Coming off a 10-race part-time schedule with JR Motorsports, Ben Rhodes will look for other opportunities before the 2016 season.
Despite a ride coming open with Chase Elliott heading to the Sprint Cup Series and Regan Smith departing from JRM, Rhodes wasn’t offered a full-time Xfinity Series ride. He will finish out the 10-race schedule with his final start at Homestead-Miami Speedway at the end of the year.
Rhodes explained his decision to seek other opportunities on Twitter.
The 18-year-old driver compiled two top-10 finishes through his first nine races. He’s also tallied two more top-15 results despite only getting behind the wheel for nine of the last 20 races.
Not getting a chance to get comfortable in a full-time ride was clearly a huge part of the departure for Rhodes.
“I feel like if I can get behind the wheel more, that’s going to make me an even better driver,” Rhodes said, via The Courier-Journal. “… I had 10 races this year, but I wasn’t racing any on the side. I wasn’t honing my skills. I was learning by going to the track but not honing my skills inside a race car.
“We feel that a full season would be best for me, or just more races than I’ve had.”
One huge part of the decision by team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. was likely due to sponsors. Rhodes had a part-time ride thanks to sponsorship from Alpha Energy Solutions, a company owned by his father. In order for Rhodes to move to a full-time position, he’ll seemingly need more backing.
This decision is clearly not from a lack of talent or dedication. Even when Rhodes wasn’t in the No. 88 machine, he was typically at the track to talk strategy with fellow teammates Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne or Earnhardt.
Prior to getting a break with JRM, Rhodes burst onto the scene by winning five races in the K&N Pro Series East en route to a championship. His skills shined early after he received his diploma at Iowa and placed seventh in his first Xfinity Series start.
“This year has been great for me,” he said. “I’ve learned so much in a short amount of time. While I’m not with JR Motorsports in 2016, there are a lot of organizations out there, and I’m looking forward to what the future holds.”
While it won’t be with JR Motorsports, Rhodes still has a bright future ahead. The silly season hasn’t quite shaken out just yet, so the doors have yet to open. But with the clear talent he showed at this track, expect Rhodes to land with a competitive team in the near future.