ROSSBURG, Ohio — As fireworks ignited on the backstretch moments after Thursday night’s Eldora Dirt Derby, a heated exchange between Ben Rhodes and Tyler Dippel provided a different kind of fiery display.
After climbing out of a heavily damaged No. 99 ThorSport Racing Ford, Rhodes immediately ran toward Dippel’s No. 02 Young’s Motorsports Chevrolet, reaching into the cockpit before a NASCAR official and crew members separated them.
The altercation stemmed from an incident after the final restart with two laps remaining in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series showdown at Eldora Speedway. Dippel slid into Rhodes coming off of Turn 2, sending him into the outside fence. The pair traded paint and sheet metal on the cool down lap before it came to a head.
Dippel didn’t mince words regarding his stance on the conflict.
“It was green-white-checkered, it was time to go,” Dippel said after his eighth-place finish. “That’s all it was, it was time to go. He came up after me before I could even get out of the truck. Probably the only way he could do anything because he probably weighs 140 pounds soaking wet.
“He’s a (expletive),” Dippel added. “That’s pretty much just it. He complains about pretty much everyone every week. It’s probably going to be cool to see a person like him miss the playoffs in really good equipment.”
For Rhodes, it wasn’t just Dippel he was frustrated with in the 150-lap feature.
“It was multiple guys on the track,” Rhodes said. “It’s just sad because nobody races with respect on the race track anymore. I didn’t touch a soul all night unless they were wrecking around me and I had to somehow touch them to get away from the wreck. Other than that, I didn’t touch a soul. I raced everyone with respect and the way that I wanted to be raced. We’re racing for a championship and there’s just guys that come here and just clean you out.”
Rhodes also noted Sheldon Creed, driver of the No. 2 GMS Racing Chevrolet, roughed him up in Turn 2, resulting in significant damage to the left side of Rhodes’ machine.
“The 2 didn’t even try to make the corner,” Rhodes said. “Put me in the fence and hit me so hard my mirror was pointed toward the sky … the inside mirror … that’s how hard he hit me. Then the 02 did the exact same thing. It’s just bad racing. I don’t know how to fix that with the guys. Nobody has respect on the track and I don’t know what to do to change it.”
“It’s honestly been building for a few years,” he added. “I’ve seen it get a little worse each year, then this year I just don’t know why it is the way it is. It’s been building for a while and the cup is kind of running over. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I know I got cleaned out on the track several times today.”
This year’s regular season, which concludes for the Gander Trucks next week at Michigan International Speedway on Aug. 10, has been a trying one for Rhodes. While he has five top fives and nine top-10 finishes, six finishes of 14th or worse put Rhodes in a must-win position as he sits 63 points below the playoff cutline following the 14th-place result at Eldora.
“I hate it for my guys,” Rhodes said. “… Things out of our control are taking us out of the playoffs.”