching his ThorSport Racing teammates speed at the 1.5-mile circuit.
Not only that, Rhodes had ECU issues during practice and also switch batteries which contributed to the struggles before the 150-lap race commenced. That all paled in comparison once the 150-lap contest commenced as a shot of fighting for valuable position went up in smoke, just like his truck.
The field tried avoiding the wounded Ford as Rhodes ran the opening lap while smoke was puffing the entire time. Once bringing it into the pits, the No. 99 team opened the hood up after initially reported over the radio that oil pressure was amiss.
Any sign of diagnosis wasn’t going to be easy and the team were forced to push Rhodes behind the wall as smoke continued coming out. Despite a valiant effort of trying fixing his truck, nothing was salvageable and for the third time this season, he failed to finish the race.
The Louisville, Kentucky native officially finished last in 32nd and after 85 starts, it marked his worst finish of his NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series career.
Once the night was over, Rhodes headed back into the team pits with his street clothes and commented that seeing the race on the sidelines is sickening after ending up with his first-career last-place result.
“Everybody has been in a situation where they just feel just sick from something that’s happened to them and that’s just what this is. It’s awful because it puts us in a bad spot for the playoffs picture.” said Rhodes. “What hurts the most is I thought we had a truck that could’ve won. My guys are doing everything right and they’re working their butts off. It’s just weird stuff that’s been happening.”
Rhodes confirmed that oil was dumping out of the main seal as soon as he started shifting gears at the start of the race, but saw no signs of concerns during qualifying.
Perhaps more disgruntling about his early exit is Ross Chastain being just 10 points outside of the top-20 in points and thanks to his win at Gateway, it could bump Rhodes down to the eighth and final playoff spot after the Kentucky 225 at Kentucky Speedway July 11.
However, it’s also the site of Rhodes’ last win to date where he led 38 of 150 laps a year ago.