October 9th, 2017

Rhodes still riding high after first win

Jeff Woods 

Staff Writer 


Rhodes still riding high after first win
Ben Rhodes / file photo

Ben Rhodes won his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race with the help of a marshmallow.

That’s the name Rhodes’ ThorSport Racing team gave the truck he piloted to victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last week.

“I’m still elated. I’m still on cloud nine,” said Rhodes three days after the win. “Our hauler just pulled into the race shop and I got to see the trophy for the first time since Vegas. We have it on display out front. We’ve been on cloud nine. Everybody is all smiles. It has just been really cool. It’s a pretty big deal and we’ve just been enjoying the whole thing.”

Naming a race car, or in this case a truck, is nothing out of the ordinary. But even Rhodes was admittedly perplexed as to why his No. 27 Toyota Tundra was christened Marshmallow.

“I actually didn’t have anything to do with the naming. I never really knew the meaning of marshmallow,” said Rhodes. “It was just on the truck ever since I had been racing it. And then I finally asked. I went into Vegas and I asked the purpose of the name. ‘Why marshmallow? This is the one oddball.’ They told me and I thought it was kind of cool.”

Last June, ThorSport Racing shop in Sandusky, Ohio was badly damaged from an overnight fire. Multiple race trucks were destroyed as well as all of the team’s suspension and brake components. Rhodes was one of four drivers whose trucks were housed at team headquarters.

“The conditions were rough,” said Rhodes. “When it first happened, my first thought that morning was ‘Holy moly, how are we going to get to the next track?’

“The emotions were running high and the overall environment was pretty bleak. As we were rebuilding, things got better but the damage was done for the season.”

The recovery process started immediately. The team improvised by moving their haulers to a grocery store parking lot where they exclusively worked on their trucks. To make matters worse, this all happened in the middle of summer.

“It was like being at the race track every day, but without the fun,” Rhodes joked.

Several trucks were salvaged, including one that belonged to Rhodes’ teammate at the time, Cameron Hayley.

“It was all white. Just a plain, white truck,” said Rhodes. “It was plain white when they left the shop. When they came back the next day and they were rolling it out after the fire, it was roasted like a marshmallow. It was all brown and it just looked roasted. The vinyl was a little gooey like a marshmallow. So they called it marshmallow.”

The start of the 2017 season signaled a clean slate for Rhodes and the rest of ThorSport Racing. The race shop was rebuilt and the fire was a distant memory. Marshmallow no longer resembled its namesake, but the moniker stuck. Instead, it was adorned with the colors of Safelite AutoGlass and Rhodes was its new operator.

The truck is one of several that Rhodes has driven this season. In June, the team brought Marshmallow to Dover and Rhodes guided it to a fourth-place finish and led a race-high 71 laps. Nearly four months later, Rhodes and Marshmallow were together again at Las Vegas, where Rhodes made a bold three-wide move to snatch the lead on a late restart and held off hard-charging Christopher Bell in a thrilling duel to the finish.

“The morale is so much better just because we have a win. The hard work has been justified,” says Rhodes. “When you’re in the shop working so long on these trucks, it gets a little stale at times. You’re putting in so many hours and where’s the reward? When you get this breath of fresh air, it’s refreshing, it relaxes you, and gives you confidence.”

With a victory in hand, Rhodes has already secured a spot in the next round of the playoffs. But the entire team feels it is capable of more. They believe there is no reason they cannot be among the final four competing for the championship in the season finale.

“I can tell you everyone’s attitude is much better,” says Rhodes. “Everyone has had a really good attitude to begin with, but their attitude on our ability and our confidence is through the roof. Everybody is super confident going to these next races.”

Just don’t be surprised if Rhodes and Marshmallow join forces again.

 

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