JR Motorsports Race Report
Sunday, May 17, 2015
Race 10 of 33: 3M 250 at Iowa Speedway
Track Specs: 0.875-mile oval / 250 laps
Weather: Partly cloudy; 76 deg.
Race Winner: Chris Buescher
Rhodes’ finish: 7th
Ben Rhodes gained five positions on a wild green-white-checkered finish in Sunday’s 3M 250 at Iowa Speedway, earning a seventh-place finish in his NASCAR XFINITY Series debut. The 18-year-old had quite a day, receiving his high school diploma on stage at driver introductions prior to piloting the No. 88 Alpha Energy Solutions Chevrolet to a top-10 finish.
Rhodes was phenomenal on restarts all race long, which boded well for when the caution flag was waved just two laps prior to the scheduled 250-lap distance. The rookie driver looked like a veteran when he made a three-wide pass to pick up positions on the final green-white-checkered run.
After starting 14th, Rhodes quickly raced his way into the top 10. He reported that his Alpha Chevy was loose on entry and tight through the center of the corners, a handling condition which persisted for most of the 259-lap event. At the competition caution on lap 60, crew chief Dave Elenz called for significant adjustments to the race car. Rhodes was penalized for speeding as he exited pit road and the No. 88 team was sent to the tail end of the lead-lap cars, which put him 24th for the restart.
While battling handling issues, Rhodes struggled to gain ground on long green-flag runs and was outside of the top 15 for most of the race, even going a lap down near the halfway mark. However, several late-race cautions favored the driver of the No. 88 Chevy, combined with Elenz and the team making solid adjustments on pit road and Rhodes was able to work his way back on the lead lap and just outside of the top 10. On the final restart, Rhodes drove from 12th to seventh after a four-tire pit stop.
Chris Buescher earned his first NASCAR XFINITY Series victory of 2015, with Chase Elliott, Erik Jones, Brian Scott and Ryan Blaney rounding out the top five.
Ben Rhodes, driver No. 88 Alpha Energy Solutions team
“I think it was a good day overall. I was learning a lot early on and as the race went on, I was able to get a little more aggressive in the Alpha Energy Solutions Chevy – maybe a little too aggressive at times as I hit the wall a little bit. I was trying to find as much grip as I could, changing my lines and moving around. We had a pretty decent setup today. Our car worked well on longer runs as other cars slowed down; I think we were able to stay with them then. On the restarts was where we made up all of our ground. I was praying for restarts – every time there was a restart and I could be on the high side, or even the low side on that last restart, it worked out really well for us and we were able to pick up some spots.”