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Dec 09, 2013 - 02:34 PM
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Ben Rhodes Concludes Late Model Stock Career with Six 2013 Victories
Posted by: newsla on Dec 09, 2013 - 02:31 PM
NASCAR News
Ben Rhodes Concludes Late Model Stock Career with Six 2013 Victories


The 2013 year was a break-out season of racing for Louisville, Kentucky, native Ben Rhodes in Late Model Stock competition. The 16-year-old racer was in contention to win from the start of the season in February to the end in November, racking up multiple top-five finishes with his Hawk-McCall Motorsports team, driving into victory lane six times in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series competition.

 

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After joining Hawk-McCall Motorsports at the end of 2012, Rhodes and the team, co-owned by Randy Hawkins and Lee McCall, showed their strength in February at the Daytona International Speedway (FL) “Battle at the Beach” NWAAS event, where Rhodes earned his first heat race win in the No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions Late Model, starting on the pole for the feature, and finishing second behind teammate Kyle Larson.

“Daytona was a great start to our year,” said Rhodes. “At the end of 2012 we weren’t sure if we were going to go, but we decided it would be a great opportunity to get everything ready for our year. It ended up being a very good trip to Florida for us.”

After the disappointment of losing the Myrtle Beach 400 event on a last-lap call by the officials, Rhodes pressed forward, finishing third in the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown at Richmond International Raceway (VA) behind NASCAR drivers Kyle Busch and David Ragan. Rhodes, who was teammates with NASCAR champion Tony Stewart for the event, has the highest-average finish of all drivers competing in the charity race over the past two years. He finished sixth in 2012.

Throughout the year, Rhodes was considered a driver to beat at every event he entered, but he just couldn’t keep luck on his side until the checkered flag flew. That was until August 9th at Kingsport Speedway (TN) when he raced to his first-career Late Model Stock victory. The very next day, Rhodes earned his second-career win, this time at the historic Hickory Motor Speedway (NC).

“We always seem to have strange bad luck issues, and both races that weekend it continued,” said Rhodes. “Of all the drivers there during qualifying at Kingsport, our transponder was the only one that didn’t work, so we had to re-qualify. We were able to get to the lead though by halfway and win that one. At Hickory rain forced officials to start the race by points, and since we had not raced there yet in their weekly program, we had to start at the back. We worked our way up to the front and then had to pit for a power steering problem. We came from the back again and ended up winning.

“Kingsport and Hickory are two great tracks, and even though it wasn’t easy, it was great to finally get my first-two wins of the year.”

Rhodes continued his winning ways in August, picking up a second Kingsport Speedway victory as well as earning two victories at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in South Carolina (leading all laps in both races), the home track for his Hawk-McCall Motorsports team.

Possibly the biggest win of his career to date though happened at Hickory Motor Speedway in October, starting second and leading 149 of the 150 laps in the “Fall Brawl” event.

“That was a very special win for us,” explained Rhodes. “I started my Late Model Stock career at Hickory and we have always run well there, but our luck always left us before the checkered flag. When we won there in August it was a relief, but we wanted to go back one more time and see if we could win a really big event there. Lee (crew chief) had the car set-up great and we were able to lead all but one lap. It is one of those victories I will remember for a long time.”

Rhodes completed his 2013 season back at Myrtle Beach Speedway, hoping to get a redemption victory, but was turned on the last lap while battling for the win, ending his 2013 season in the wall.

Throughout the year, Rhodes earned six feature victories, one heat race win and 11 top-five finishes in 17 starts in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. He also earned three top-three finishes in five starts on the UARA-STARS Late Model Stock tour.

“It was a great year overall, and I have to thank Lee and the entire Hawk-McCall Motorsports team. We were in contention to win every weekend at the track and we were able to win six times together, seven if you count the heat race win at Daytona.

“This was my last year racing Late Models, and I will miss the Hawk-McCall Motorsports team, but I am glad we were able to have a successful year together.

“Thank you to my sponsors Alpha Energy Solutions, Alliance Comfort Systems, Refrigerant Rescue, Kentucky National Guard, and Park Community Federal Credit Union for their support this year. Also, thank you to all the track owners and operators as well as NASCAR for a great series to race in. Lastly, I have to give a really big thank you to all my fans and supporters at the track and online for their encouraging messages.”

Rhodes, who in June was selected by NASCAR to be a part of the 2013 – 2014 NASCAR Next class, an industry initiative to help spotlight NASCAR’s rising stars, will shift his racing career to the next step in 2014, racing full time for Turner Scott Motorsports in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, shooting for the Rookie of the Year and championship honors. Rhodes raced seven events in the series with TSM during 2013, earning four top-10 finishes, including a third-place finish at Iowa Speedway in June.



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