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Nov 26, 2013 - 06:30 AM
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Ben Rhodes Comes Up One Lap Short of Victory in Myrtle Beach 400
Posted by: newsla on Nov 26, 2013 - 06:28 AM
NASCAR News
Ben Rhodes Comes Up One Lap Short of Victory in Myrtle Beach 400


In the final laps of the 2013 edition of the Myrtle Beach 400 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model Stock event at Myrtle Beach Speedway (SC) on Sunday, November 24th, 16-year-old Louisville, Kentucky, native and NASCAR Next driver Ben Rhodes was out front, looking to drive on to his seventh victory of the season. However, a few cautions bunched the field up, and on the final lap while battling for the win, contact from another car sent the No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions Ford spinning, ending his bid for the win one lap short and in the wall.

 

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The race weekend started out positive as Rhodes and his Hawk-McCall Motorsports team unloaded his ride fast.

“Lee (McCall, crew chief) and the guys had my car fast and balanced for what I needed since we arrived at the track Wednesday,” said Rhodes. “We spent our practices trying out a few different things to see if we could make it just a little bit better, but it was great from day one.”

On Saturday, Rhodes was able to time in seventh fast of the 61 drivers during qualifying, locking him in the field. With the guaranteed starters inserted in the field ahead of Rhodes and the others, which is unique to this event, he took the green flag from the 13th position on Sunday for 200 laps of racing action.

“We decided to use the same strategy in the first half of the race like we did in the race March race here, so we dropped back through the field to save our tires. We had to be careful while dropping back to not get caught up in any wrecks that could happen, but still save tires.”

Rhodes dropped back to 22nd at one point, and when it was “go time” in the first 100-lap segment, he was the fastest car on the track, rocketing up to fifth before a caution flew 11 laps to the halfway point. The officials couldn’t get the incident cleaned up in time for a restart prior to the halfway break.

“We made some adjustments during the halfway break to help the car a little bit during the second half, but it was really good so we didn’t want to mess with it too much.”

Restarting fourth due to the “cone choose” rule, Rhodes dropped back to the back-end of the top 10 to ride before making his march back to the front. With nine laps left in the race, Rhodes took the lead and started to drive off from the field when a caution flew with five laps remaining.

“It was unfortunate that caution came out when it did because we were pulling away from second,” said Rhodes. “But I somewhat expected something to happen there. Winning these big races is usually never easy.”

On the first attempt at a green-white-checker, Rhodes was able to get the jump and get out to the lead, but behind him another wreck occurred, setting up a second green-white-checker finish. On the second attempt, Lee Pulliam, the 2013 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series champion, got a better restart on the outside and edged ahead of Rhodes as they headed into turn one on the final lap of the race. While Rhodes kept his nose in there trying to stay alongside, another car drove into the No. 41 ride, sending Rhodes backwards and into the wall.

“That was very disappointing,” said Rhodes. “The guy behind me didn’t even seem to hit the brakes and drove into my car, wrecking me out. I have no idea what he was thinking. He wasn’t going to win the race with that kind of move and would have never made the corner. All that move does is wreck cars. If his goal was to wreck me he did a great job of it.”

Earlier this year, Rhodes was on the inside of another car going for the win on the last lap of the 2012 rain-postponed Myrtle Beach 400. The other car went spinning into the wall after contact and officials penalized Rhodes for it, but both situations were different.

“In March, I was under the leader coming off turn four and was getting blocked down low on the front stretch. That driver was way out of the groove and cut across the nose of my car well before the turn trying to block my line. This time the third-place car wasn’t under me at all until the corner when he drove in there hard, not even near the apron and spun me out.”

A video of the incident was posted online by local news media and can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgdWoTnxGJ8.

Even though the race officials penalized the driver, putting him one spot behind Rhodes in the finishing order, Rhodes was credited with a 21st-place finish instead of a victory or second, which was not what he wanted in his final-career Late Model Stock race.

“This was not just my last race of 2013; it was my last Late Model race. Even if we didn’t win, I wanted to have a good finish for my final race in Late Models as I move on to focus on the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East next year. I really wanted to get my seventh win of the year with Hawk-McCall Motorsports for Lee and the guys on the team in our last race together. To end that chapter of my career that way was a bit disappointing.”

Despite the disappointment, Rhodes still took some positives from the event.

“In both Myrtle Beach 400 races, Hawk-McCall Motorsports gave me a great car and we were strong at the end, battling for the victory. Circumstances took us out of the win both times, but it doesn’t change the performance and what we were able to accomplish.

“Congratulations to Lee Pulliam on the victory. I have only raced against Lee a few times, but he is a great guy and we race each other with respect on the track. He is probably the best Late Model driver in the country and it was really cool to try and race him for the win in my last Late Model race. He just rolled the top really good and got the edge on me on that last restart. I was going to give it one more shot, but never got that chance. It would have been a hard but clean race back to the checkered flag. Hopefully I can race against him in the future in other divisions in the sport.”

In 2013, Rhodes was sponsored by Alpha Energy Solutions as well as Alliance Comfort Systems, Kentucky National Guard, Refrigerant Rescue, and Park Community Federal Credit Union.

Rhodes will spend the off-season preparing for the 2014 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season, where he will race for the Rookie of the Year honors as well as the championship, with his Turner Scott Motorsports team. The first-two points races of the season will take place in Florida on Sunday, February 16th, at New Smyrna Speedway, and Tuesday, February 18th, at Daytona International Speedway (“Battle at the Beach” event).


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