That’s not a line lifted from the movie “Deer Hunter,” not in this case.
One shot is all that’s left to ThorSport Racing driver Ben Rhodes when it comes to qualifying for the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Playoffs for the third straight season.
There’s one race left in the regular season, Saturday’s Corrigan Oil 200 at Michigan International Speedway (1 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). In order to remain eligible for the series championship, Rhodes must win the event.
The 22-year-old from Louisville, Ky., isn’t new to the pressure of a late run to make the Playoffs. In 2017, he edged Ryan Truex for the final spot on a tiebreaker. Last year, he qualified with a victory at Kentucky in the 12th race of the season.
But Saturday’s task is exponentially more difficult. Six drivers—Austin Hill, Johnny Sauter, Brett Moffitt, Ross Chastain, Tyler Ankrum and Stewart Friesen—already have clinched spots in the postseason with victories. Grant Enfinger will wrap up the regular-season points title and a Playoff spot when he takes the green flag at Michigan.
That leaves one berth left for Rhodes, or anyone else. If there’s no new winner other than Enfinger, two-time series champion Matt Crafton will make the Playoff field. And if Rhodes does win, he will dislodge Crafton, his ThorSport Racing teammate, from a chance to win a third title.
That’s a lot to digest, but Rhodes is single-minded in his approach. And part of that is standing his ground against aggressive competitors.
“I’d hate to sound like I’m a bad guy in NASCAR, ‘cause I’m really not, but we’ve just been pushed around so much,” said Rhodes, who numbers boxing among his off-track hobbies. “I was told as kid a kid that, if you’re going to take stuff from people, you’re going to be taking it your whole life.
“So we’re just standing up for myself and my team.”
And perhaps that will leave Rhodes as the last man standing when it comes to making the Playoffs.