Ford Performance NASCAR: Charlotte Media Tour (Ben Rhodes)

by Official Release On Tue, Jan. 23, 2018

BEN RHODES, No. 41 Ford F-150

CAN YOU UPDATE US ON YOUR SPONSOR SITUATION? “Yeah, we haven’t been ready to announce yet. It will be in a little bit. Not sure when the exact date will be but it will be soon. It is all coming through Duke and Rhonda Thorson and everyone at ThorSport. We have a whole team working on it which is cool because this is my third year back at ThorSport but we have continuity. This is my second year with the same crew. When you have three years in a row you start to build a rapport with your team and people that are there. You develop relationships that I think will be lasting, even if I were to move up in other series’. I consider them great friends. The reason I am here right now is strictly because of Duke and Rhonda Thorson. That is how pumped up I am to be racing with them again this year.”

WHO IS HAPPIER THAT THE BAND IS STILL TOGETHER AGAIN, YOU OR EDDIE? “I don’t know actually. The funny thing is that the crew was going crazy over the winter time blowing my phone up trying to find out what the deal was. Saying that I was racing with them and when am I coming back to the shop, stuff like that. I told them that I was coming up there but that they had to just chill out. I would say it was equally between them and Eddie they are happy. Those guys were just ecstatic that we are back and Eddie is the same way. They are also at the same time really stressed with Daytona coming up so soon and switching over to Ford Performance. They are excited about that and I am excited about that. I think it bodes really well for the future of ThorSport in 2018 and beyond. There is a learning curve though. They have been working hard. I really hope it shows out of the gate at Daytona the hard work they have put in this off season because I really think this can be a special year.”

WHEN DID YOU FIND OUT ABOUT THE FORD THING? CRAFTON SAID HE FOUND OUT LAST WEEK. “Yeah. Crafton is correct. That soon.”

IT WASN’T A SURPRISE THOUGH WAS IT? YOUR NAME WAS FLOATED AROUND A LOT OF DIFFERENT PLACES. THERE WAS NO GUARANTEE YOU WOULD EVEN BE BACK AT THORSPORT IN 2018. YOU WERE BEING EYED BY OTHER TEAMS AND OTHER MANUFACTURERS. WHAT WAS THE DECIDING FACTOR? “I would say that honestly, it is funny because during the offseason the rumor mill gets going and I hear my name getting thrown around places and it is like, ‘I went there? I took a tour of that shop? When did that happen?’ I hear these things and think that I wish people reached out to me if they were interested. The deciding factor to me is Duke Thorson himself. He is investing in me as a person and a driver. He is putting a lot of time and energy and effort into me and I just have a ton of respect for that. Nobody else has really done that for me. He has faith in me to do that. i think that is amazing and I am kind of indebted to him for that. Really, he was my option. That was the place. If I was going anywhere it was going to be with them because that was the option that I had.”

WAS IT EVER REALLY A QUESTION IN YOUR MIND? “No, not really. We had some interest from other places. I had interest but there was never really an option. It was kind of always ThorSport in my mind. Duke was really the only guy that believed in me and trusted in me. The 2017 season, I think really built that trust and relationship between me and him. We had like two people that reached out to me but nobody that gave me an opportunity like Duke did. That is why I am in love with ThorSport so much. I want to perform to the best of my ability and give them a championship and multiple race wins, give them everything they deserve.”

IS ANYTHING LESS THAN A SHOT AT THE CHAMPIONSHIP AT HOMESTEAD GOING TO BE A DISAPPOINTMENT? “I feel like this year could be the year and anything less would be disappointing. We are going for the championship and not going to let anything hold us back. Eddie, my whole crew and everyone at ThorSport are super motivated for this championship. Last year was the first win for many of them at Las Vegas. That was the first win for the majority of guys on our team. After they got that they were more hungry than ever before. It was like it quenched the thirst for a moment but it just made them more hungry. After the performance at Homestead, that really boosted their confidence and my confidence. I know we can do this. It is a matter of cleaning up our mistake from last year and making our whole season a little more polished.”

