February 9, 2014 — Audio and story by Jacob Seelman for Speed77 Radio and Race Chaser Online — Ben Rhodes Inc. photo — LOUISVILLE, KY — From the time he was seven years old, Ben Rhodes has had the drive to go fast and turn left.
And in 2014, Rhodes will have the opportunity to showcase that drive on the biggest regional touring series of his young career, as the Bluegrass State native will wheel one of five Turner-Scott Motorsports (TSM) entries full-time in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East (KNPSE). Rhodes will be in search of both Rookie of the Year honors and the championship, a feat accomplished most recently by current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kyle Larson in 2012.
“I’m pumped to make my full-time debut for Steve Turner, Harry Scott and all the guys at TSM for 2014,” Rhodes expressed of the opportunity. “We ran a handful of races together last year, and I feel like we turned a lot of heads. I’m ready to go out and challenge for my first win in 2014, as well as go after the big prize, the title.”
Rhodes started racing Go-Karts in 2004, winning multiple races and championships on dirt and asphalt before he moved up to Bandoleros in 2008. And as Rhodes moved up, his success began to grow exponentially. The Kentucky driver scored the state and F.A.S.T. Tour Midwest championships in 2009, and added wins in the faster Legends Car in 2010.
Rhodes’ 2011 season was a breakout one and showcased not only his mastery of the Legends Car ranks but his move to late models as well. The young phenom celebrated both the Charlotte Motor Speedway Winter Heat and Auburndale Winter Nationals championships to garnish his 43 victories over the course of the year, before moving to late models in the second half of the 2011 season. Rhodes turned heads in April, 2012, finishing sixth as a rookie in the invite-only Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown (DHSTS) at Richmond International Raceway behind the likes of Tony Stewart, Jeff Burton and Joey Logano.
“The last couple years have been good to us, and I’ve experienced some highs and lows, but it’s been a lot of learning for me. I’ve been fortunate to have some of the best in the business behind me along the way,” Rhodes adds.
Ben’s 2013 season was a season of many accolades and even more head-turning moments. The young driver finished second in the season-opening Late Model portion of the UNOH Battle at the Beach and improved his 2012 mark in the DHSTS to a third-place finish behind Kyle Busch and David Ragan. A summer hot-streak aided the young talent’s Late Model resume, as Rhodes notched six wins from August to October across three tracks (Kingsport Speedway, Hickory Motor Speedway and Greenville Pickens Speedway).
In addition, Rhodes finished ninth in his K&N Pro Series debut at Bristol in March, and followed that up with a third-place run at Iowa Speedway in June among East competitors in the East-West Shootout, the same day the young man was selected as a part of the NASCAR Next initiative for 2013, a program highlighting the rising young talent in the NASCAR Touring Series ranks.
“Being selected as part of the NASCAR Next program was a huge deal for me last year,” Rhodes said of his selection to the 2013 class. “it was really an honor to be recognized for everything we’ve accomplished over the past year and a half and an honor to represent NASCAR as a part of the next generation.”
In all, Rhodes collected two top five and five top ten finishes in seven K&N Pro Series East starts in 2013, finishing 19th in points despite only running half of the points events during the season to preserve his rookie status for 2014.
Off track, Rhodes maintains a strong training schedule, including a solid fitness routine. He is a typical teenager with a passion for cars and a beaming personality, which helped boost him to runner-up in the 2013 KNPSE Most Popular Driver polls. Currently in his junior year of high school, Ben maintains a 4.0 GPA and is currently investigating potential colleges.
In spite of his school schedule, he youngster will look in earnest towards his 2014 season, which opens one week from today at the New Smyrna Speedway before traveling to the backstretch at the Daytona International Speedway for the UNOH Battle at the Beach, where Rhodes sat on pole in the Late Model race a year ago. Rhodes says he couldn’t be more excited about finally getting on track.
“I can’t wait to get on track (at Smyrna) next weekend. I’ve been counting down the days since the end of last season, and it’s almost here.”
“It’s eyes on the prize when we get to Florida. I’m ready, this team is ready, we know we can challenge for wins this season. Now it’s time to do just that.”
Listen in to our full interview with Ben Rhodes as he discussed his outlook on his 2014 K&N Pro Series season and his rise through the motorsports ranks: