Ben Rhodes is getting ready to move up the ranks.
The 2014 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East champion is likely making the jump to a higher level soon – perhaps to the NASCAR XFINITY Series or the Camping World Truck Series.
At 17, he won’t even be approved to race at Daytona in either division since he becomes an 18-year-old on the same day as the inaugural race of the XFINITY Series. So with results similar to 2013 K&N Pro Series East champion Dylan Kwasniewski, who is Rhodes’ Turner Scott Motorsports teammate, it might be wise to move him up to NASCAR’s second-tier division.
This year, Rhodes has made a handful of starts in the Truck Series, and has done well while racing the No. 32 truck with support from Alpha Energy Solutions. But running in the Truck Series is not the ideal situation for Rhodes. The competition is decreasing, with fields of approximately 30 teams each week. On a good week, the division will have three or four start-and-park trucks. But on a bad week, there has been as many as six or seven start-and-park drivers.
With lower horsepower in the Truck Series, entering the XFINITY ranks will also help him get accustomed to race on intermediate tracks without being wide open on the throttle.
“The trucks have so much side force and punch such a big hole in the air that it takes such a unique learning experience to learn these trucks,” Rhodes tells Frontstretch. “You have to be put in a situation and learn from it quickly to adapt and get wins early on. To find out where the air is, you have to put air on the nose, and then you have to put air on the side of the truck, which is hard if there is a guy on the outside of you or even in front of you but a lane up. You might lose some side force from that. It has been really challenging to learn all of that. I feel like I have been learning it quickly, especially at a place like Dover where it is such a high-speed track.”
So perhaps the XFINITY Series would suit Rhodes as the cars are not so much easier to drive, but they aren’t as large in size. Jumping from the K&N car to the Truck Series has been difficult for him, but if he were to race in NASCAR’s second-tier series, he might adjust faster.
However, teammate Kwasniewski made the same jump this year and has struggled in the Nationwide Series. In 27 races, he has just three top 10s and has 11 finishes of 20th or worse. It’s arguable that he was rushed up to the Nationwide Series, but who can blame the sponsor and team? He won a pair of titles on both side of the country in the K&N Pro Series East and West, and he had a large fan base backing him.
The same can be said about Rhodes. As such, there’s certainly a worry that he could face the same eventual problem if he moves up too soon.
But Rhodes’ personality is also suitable for the XFINITY Series, which helps his case. He is a cheerful and seemingly wise young man who has his career planned out. As soon as he graduates high school, he’s jumping aboard the ship and moving over to North Carolina. Once he gets there, his plan is to spend time at the TSM shop. Working with the likes of Kwasniewski and Kyle Larson, he’ll be able to show what he’s made of on a larger stage.
Success in the Truck Series is good, but having success in the Nationwide Series is even better. Just ask Chase Elliott about that.