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Feb 18, 2014 - 06:20 AM
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Ben Rhodes Starts 2014 Season With A Fourth-Place Finish At New Smyrna
Posted by: newsla on Feb 18, 2014 - 06:17 AM
NASCAR News
Ben Rhodes Starts 2014 Season With A Fourth-Place Finish At New Smyrna


The 2014 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season officially began on Sunday, February 16th, with the running of the “New Smyrna 150 Presented by JEGS” at New Smyrna Speedway in Florida. 16-year-old Louisville, Kentucky, native and NASCAR Next driver Ben Rhodes started the No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions Chevrolet Impala with Turner Scott Motorsports in the second position, finishing the 150-lap event in fourth, the highest-finishing rookie of the race.

 

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After a successful test day on Saturday, Rhodes and the TSM No. 41 team worked on the car in practice prior to qualifying on Sunday, timing in first and third in the two sessions.

“We worked on the balance of the car throughout the two practice sessions,” said Rhodes. “Once we got it where we wanted, we were able to try a few extra things to see what the car did if it got tight or loose for adjustments at the halfway point of the race. We felt we had a great set-up we could adjust either way.”

During qualifying, Rhodes timed in second behind his TSM teammate Cameron Hayley.

“We were close to getting our first pole position in the K&N Pro Series East, but Cameron knocked us off the top,” explained Rhodes. “He is a teammate, so if I couldn’t get the pole I am glad he did. That is still my best qualifying effort in the series, so I was happy with that starting spot.”

When the green flag flew for 150 laps of competition, Rhodes dropped back a few positions, saving his tires for the end of the race as the race rules didn’t allow a change of tires. At the halfway point, he was riding seventh with a very loose race car.

When the race resumed, Rhodes moved up to sixth and got to fifth, but the loose condition increased as he settled in to sixth. A late-race restart allowed him to pick up a few more positions as drivers ahead of him got sideways. He was able to cross the line in fourth.

“The track conditions caused us to get really loose. We had a car that could rotate really well, and that ended up hurting us while other drivers that struggled with tight set-ups had the advantage. Mark (McFarland, crew chief) and the team made a couple adjustments at the halfway break that helped, but I was so loose it was hard to hang onto the car. On that last restart they looked like they were all about to wreck so I moved to the high side and was able to gain a few spots. On the last lap I was close to third but just couldn’t get close enough to try and gain one more spot.”

Despite being frustrated by not finishing higher, Rhodes will take the fourth-place finish.

“I was frustrated after the race. I think we had a car that could win, but our inexperience at this track bit us a bit. But, Mark and my No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions team did an excellent job today and I know we are going to have a great season. We were able to take a situation out of our control and still get a top five out of it and get the Rookie of the Race award. We will take that and head to Daytona.”

It is a short turn-around as the crew will get his car prepared on Monday for Tuesday night’s Battle at the Beach race, the second points event of the season. Rhodes raced in the non-points Late Model Stock portion of the event last year where he won his heat race, started on the pole, led the most laps and finished second.

“We learned a lot last year about this track and event, and we will use that information along with what we learned at New Smyrna and see what we can do.”

In 2014, Rhodes is sponsored by Alpha Energy Solutions as well as Alliance Comfort Systems, Kentucky National Guard, Refrigerant Rescue, and Park Community Federal Credit Union.

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