Moffitt, Rhodes climbing the ladder with success in Trucks
Originally Written by Chris Doherty on Martinsville Bulletin
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) has been bringing in younger racers for years, and these young guns are making impacts early in their careers. Red Horse Racing’s Brett Moffitt and ThorSport Racing’s Ben Rhodes are two looking to make names for themselves in the Truck Series in 2017. The two racers have taken different routes to where they are now in making their way up the ranks of the NASCAR national touring series.
Moffitt, 24, raced in the Monster Energy Cup Series in 2015 and saw very little success with just one top-10 finish. That year, Moffitt finished 28th and 35th at Martinsville Speedway. He hasn’t been on the half-mile track in a NASCAR race since 2015, but now a full-time racer for the NCWTS, Moffitt is looking for to reshape his career.
For Rhodes, 20, his road has been the route more racers follow and that’s getting his NASCAR career started in the Truck Series. He’s been in a truck since he was 17 and is still looking for his first career win. He spent 10 races when he was 18 in the Xfinity series, logging one top-10 finish. Here at Martinsville, Rhodes has seen great opportunities slip by, most notably the spring race a year ago where he won the pole, led 40 laps, but was a casualty late in the race and settled for 16.
“We’ve ran well here, but we can never seem to finish it off,” Rhodes said. “There are a lot of things I’ve learned from running here in the past. I feel like I have so much experience that I really do feel like we can put a good finish together.”
Both drivers said they understand the difficulty of the upcoming Alpha Energy Solutions 250, but Rhodes said he loves coming back to a track he loves.
“I love it. It’s just taking me back to my instincts,” Rhodes said. “This is what I grew up on. I’m right at home. This is pretty much my home away from home as far as racetracks go… Here, you’re down to the down and dirty, nitty-gritty stuff.”
Moffitt has learned in his time in the Cup Series just how much of a physical and mental beating The Paperclip puts on drivers.
“It’s just so fatiguing. The next day your break foot is bruised on the bottom. It’s just a lot of break pressure all day and a lot of heat,” Moffitt said. “If you’re not on top of your game you can get fatigued and mentally fatigued, also.”
The racers are coming out of a three-week break since the race at Atlanta. With Martinsville being a track that makes you pay for your mistakes, eager drivers ready to get back on the track could lead to an exciting race come Saturday.
“I would say it might cause a little bit of chaos here because everyone’s champing at the bit to get back out there and try and win a race,” Moffitt said. “It will be interesting for sure.”
Confidence is not an issue for either driver. Rhodes placed 12th at Daytona and 4th at Atlanta a few weeks ago. Coming back to Martinsville is something the 20-year-old is looking forward to.
“I’m getting old, basically,” Rhodes said with a chuckle. “I remember when I used to go to all these tracks and it was my first time and I’m just trying to figure out how to get through the tunnel. That’s not an issue here. Martinsville takes me back to my roots, the short-track races that I grew up on.”
Not only is it a comforting venue for Rhodes, the race peaks the interest of a lot of people he associates with.
“We have a lot of good mojo heading into this race with Alpha Energy Solutions being the title sponsor. They’re from my hometown, they’re sponsored on the truck this year, but another cool thing is we have Safelight on the truck this year as well so we have a lot of people coming to this race so I really want to thrill them and impress them,” Rhodes said.
There are a lot of nuances to racing at The Paperclip. There’s a couple of different ways to attack the track and Moffitt has one teammate that has seen plenty of success at Martinsville Speedway and that’s Danville native Timothy Peters.
“I just kind of bounce ideas off Timothy and see what a truck needs to have here,” Moffitt said.
Rhodes isn’t shy to ask anyone for advice at any track, but for him it’s a lot about the game within the game when talking strategy.
“I’m a social butterfly. I pick everybody’s brain,” he said. “The fun part is you get to figure out if they’re telling you the truth or not… I like to play mental games.”
Both agreed that to have success in Saturday’s race, it will all have to start in practice.
“The first couple of races we had a few hiccups on our practice days and hopefully we’ll have taken care of that and be ready to go here,” Moffitt said.
“We’ve learned from last year,” Rhodes said. “Finding the (right) balance in the truck in practice and then having that transition over to the race is really hard.”
Come Saturday afternoon, one of these guys, along with everybody else hitting the track, will be looking to add a grandfather clock to their resume.