Harrison Rhodes will make his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut on Sunday for Rick Ware Racing.
Rhodes, 24, ran the full 2017 season for JD Motorsports in the Xfinity Series. After not being able to come up with enough funding in time, Harrison was replaced in the No. 01 by Vinnie Miller for the 2018 season. This change allowed Rhodes to take advantage of an opportunity that had been in the woks since last season.
“Last year we had some opportunities to run in the Cup Series with Rick. But I still had commitment with Johnny Davis in the [No.] 01. So we thought it would be a conflict of interests,” Rhodes told OnPitRoad.com. “So we just finished off our season there and that opportunity (with JD Motorsports) didn’t come back for this year, but the opportunity to start with Rick’s [team] was.”
Though the discussion of Rhodes making his debut with Ware had been long going, his ride for this weekend didn’t materialize until last minute.
“It came together about a week and a half ago, he needed me to find an associate sponsor and I was able to get one and it all happened from there.”
Now that the difficult part of securing his ride for Sunday is done, Rhodes can now focus on driving.
“Overall I’m excited about it, I ran my first Xfinity Series race for Rick Ware 6 years ago at Phoenix. I was really happy when he gave me this opportunity, and he has a charter so we are locked in. Which is good for today since we didn’t get to make a practice lap.
“So we’ll still get to qualify and race. I’m excited and just ready to get out there and do it. I’m tired of sitting and thinking about it. I’m ready to go make it happen. But overall think its going to be cool.”
Unable to get a lot of practice time due to mechanical issues, Rhodes reached out to a fellow driver for advice.
“I leaned on my buddy Ryan Blaney a bit for some advice,” he said. “Ryan was able to give me some braking and throttle advice.”
Rhodes also tried to figure out the differences he should expect between the Xfinity and Cup car.
“It’s funny though. I talked to some drivers and they tell me the Cup car is a lot easier to drive than a Xfinity car and others tell me it’s a lot harder to drive than a Xfinity car. So I really have no idea what expect.” … “I’ve done this long enough and it’s one of those things where after a lap or two I’ll feel that [I’ve] got it.”
Missing first practice and qualifying makes it challenging for Rhodes to know what to expect for Sunday, given his lack of experience behind the wheel of a Cup car.
“I don’t really have any expectations or a position that I expect to finish. I just want to go out there and run all of the laps. This is 200 more miles than I have done before, so its a long race being 500 miles.”
Currently, this weekend’s Cup Series race is the only race on the schedule for Rhodes in 2018, but he is exploring all options.
“This is just a one time deal. A lot of the sponsors and plans we had for the year didn’t happen so we are kind of restructuring our plan and going after new opportunities.” … “I’ve found it’s easier to get sponsorship on the Cup side since more people are familiar with it. I’d like to stay over here instead of Xfinity, I want to be here eventually anyways. We’ll see what happens.”
Rhodes will start the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 from the 36th position due to missing qualifying. His plan for the weekend is to just enjoy the experience.
“I plan to learn everything I can about the car, gain some respect, and not make a dummy of myself. And I gotta have fun, I mean I’m on the Cup side, this is cool,” he said.