BRISTOL, Tenn. – Count NASCAR Truck Series regular Ben Rhodes as a fan of the dirt surface at Bristol Motor Speedway.
There’s a good reason for that.
In last year’s event at BMS, the 2021 series champion grabbed the lead on the opening lap and held it through the first two stages before emerging with the victory.
What sort of message does Rhodes have for BMS officials this year?
“I petition them to leave the dirt on the track because it races so much better for me,” Rhodes said. “The concrete surface is just so fast and it’s very temperamental with the weather.”
Rhodes led three laps en route to a second-place finish in the 2021 dirt debut at BMS.
Working off his notes last Spring, Rhodes controlled the event for a total of 95 laps before grabbing the emotional win. The Kentucky native is a favorite for the April 8 Weather Guard Truck Race on Dirt at BMS.
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According to Rhodes, a large part of his success at Bristol can be traced to the battle-tested ThorSport Racing operation.
“My team has had very fast F-150s every time we’ve been on a dirt track, and that goes back to the (dirt races) at Eldora Speedway. They just have a solid baseline when it comes to dirt,” Rhodes said.
During a press conference at BMS Wednesday, Rhodes reflected on his 2022 Bristol breakthrough in the No. 99 Ford.
“The Bristol trophy is something that every driver strives for. Not just because it's awesome, but because it’s so difficult to win at this place,” Rhodes said. “It takes a certain level of tenacity and grit to win on the concrete service, and on the dirt surface.”
In eight starts on the concrete version of BMS, Rhodes has crafted an average finish of 12.4 with five top-10s. His resume includes a finish in the No. 18 spot last September.
“That was almost like an aerodynamic race,” Rhodes said. “It got really difficult to pass. It was like I was trying to break the bubble and get close enough.”
Rhodes, 26, punctuated his BMS victory last April by executing a textbook pass of Carson Hocevar with just four laps remaining.
“We made a slider for the lead there,” Rhodes said. “I could feel my right rear bumper graze the nose of the (Hocevar) truck. And then boom, I was able to put it my truck right in the banking when I needed to. So yeah, it's just it's just such a good feeling.”
After driving wide-eyed media types around the BMS layout for a few laps Wednesday, Rhodes offered more love for the unique surface.
“I wish they just kept the dirt on it,” Rhodes said. “Don’t even spend the money on taking it out. Leave it in here. It's better for your bank account. It's better for everybody. I just love it.”
*In other BMS news, the Nashville Fair Board voted 3-2 Tuesday night to approve Bristol Motor Speedway's proposal to renovate and lease the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.
The process will move on to the Metropolitan Sports Authority and Nashville Metro Council for approval. BMS officials hope to renovate the historic 5/8-mile oval track in preparation for future events.
Notebook: Due to the cold weather, Lonesome Pine Motorsports Park officials have postponed Saturday’s SMART Modified Tour event with no makeup date announced. The season opener at the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series track in Coeburn, Virginia, will now be April 1.
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