CONCORD, N.C. – The launch of the 2023 Triple Truck Challenge upped the ante in competitiveness as a battle for a playoff spot and a $50,000 bonus were at stake Friday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Twelve lead changes among five drivers throughout the 134-lap event showed the importance of the program, and after a late restart, 2021 Truck Series champion Ben Rhodes took home his first checkered flag in over a year and the first for Ford in the series at the 1.5-mile North Carolina oval.
The wily 26-year-old veteran took notice of how the Triple Truck Challenge has created fervent battles through the field over the years.
“I think it helps the competitiveness with like parity through the field,” Rhodes said. “You look at the depth of the field. The depth of the field shows up really deep at the Triple Truck Challenge and when the playoffs start. It gets so closely competitive.
“The way that the trucks are prepared and how close the field is, the competition level, I think, gets packed in more. Same thing with the playoffs. When you get there, you can feel it. Like you walk into the garage, and you can feel just something in the air, and you feel that when the money is on the line.”
Winning has come at a premium for Rhodes in his eight full-time seasons at the truck level, amassing just seven wins in 175 starts, but with a title to boast and now a win in his back pocket to tackle the rest of the 2023 regular season, he can set his sights on going for all three wins in the Triple Truck Challenge with World Wide Technology Raceway up next followed by Nashville Superspeedway.
Rhodes has been particularly good at Gateway despite being winless at the track. He owns two top fives and five top 10s at the Illinois track to the tune of an 8.4 average finish. A win on June 3 at Gateway (1:30 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) would make Rhodes just the second driver to win a Triple Truck Challenge event twice in the same year (Sheldon Creed, 2020), which would net a hefty $150,000 bonus. No driver has ever swept the Triple Truck Challenge for the grand prize $500,000 bonus.
“I feel really good about Gateway, actually. Over the years, that’s a track that we’ve had tremendous speed but somehow, we’ve never been able to bring one home,” Rhodes lamented. “Last year, we were leading with like 15 to go. Alternator goes out, and we’re starting to lose horsepower, lose voltage. We’ve got speed which gives me a lot of confidence.”