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Mar 16, 2014 - 03:42 PM
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Ben Rhodes Comes Up Two Laps Short of Victory at Bristol Motor Speedway
Posted by: newsla on Mar 16, 2014 - 03:37 PM
Ben Rhodes Comes Up Two Laps Short of Victory at Bristol Motor Speedway

17-year-old Louisville, Kentucky, native Ben Rhodes entered the “PittLite 125” NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at Bristol Motor Speedway (TN) on Saturday, March 15th, looking for his first-series victory. The NASCAR Next driver and Rookie of the Year contender started from the pole position, keeping the No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions Chevrolet Impala with Turner Scott Motorsports out front for the entire race, and looked to be able to achieve his goal. However, contact after a late-race restart damaged his car, shoving him up the track, which cost him the lead and the victory. He was still able to lead 130 of the 132 laps and cross the line in third, matching his career-best finish in the series as well as earning the Rookie of the Race award.


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On Thursday, Rhodes and his TSM Alpha team unloaded the “Sweetness” chassis fast off the hauler, putting the No. 41 machine on top of the charts for the first practice session and second fast in the final practice. In qualifying, going out 37th of 38 cars, Rhodes was able to score his second-career 21 Means 21 pole position.

“Mark (McFarland, crew chief) and my Turner Scott Motorsports team had my Alpha Energy Solutions Chevy really fast during practice,” said Rhodes. “In the second practice we had to make some adjustments because the car felt like it was a little down on power. It might have hurt us a little, but the car handled so good I was able to put down a great lap in qualifying. It was pretty cool to get my second pole position in a row.”

When the green flag flew for 125 laps of competition on Saturday afternoon, Rhodes was able to pace the field with a comfortable lead. At the halfway point the team made adjustments to compensate for the addition of fuel.

“The balance of the car was pretty good, but since we couldn’t change tires and only add fuel, we tightened the car up a bit so it wouldn’t get loose on me during the second half.”

Rhodes continued to lead the field after the race resumed, and looked to be on his way to his first-career series victory when a caution flew late in the race. When the green flag came out with six laps remaining, contact with series veteran Eddie MacDonald knocked Rhodes sideways and caused significant damage to the left side of the Alpha ride. After another caution which set up a green-white-checker finish Rhodes wasn’t able to hang on to the top spot due to the previous damage, dropping back to third at the checkered flag.

“My car took a few laps to come in, so I knew I was going to be in trouble on the second to last restart,” explained Rhodes. “I expected to be moved up the track a little bit but I didn’t expect him to drive straight into my door. I thought we were both going into the wall with as hard as he hit me. The damage made my car too tight for the green-white checkered so I had to choose the outside for the restart. At that point there was nothing I could do and I was a sitting duck. I got shoved up out of the groove and was just trying to hang on for a solid points day.

“It was very frustrating. I really wanted to win this for my team. They did a great job giving me a car that was fast all weekend.”

Despite the frustration, Rhodes was still able to focus on the positives from the weekend. He vaulted from seventh in points to third, just six behind the points leader after three of 16 races, and his strong finish should also give him the lead in the Rookie of the Year standings.

“It was a great showing for the Alpha team. We got our second pole, led all but two laps, and got the Rookie of the Race award. We also picked up some points we lost at Daytona, so that should move us closer to the top heading to Greenville next weekend.”

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.

The “PittLite 125” NASCAR K&N Pro Series East event will be broadcast on Saturday, March 22nd, on FOX Sports 1 at 11:30am Eastern.

Next up on the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East schedule is the “Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 150” at Greenville Pickens Speedway on Saturday, March 22nd.

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