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Mar 23, 2014 - 05:44 PM
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Ben Rhodes Races to First-Career NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Victory
Posted by: newsla on Mar 23, 2014 - 05:39 PM
NASCAR News
Ben Rhodes Races to First-Career NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Victory


17-year-old Louisville, Kentucky, native and NASCAR Next driver Ben Rhodes started from the pole in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East “Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 150” at Greenville Pickens Speedway (SC) on Saturday, March 22nd, leading 106 of the 150 laps, driving the No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions Chevrolet Impala with Turner Scott Motorsports to his first-career series victory.

 

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After leading 130 of the 132 laps a week ago in the series race at Bristol Motor Speedway (TN), coming up two laps shy of victory after a late-race bump caused him to finish third, Rhodes headed to Greenville with grit and determination to get his first victory. That goal started off in qualifying when his 20.684-second lap put him on the point for his third-career NASCAR K&N Pro Series East 21 Means 21 pole, his third in a row this season.

“Mark (McFarland, crew chief) and my Alpha team had the car really fast during practice and we went into qualifying with a goal of getting our third pole,” said Rhodes. “At Bristol we went out late, but at Greenville we were the fifth car out, so we had to wait it out until the end. It was a bit stressful but I was happy when it was over. So far this year we have three poles and an outside pole in four races. That is pretty cool.”

When the green flag flew, Rhodes paced the field while second on back jockeyed for position. Rhodes ran hard enough to stay out front, but not too hard to burn up his tires prior to the halfway break.

“This year all the teams were getting four new tires at the halfway break, so it changed our strategy a bit,” explained Rhodes. “We were able to set the pace early on and right before halfway I wasn’t saving anything to make sure I had the lead going into the second half of the race.”

When the race resumed just past the halfway mark, Rhodes’ Turner Scott Motorsports teammates Cameron Hayley and Kaz Grala made their way by Rhodes for position. Letting things settle out, Rhodes ran behind the top two until moving back to second at lap 115, and then made his move to take the lead with 25 laps to go. After surviving two restarts with less than 15 laps remaining, Rhodes pulled out to a five car-length lead, taking his first-series victory.

“The pace picked up during the second half. Everyone wanted to go right away, so we fell back to third and I ended up having to drive the car harder than I wanted to just to keep pace. I still had just enough to get by my teammates and grab the lead again.

“Those last few restarts worried me a bit. I thought I might get knocked out of the win like what happened at Bristol, but the last restart I timed it just right so second and third battled each other while I was clear and got away. I was just hoping there wasn’t going to be another yellow flag.”

Rhodes, a rookie in the series, now holds the overall NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Championship points lead as well as the Rookie of the Year points standings.

“I am just very fortunate to have a great team behind me. From my crew chief Mark McFarland to my Turner Scott Motorsports crew guys to the guys back at the shop that work hard building these cars I am surrounded by some great people that make this all possible. I have to thank Steve Turner and Harry Scott for putting such a great team together. Also, a big thanks to my sponsors Alpha Energy Solutions, Alliance Comfort Systems, Kentucky National Guard, Park Community Credit Union, and Refrigerant Rescue. Without their support of my racing, I would not be here in victory lane.

“I have to take a moment to also thank NASCAR and K&N Filters for such a great series to race in, Greenville Pickens Speedway for hosting the event and Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet for sponsoring the race. And most of all, a big thanks to all the fans for their support.

“We have had a great season so far and hope to keep it going at Richmond next month.”

The “Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 150” can be seen on Friday, March 28th, at 11am Eastern on FOX Sports 1.

The next NASCAR K&N Pro Series event is the “Blue Ox 100” on Friday, April 25th, at Richmond International Raceway (VA).


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