It is not often that a NASCAR driver meets somebody who performs at a faster speed or in a more intense environment than a racer does in a race. But Ben Rhodes, driver of the #99 Carolina Nut Ford F-150 for ThorSport Racing in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series had that experience when he visited the 180thFighter Wing, Ohio Air National Guard.
Rhodes was in town to promote the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Corrigan Oil 200 on Aug. 10 at Michigan International Speedway. In the middle of media interviews, Rhodes was able to check a bucket item off his list when he got a private tour of the base from Captain Jake “Scooby” Dubie.
“As a pilot myself, this was a definitely a bucket list item for me to visit with the members and to see all the planes,” Rhodes said. “I had a great time learning how much teamwork went into each flight and cannot wait to share that with my team. I am looking forward to coming back to MIS for the last race of the truck regular season on August 10.”
The highlight of the day was when the avid pilot was able to observe the F-16s up close and talk to the service members. In the maintenance hanger, Rhodes met with Technical Sergeant Steve Boehme to learn how the planes are prepared for flight. Boehme serves as a crew chief for the pilots.
Rhodes communicates with his crew chief, Matt Noyce daily to enhance the performance of the truck. The crew chief at the Air National Guard has a vital role to the success of the missions. The pilots depend on the crew chiefs to oversee the preparation of the plane and to ensure the runway is clear of debris for takeoffs and landings.
Dubie, a pilot for the 180thFighter Wing, showed Rhodes his flight uniform. They were both impressed how similar each of the helmets were for the pilots and drivers. Rhodes had a keen interest in the uniform to learn if anything could help his performance on race day.
Rhodes felt the power of the F-16s up close as he stood in the hanger during takeoffs. The flurry of activity hit a fever pitch as the pilots, crew chiefs and all the mechanics prepared the planes for training. Rhodes stood in awe as the jets roared down the runway and lifted into the air.
Fans can see the 180thFighter Wing in action this summer. They will be performing the flyover prior to the Consumers Energy 400 on Aug. 11.
Rhodes received two honorary patches to help him remember his visit. Scooby presented Rhodes a 180thFighter Wing Patch. The origins of the 180th Fighter Wing’s organizational emblem date back to June 22, 1964 when the unit held a group wide design contest in search of a design that could be used to symbolically represent the newly formed 180th Tactical Fighter Group. The emblem was approved and became recognized federally on October 15, 1962.
Dubie also presented Rhodes a 112thFighter Squadron patch. The history of the 112th Fighter Squadron dates back to Feb. 24, 1954 when the unit submitted a formal request to change the old emblem representing the 112th Bombardment Squadron to a new emblem that would represent the newly formed 112th Fighter-Bomber Squadron.
Sunday ticket holders can stick around on Saturday for a free post-race concert. Michigan’s own, Grand Funk Railroad, will celebrate its 50thanniversary of entertaining crowds at Michigan International Speedway. Skid Row and Sawyer Brown will keep the music going after the checkered flag waves for the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Corrigan Oil 200 on Aug. 10.
Tickets to the Consumers Energy 400 on Aug. 11 and the Corrigan Oil 200 on Aug. 10 can be purchased at www.mispeedway.com. Fans can find the perfect campsite for their families and friends in any of the different campgrounds at the track starting at $130. Fans can purchase tickets and campsites at www.mispeedway.com or by calling 888-905-7223.
Children 12 and under are admitted free on Friday and Saturday. On Sunday, children 12 and under tickets start at $15. Children 12 and under can attend three days of NASCAR action for just $15, ensuring families a weekend of fun at affordable prices.
Any guest who purchases a 12 and under ticket will automatically receive a free kids Pit and Driver Introduction Pass courtesy of Henry Ford Health System. Kids can experience pit road on Sunday morning, sign the start/finish line and view the cars and teams up close on race day. Kids will also have access to pre-race ceremonies, including driver introductions.
NASCAR’s Most Entertaining Track continues to add entertainment to the campgrounds, fan plaza, pre-race and stage breaks to make the race week a cannot miss event. The nonstop entertainment at Michigan International Speedway during the Consumers Energy 400 race week provides something for every guest. The track continues to add value for the guests who camp and those who come just for the races. A speed painter will even be in victory lane after the Consumers Energy 400 to capture the race winning celebration.