Rhodes, who has two wins this season and is seeded third in the 10-driver playoff, believes the competition in the series of late has been far more intense.
“I’m really aggressive with the truck. I try to be at least, and that’s just product of the racing. The field is so close now with these Ilmor motors. Everybody is very close and passing now is so hard,” Rhodes explained.
“There’s not that big of a speed difference. It used to be before the Ilmor motor package, you could pass a lower budget team that built a really good truck, but they couldn’t get the motor package. It’s not just like now you can blow the doors off of them and they are out of the way.
“You’ve got to make passes now. If you get put at the back, it’s hard to come to the front. If you are in the front, it’s hard to make that pass on the next guy. Everyone is racing a little bit dirtier now.
“Everybody is racing a little bit more aggressive now than before and it’s just from the time since I’ve been in the series.”
Rhodes, 24, has been racing fulltime in Trucks since 2016 and only Matt Crafton has more experience in the current playoff format than Rhodes.
Seeking the crown
Rhodes, who won the first two races of the 2021 season – first on the Daytona oval and then on the Daytona Road Course, believes that experience will count more than ever as he seeks his first series title.
The 2021 playoffs open Friday night at World Wide Technology Raceway near St. Louis.
“The benefit of the experience is just putting your blinders on and knowing how to focus and not letting the emotions get to you. It is an advantage, but it’s not the end all, be all,” Rhodes said. “You still have to have speed. The truck still has to handle, and it still has to be fast.
“Having a great Tundra is what gets you into Victory Lane, but the emotions certainly play a factor and that certainly can cause you to make mistakes. It can cause you to not be on your A-game.”
Taking on Nemechek
Rhodes still believes his No. 99 ThorSport team can still be a contender for the championship despite having not won since early in the season and the stout season fellow Toyota driver and top seed John Hunter Nemechek has enjoyed.
Nemechek “has a lot of wins right now (five), but we’ve seen the regular season champions go out and not make the final four. We’ve seen the regular season champions get in trouble in the playoffs,” Rhodes said.
“For us, we just want some good quiet races, link some stuff together where I’m not putting any pressure on for wins. The truth of the matter is there is only 10 of us, and there is only three of us that can win at any one (round), so it’s not like everybody’s going to win.
“I do think it’s our best season that we’ve put together, but anything can happen.”