By David Morgan, Associate Editor
Ben Rhodes may have been on the outside looking in when the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Playoff Grid was set after the conclusion of Saturday’s Corrigan Oil 200 at Michigan International Speedway, but the Thorsport Racing driver now has a renewed vigor to turn things around over the remaining races of the 2019 campaign.
Entering the regular season finale on the two-mile track, Rhodes was in a must win situation after coming up short on a trip to Victory Lane in the first 15 races of the season. Rolling off seventh, Rhodes finished the first stage in second place before eventually leading 15 laps on four different occasions.
Ultimately, Rhodes ran into the same bad luck that has plagued him this season, cutting down a tire in the late stages of the race and eventually finishing 23rd when the checkered flag fell.
“If we didn’t have bad luck this year, we’d have no luck at all for this season,” said Rhodes. “I don’t know why that is. I do believe you kind of make your own luck and we’ve been in bad situations, whether that be from parts failures or tires going down. I don’t know what it is, but it seems like for whatever reason bad luck has found us this year. We probably had 7-8-9 races where anything and everything you could possibly think of to happen, happens.
“This is just another one of those examples where we had the truck to beat. Could’ve, should’ve, would’ve won, led a good part of the race and then stuff happens.”
Despite the string of bad luck, which left Rhodes as the first driver to not make the eight driver Playoff field, the driver of the No. 99 Ford noted it’ll be no holds barred for the remainder of the year as he and his team try to capture that elusive win. Currently, Rhodes is on a 27-race winless streak dating back to Kentucky last July.
“We’ve got seven races now until the end of the season,” he said. “I’m not racing for points. These guys are. They’ve got a lot to lose. I’ve got nothing to lose. They’d better just go ahead, heed the warning, and get out of my way because we’re going to win as many races as we can.
“We’re basically going to be on the Kyle Busch strategy. We’re in there, we’re going to take the advantage on pit stops and we’re going after every win we can get.”
Rhodes added that the lack of respect he sees behind the wheel will make it even easier for him to do all he can to win as many races as possible between now and the end of the season at Homestead.
“Nobody seems to have any respect on the race track. Not even respect, just I race people the way I want to be raced, but that rule doesn’t seem to apply anymore. It’s kind of like the golden rule in life, right? You treat people how you want to be treated, but it doesn’t seem to apply anymore.
“So, if it doesn’t apply, it doesn’t apply to me and I’m going to race people what’s best for Ben. That’s how the rest of the season’s going to go. We’re going to do everything we can to get track position on pit stops and build extremely fast trucks.
“Just because we didn’t make the Playoffs doesn’t mean our season’s over by any means. If anything, it means it’s just now beginning because we have all the advantage in the world to go out there and get the track position and get the wins.”
Of the remaining tracks on the schedule, Rhodes has previously won at Las Vegas, with top-five finishes at Bristol, Martinsville, and Phoenix.