WOULD YOU SAY THAT DUKE THORSON SAVED YOUR CAREER AT THE NATIONAL LEVEL? “In some sense, yeah. Duke has believed in me 100%. If it wasn’t for him I don’t know if I would be right here right now. In some sense, whether I would be a part time driver or what. Maybe I was full time in something else but certainly not with a chance to run for the championship like Duke has offered me. Duke is a great guy and I am proud to be associated with him really.”

YOU HAD TO REALLY WORK HARD FOR YOUR FIRST WIN. SOME GUYS KIND OF LUCK INTO THEIR FIRST WIN, WHAT WAS THAT LIKE? “Yeah, it tests you and your character and everything about you. Makes you wonder if it is right for you, really. I have a great support system between my family, friends and everyone at ThorSport. Everyone knows how our season went and things that happened that kind of kept us out of Victory Lane but when it did happen and it was the real deal, we really had to earn that win. I wouldn’t even say we were the fastest truck at the end of the race but we earned that. It means a lot to accomplish something like that. A win is a win. If I could luck into some wins I would take it. I always said if I had a little more luck maybe I would be part of the food chain right now. I will take a win anyway I can get it. I am proud to be associated with Ford, Duke Thorson and ThorSport racing. I think this year, luck or not, we will get multiple wins.”

DO YOU THINK THAT WIN CHANGED DUKE’S EXPECTATIONS GOING INTO THIS YEAR? “No, his expectations of me are right in line with my expectations of myself. I know what I can do and I think Duke knows what I can do. It comes down to things going correctly and giving ourselves the best opportunity possible and everyone at ThorSport and Duke is working hard to make sure we have that opportunity. That is the reason for partnering with Ford. We want to be number one. We want to win races. I feel like this season could be the one based off these partnerships and the fact that I have a second year and a foundation built.”

HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR THE TRUCK SERIES TO HAVE A FORD OUT THERE. WITH BKR GONE, NOW THEY HAVE ANOTHER TOP TEAM. “They went from a two-truck team to a four-truck team and they are the best selling truck in the industry so they should have a team on the race track. If they weren’t represented that would be a shame. Four trucks on the race track representing Ford, four trucks that I think can all win will be huge. I see this season not just as an opportunity for me but for everybody involved at ThorSport where we get equal equipment and the opportunity to race for a championship.”

DOES THE NUMBER 41 MEAN SOMETHING TO YOU? “It does. Three years ago when we first were approached by Matt Lanave to come run for ThorSport they were talking about numbers and they knew 41 was near and dear to my heart and we talked about it and they were kind enough to let us run it. Now that we have that chance again I am going to take that and run with it. I got my very first win in NASCAR stock car racing in the 41, in a Ford, a late model stock car at Kingsport Speedway in Tennessee. I am hoping to continue that and kind of repeat the past.

IS THERE ROOM FOR SOME MORE SHORT TRACKS AND ROAD COURSES IN THE TRUCK SERIES? “Absolutely. I think it would be great if we could do that. I have always been a supporter of going back to classic tracks. One of my favorite old school tracks is Myrtle Beach. I think that would be an excellent place for a Truck Series race to go to. Put a little money into the facility. It is a great vacation spot. You get families out there, it is family friendly and puts on a great race. I love the fact that you have to save tires and it takes planning, strategy and skill to win a race there. I have always run good there in the past too so that doesn’t hurt either.”

WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST OBSTACLE FOR YOU BREAKING INTO THE NEXT LEVEL? “I really just feel like it is a total team effort. We were getting better as a whole. The whole team was. Eddie was working on new things, I was working on smoothing my driving and mental aspects out to put myself in better situations and have a bigger picture for the racing. Seeing the whole race and not just lap by lap. I got better at that since and think I have matured as a driver. Eddie was trying multiple things. Every race we went to he was trying something new. That is just what it takes to win a championship. You always have to be getting better. That is what we have to do as a team, get better. Not that we weren’t good last year. We actually got really good and Homestead had we not wrecked out in Phoenix I think we could have competed for the championship. We have excellent momentum to build on and an excellent foundation. KBM and GMS will be really tough this year and to keep up with them is tough but if anyone can do it, ThorSport can.”

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