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Improvement Needed Before Rhodes Takes Next Career Step

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It was a promising yet ultimately disappointing Thursday night at Kentucky Speedway for Ben Rhodes in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Buckle Up In Your Truck 225.

Rhodes ran up front early, won Stage 1 for his first stage victory and playoff point of the season.

However, a crash in Stage 2 after making a daring three-wide move into Turn 3 on a restart ended the No. 27 team’s night. 

“A big mistake on my part,” Rhodes said.

Mistakes and bad luck have often plagued the ThorSport Racing driver’s strong performances.

In 2016 at Kansas, Rhodes dove into Turn 3 underneath leader Johnny Sauter on the final lap, taking both trucks out of contention and handing the win to William Byron. Rhodes went from running second in the final two corners to finishing 18th after making the costly mistake. 

A blown engine late at Kansas this past May ended his night following a dominant run. While engine failures are unpredictable, this event added to the frustration he has experienced when a solid finish is taken away late.

After showing strength early at Kentucky, Rhodes placed himself in an unnecessarily dangerous spot when he wrecked. While a slick and recently repaved surface made track position critical, putting his truck in a precarious situation to gain a couple of spots at that point in the race didn’t seem worth it in the overall picture.

There’s a fine line between aggressive and over-aggressive driving in NASCAR. While driving hard is admired as drivers push the limits behind the wheel to succeed, being too aggressive has its drawbacks.

Rhodes often tests this limit and pushing it has hurt him through the early years of his career.

While he has shown improvement this season by already matching the number of top-10’s he posted throughout 2016 with five through nine races, Kentucky proved that there’s room for improvement.

With many young drivers rising through the sport’s ranks, it often takes many standout runs in the lower series to earn the opportunity to climb the ladder.

Rhodes has time to turn his performance around, but it must be done relatively soon and in commanding fashion. A victory would go a long way towards solidifying his status as a rising star in the sport and putting him in a position to take the next step in his career.

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Jason Schultz

Jason Schultz aspires to enter the public relations field of NASCAR. Schultz, 19, attends UNC Charlotte and is a communication studies major with a focus in public relations. In addition to contributing to POPULAR SPEED, Schultz produces podcasts for Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Dirty Mo Radio. He also completed a semester as a social media intern at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Each year, he volunteers as the social media correspondent for Autism Delaware's Drive for Autism golf tournament featuring NASCAR personalities and the AAA 400 Drive for Autism Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Dover.