Race Weekend Central

Ben Rhodes Advances to Round of 8 Despite Ugly 25th at Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – What started as a potential winning day for Ben Rhodes and ThorSport Racing’s No. 99 team at Kansas Speedway turned south in a hurry; but it was just enough to keep his championship hopes alive.

Entering the Round of 10 with a three-point deficit on the cut line, Rhodes started sixth for Friday’s (Sept. 8) Kansas Lottery 200 and had worked his way up to third by the conclusion of stage one on lap 30.

At the start of stage two, Rhodes quickly went to battle and found himself in a side-by-side battle for the lead with Nick Sanchez that lasted three entire laps. Sanchez eventually completed the pass on Rhodes, and that’s when the No. 99 truck’s slide began.

Rhodes quickly backed up to fifth, and significant contact with the wall out of turn 4 ultimately dropped Rhodes to seventh by the end of the second stage.

For the final stage, the No. 99 truck was hovering in the back half of the top 10 until disaster struck in the form of a leaking tire.

Rhodes stayed on track, but he was running lap times that were almost two seconds slower than the leader. It was only when Rhodes lost a lap and lost the free pass position that he made the trip down pit road for a fresh set of rubber.

Two laps off the pace in 25th was the result in the store for the No. 99 team on Friday night, but it allowed Rhodes to advance by just five points over Matt DiBenedetto.

“I would say this is probably my worst first round that I’ve had, but I’ve had some that will rival it, and I’ve had races in the playoffs that will rival this one,” Rhodes said. “So, you know, I think the main thing is keeping everybody, their heads up and their heads in the game for the most part. Just because we had a couple of bad races doesn’t mean nothing’s wrong.

“We’ve got a chance now that everything resets, and we can go to some racetracks that are different. Talladega, Bristol, like some unique animals that maybe we’ll have some better performances at.”

See also
Christian Eckes Steals Kansas Win in 2-Lap Shootout

Despite keeping his championship hopes alive on a night that went astray, Rhodes made it clear that advancing to the Round of 8 was nothing to celebrate.

“I’m still really mad,” Rhodes said. “I mean, the expectation is to advance to the next round, right? So, just because we met an expectation doesn’t really mean we should be celebrating.

“The way that we met that expectation was really bad. So, we’ve got some homework to do.”

About the author

Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch, and his weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” Stephen also writes commentary, contributes weekly to the “Bringing the Heat” podcast and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage. A native of Texas, Stephen began following NASCAR at age 9 after attending his first race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Follow on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.

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