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Mar 19, 2013 - 05:45 PM
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In NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Debut, Ben Rhodes Finishes Ninth
Posted by: newsla on Mar 19, 2013 - 05:42 PM
NASCAR News
In NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Debut, Ben Rhodes Finishes Ninth At Bristol Motor Speedway


16-year-old Louisville, Kentucky, native Ben Rhodes headed to “The World’s Fastest Half Mile” of Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee, on Thursday – Saturday, March 14th – 16th, to race in the “DRIVE4COPD 125” NASCAR K&N Pro Series East event, his debut in the series and at the track. After being forced to a back-up car due to getting swept up in a practice incident, Rhodes, with only two qualifying laps in his back-up car, started the Turner Scott Motorsports No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions Chevrolet from the 21st position, racing his way into the top 10, eventually crossing the line in ninth, despite the car being down on power the last half of the event.

 

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Rhodes started his weekend at Bristol strong, logging the second-fastest time of 43 drivers during the first practice session of the day. However, during the second and final practice, just after putting down the fastest lap of the session, a car on the track had the oil tank fall off, instantly dumping oil on the track. Rhodes didn’t have time to check up as he and others hit the oil and the wall.

“The Alpha Energy Solutions Chevrolet was really fast in practice,” said Rhodes. “I was able to get the car up to speed right away in the first practice, and in the second we waited a short bit before going out on the track. We were still in race runs with old tires to try out a few more things before making a mock qualifying run.

“I tried to get slowed down, but things happen fast at Bristol and with that much oil there was no way to avoid it. I hit the wall pretty hard and it did some big damage to the car. It was a shame because that was an excellent car built by the Turner Scott Motorsports team and it put us behind going into qualifying.”

Immediately the No. 41 Turner Scott Motorsports team unloaded a back-up car and began getting parts and pieces switched over from the primary car. A late qualifying draw helped as the team was just able to get the car through tech and on the grid for qualifying a few moments before he had to make his two-lap run. Rhodes timed in 21st, putting him in the race.

“It was a little bit stressful there because we had to qualify our way in,” said Rhodes. “Only 36 of the 43 cars were going to make it into the race with the last six spots reserved for provisionals. Since we didn’t race last year and didn’t have any provisionals available, we had to time in 30th or better. We didn’t have time to turn even one lap in the back-up car before the two laps of qualifying. Also we knew the cars were going to be impounded after qualifying, so we had to balance between a fast set-up to get us in the race and a set-up that would allow us to make it through to the halfway break to make adjustments. It just shows how good this Turner Scott Motorsports team is to take a back-up car that is better on flat tracks and convert it over for Bristol in the few hours we had.”

On Saturday, Rhodes strapped in his Chevrolet, taking the green flag from the 21st position for 125 laps of competition. Throughout the first half of the race, Rhodes got comfortable in his back-up car, slowly working his way through the field. At the scheduled break at lap 71, he was in the 10th position.

“Early on the car was really strong,” said Rhodes. “After a yellow flag, the car developed a bit of a push-loose condition, so Lee (Lee McCall, crew chief) and the team made some changes during the break to get the car ready for the last half of the race.”

In just a few laps after the green flag flew for the second half of the race, Rhodes worked his way to seventh and was looking for more when he started to experience issues on restarts.

“At first I thought I was spinning the tires or being too careful,” explained Rhodes. “But we continued to have trouble on restarts. That is when it felt like the car was down on power. I was making adjustments on my restarts and during my race runs to get the most out of the car that I could and not get run over by the other drivers as we got up to speed.”

Rhodes dropped back to the 10th position, eventually picking up one more spot on the last lap to finish ninth in his NASCAR K&N Pro Series East debut.

“I believe we would have had a better starting spot and stronger finish if we were in our primary car, but ninth is a great finish for the hand we were dealt. I really have to thank Lee and the entire Turner Scott Motorsports crew for their hard work this weekend. The guys will get both cars back to 100-percent at the shop this next week and we will be ready to race the No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions Chevrolet at Richmond next month.”

The No. 41 machine is also sponsored by Alliance Comfort Systems, Kentucky National Guard, Refrigerant Rescue, and Park Community Federal Credit Union.

Rhodes will be making several starts this year in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East with Turner Scott Motorsports. His next series start will be at Richmond International Raceway (VA) on Thursday, April 25th.

Next up for Rhodes will be a double-header weekend of racing in the No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions Late Model Stock with Hawk-McCall Motorsports. On Friday, March 22nd, he will race in the Myrtle Beach 400 make-up race from last season (Rhodes timed in 10th during qualifying day on November 18th before rains postponed the feature). On Saturday, March 23rd, he will race in the UARA-STARS event at Hickory Motor Speedway (NC).

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