Ben Rhodes’ NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship effort was a first for the 24-year-old Kentucky driver and a first for owner title for his team owners, Duke and Rhonda Thorson, who own Rhodes’ No. 99 ThorSport Racing Toyota and a five-truck powerhouse organization that has competed in the series since 1996.
It’s the fourth drivers’ title for the operation, but the first team owners’ championship for the Sandusky, Ohio based team.
“I wouldn’t even be here today if it wasn’t for Duke and Rhonda,” a smiling Rhodes said, holding his championship trophy.
“They gave me my opportunity in the sport. They were my very first full-time national series team that I raced for and I’ve been with them ever since. They are so amazing and I can’t even begin to thank them enough.
“This has just been the ride of a lifetime and I hope it’s not over. This is a feeling you get and savor for the rest of your life, but you’re hungry for more. I love this, but I love racing even more and Daytona can’t get here fast enough.”
The ThorSport Racing team had two drivers in the Championship 4 at Phoenix, with three-time series champion Matt Crafton finishing fourth among them with a 12th-place effort on Friday.
Meanwhile, Kyle Busch Motorsport’s Chandler Smith finalized his Sunoco Rookie of the Year honor with a huge walk-off win in Friday night’s season finale at Phoenix Raceway — earning the victory by a healthy 4.674s over Halmar Friesen Racing’s Stewart Friesen.
The win was the second of the 19-year old’s young career, matching a victory at Bristol Motor Speedway in September. His hard work was not only a race trophy, but the season’s top rookie honors over fellow playoff driver Carson Hocevar, who finished 10th at Phoenix.
It marked the 10th win of the season for Kyle Busch Motorsports and the 90th of the team’s tenure in the series.
Smith completed the season with nine top-10 finishes, six top-five finishes and the two wins. He led 213 laps.