DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Ben Rhodes helped deliver a milestone victory for Toyota during Friday night’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at the Daytona Int’l Speedway road course.
Rhodes’ triumph in the BrakeBest Select 159 was the Japanese manufacturer’s 200th triumph since joining the Truck Series in 2004. He’s won both Truck Series events this season.
“This is so cool,” said Rhodes. “Two hundred wins for Toyota, I’m so proud to be able to get that for them. You always want to be the guy that delivers for people and I’m glad that I could be the delivery man. That’s so neat to be a part of for the whole company.
“Toyota has given so much support to us and I think that’s a big reason why we’ve been in victory lane both weeks (this season).”
Travis Kvapil earned the marque’s first Truck Series score at Michigan Int’l Speedway on July 31, 2004, while driving for Bang Racing. Kyle Busch is Toyota’s leading Truck Series winner, with 53 checkered flags.
Three of Rhodes’ five Truck Series wins have come under the Toyota banner. After also earning his first victory in the series with Toyota four years earlier, Rhodes said he felt “privileged” to be part of the company’s Truck Series milestone.
“It feels good to sweep Daytona for them. I saw Jack Irving (from TRD) over in victory lane and it’s a sweet homecoming. It makes everything worth it,” Rhodes noted. “For (team owners) Duke and Rhonda Thorson, they put so much into this, so much effort and so much time out of their days. They have so much other stuff to worry about than just running a race team and they do so well with it. They’ve done it for so long. For them to be in the position they’re in now and with the drivers they have now, the people on the team they have now, I truly believe I have the fastest teammates in the series.
“They set themselves up so well with this new partnership and I couldn’t be more proud of the team and just so grateful for the place that I’m in. I’m so grateful for it,” Rhodes added. “I count my blessings each day because it’s such an honor to race for them. I tell them all the time how much I truly mean that.”
Following three years with Ford Performance in the Truck Series, ThorSport Racing returned to Toyota for the first time since 2017 prior to the start of the season.
Rhodes said the results of the manufacturer switch have shown themselves immediately.
“It’s been huge. The support we get is unparalleled and the fact that their (Toyota/TRD) engineering is so strong … their engineering is what it’s all about,” said Rhodes. “We’re not a Cup team, we don’t have 30 engineers. We’ve got a few, we’ve got our little engineering department that could and we get so much support from them that it bumps us to the next level.
“They don’t do it like anybody else and I think that’s why they have 200 wins now in the Truck Series.”
Rhodes doesn’t believe Toyota’s win count will stop at 200, either. He believes he can help give the brand several more victories this season, as well as contend for his first Truck Series championship.
“Our odds are looking better (for the title) now with these extra playoff points. I’ve learned that playoff points are the winning ticket,” Rhodes noted. “They get you to the final four and I guess we’re at 10 or 11. That’s such a relief because I finished horrible here last year, had a horrible race and basically fell out of the seat. I was struggling physically hardcore with all the heat at this race.
“I feel like to conquer this and to conquer the speedway, this is our (potential) championship year. I really believe that,” he added. “There’s a lot of racing left and a lot of season left, so we’ll see what happens, but I’m excited and happy to give Toyota some early celebrations this year.”