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DI 30 Under 30 2023: Ronny Rhodes

With a family history deeply rooted in radial racing, it’s no surprise that 29-year-old Ronny Rhodes is continuing the tradition.  

[Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in DI #185, the 30 Under 30 Issue, in Nov/Dec of 2023.]

“I don’t think I had a choice,” says Rhodes. “I grew up going to the track ever since I was a little kid. My grandfather raced Ultra Street when it first started. He was racing, my dad was racing, and I was helping.”

While Rhodes’s father, Ron, is one of the most well-known names in X275 competition, Ronny is following in his grandfather’s footsteps in the Ultra Street class – even going so far as to drive the same car his grandfather did.  

“The car’s been in the family since 1996,” Rhodes says of his 1968 Camaro, featuring a 465ci small-block Chevy with nitrous. “When I was 14, I started building a car. Then my grandfather ended up crashing the Ultra Street car, and we decided to fix it for me to drive. From there on out, it’s been non-stop, and I’ve had good success with it.”

Success may be an understatement. Rhodes has won the Cecil County Dragway Ultra Street series three times (2019, 2020, 2022); the Shakedown Nationals in 2022; and the Atco Dragway Ultra Street series in 2014. He has also held the Ultra Street class E.T. record, and class record for a small-block nitrous combination. Rhodes closed out the 2023 season with a win in Wild Street at Maryland International Raceway’s Haltech World Cup Finals. 

Despite his prolific accomplishments in Ultra Street – or perhaps because of it – Rhodes is planning on selling the current engine combination from his Camaro. Rhodes believes trying something new will help reinvigorate him.   

“I have to totally redo some stuff on my car,” Rhodes says. “I’m going to redo it, and totally change the engine combination. I’ve been doing the same thing for the last 10 years. I’m just ready for something different.”

When he’s not at the track, Rhodes stays busy helping run Rhodes Custom Auto, the family business located in Townsend, Delaware. Rhodes doesn’t pigeonhole himself with any one specific job title; rather, he is deeply rooted in all aspects of the business.  

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“I do everything,” says Rhodes. “I work with my dad, so I’m always with him 24/7. We’ve got a chassis shop, a paint and body shop, and we produce parts. It’s kind of a one-stop shop. It’s me, my dad, my grandfather, and a few employees.”

So what’s next for the young standout driver? While a move up to a quicker radial class isn’t entirely out of the question, Rhodes is happy with where he’s at – an Ultra Street class that has consistently gotten quicker and more competitive over the years.

“Ultra Street started with going 5.30s; now we’re running 4.40s,” Rhodes points out. “I’ve just been progressing with it. Honestly, the progression of the class is great for my lifestyle. I can keep having a top-running car as it goes. Yes, in a couple years I’d ultimately like to move up. But honestly, where I live now, there’s really nothing else. They don’t have X275 around here anymore. So I think I’m going to stay here [in Ultra Street] for a little bit.”

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