LOUISVILLE, Ky. (September 23rd, 2013) – The start of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East “North American Power 100” on Saturday, September 21st, at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (NH) didn’t quite go the way Ben Rhodes wanted. The 16-year-old Louisville, Kentucky, native and NASCAR Next driver received damage to his No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions Chevrolet in the opening laps of the event, causing him to make multiple pit stops to allow his Turner Scott Motorsports team to repair some damage. However, his “do not give up” attitude paid off as Rhodes rallied from the back of the pack twice to finish fourth.
Rhodes, in his first trip to the New Hampshire track, spent time on top of the charts during practice on Friday. At the conclusion of the session, he had the second-best 10-lap (consecutive) average and was fourth fast heading into qualifying of 31 cars, but an error during his two laps of record relegated him to 13th for the start of the race.
“I messed up in qualifying,” said Rhodes. “I overdrove the track and it cost us a good starting spot, but the No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions Chevrolet was really solid on race runs and I knew I had good rotation and forward drive, so I shifted into race mode and felt I was going to be able to pick up some spots early in the race.”
On race day, Rhodes took the green flag with a positive outlook, but contact early cost the young racer track position.
“On the first lap I was clear going into the corner and at the last second someone stuck their nose outside of me as I was moving up,” explained Rhodes. “It damaged the right rear of the car. Aero is very important here, and I felt that change on the third lap when it caused my car to get loose and hit the wall in turn two. After that, the whole rear end was moving around, so I knew it broke something.”
During a caution just after 10 of the 100 laps were complete, Rhodes brought his car down pit road to the attention of his pit crew to repair some damage and try to tighten the track bar, which was loose. Restarting at the back of the pack, he was able to make it back to 20th, but Rhodes reported the rear end was still slinging back and forth.
“When I hit the wall, it widened out the hole on the track bar mount, which allowed the track bar to move back and forth. There wasn’t anything left on the back side of it to tighten it down, so it was going to keep moving around. It made the car a handful to drive. Even going straight down the front stretch it was moving back and forth, so I had to stay away from the other cars so I didn’t hit them accidentally.”
Rhodes restarted once again at the back of the pack while his TSM crew made a plan for the halfway break. After avoiding a few incidents on track, he was 11th at lap 45, which is when NASCAR decided to go ahead and have the break. That allowed the TSM team to make repairs.
“We had a short track bar in the car to help the car rotate more, but since that mount was damaged, we changed to a long bar that uses a different mount. Lee (McCall, crew chief) and the guys worked hard to get that changed and fix as much of the body damage they could during the short break. The car wasn’t the way it should have been, but we were ready to make the most of what we had in the second half of the race.”
When the green flag flew, Rhodes slowly picked up one position after another until he was in seventh with 10 laps remaining. A late-race caution forced a green-white-checker finish, and on the restart he was able to pick up a few more positions, crossing the finish line in fourth.
“Something happened ahead of me on that last restart,” explained Rhodes. “Everyone went and then they stopped. Either someone missed a shift or spun the tires. I tried to check up and had to dive to the inside to avoid running into the car in front of me and hope to not get run over at the same time. Through the mess I was able to get to fourth and held on to the checkered flag.”
With his fourth-place finish, Rhodes now has five top-10 finishes in six starts in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East this season, including two top-five finishes. He has one race remaining during his part-time season before driving full time in 2014, racing for the Rookie of the Year honors as well as the championship.
“This weekend showed the effort and determination of my Turner Scott Motorsports team,” said Rhodes. “They never gave up and with a total team effort we were able to race from the back twice with a damaged car to finish fourth. We are all pumped up for Dover next weekend and hopefully we can contend for the win there.”
In 2013, Rhodes is sponsored by Alpha Energy Solutions, Kentucky National Guard, Park Community Federal Credit Union, Alliance Comfort Systems and Refrigerant Rescue.
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East “North American Power 100” at New Hampshire Motor Speedway will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 on Friday, October 4th, at 11:30am Eastern.
Rhodes will head to Martinsville Speedway (VA) on Wednesday, September 25th, to practice his No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions Late Model Stock with Hawk-McCall Motorsports to prepare for the “Virginia is for Racing Lovers 300” event, which will take place on Sunday, October 6th. Then he will head up to Dover, Delaware, to compete in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East “Drive Sober 150” with Turner Scott Motorsports in the No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions Chevrolet at Dover International Speedway, which takes place on Friday, September 27th.
For more information on Ben Rhodes, including media availability, contact Jason “Stix” Buckley of STIX FX Entertainment at (704) 519-5528 or firstname.lastname@example.org, and make sure to keep up to date on his racing career at the new website location benrhodes.com, like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/benrhodesinc, and follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/benrhodes as well as Instagram at www.instagram.com/benrhodes.
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