JR Motorsports Race Report
Saturday, July 18, 2015
Race 17 of 33: Lakes Region 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Track Specs: 1.058-mile oval / 200 laps
Weather: Partly cloudy; 77 deg.
Race Winner: Denny Hamlin
Rhodes’ finish: 12th
All Ben Rhodes needed to get his desired top-10 finish in Saturday’s Lake Region 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway was a late-race caution. After working his way into position for the free pass with 25 laps to go, the driver of the No. 88 Alpha Energy Solutions Chevrolet was passing lead-lap cars in front of him, but without getting his lap back, the furthest he could advance was 12th. While he was the eighth car in line crossing the stripe, he scored a 12th-place finish in the books.
The 18-year-old started 14th in his third career NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) race, and, even while reporting that his Alpha Energy Solutions Chevy was tight in the center of the corners, he was able to gain three spots by lap 30. While completing a pass, he made contact with Ryan Reed’s machine, which caused Rhodes’ right-front tire to lose air pressure. At first, the JRM rookie thought the contact may have knocked out the toe on the front end of the race car. When a caution came out just a handful of laps later, No. 88 team checked the toe during a four-tire pit stop, which allowed the flat right-front tire to be discovered. Rhodes quickly rebounded from restarting 27th, passing 12 cars in 14 laps before the next caution flag flew. Crew chief Dave Elenz told the JRM rookie to stay out and keep up the good work, as his lap times were well within the speed range of the top-10 cars.
On the following long green-flag run, Rhodes improved his position from 17th to 12th. During a green-flag pit stop on lap 121, he was trying to get into the pit box quickly and wheel hopped when he jumped on the brakes, causing the No. 88 to slide sideways into the box. The car needed to be pushed backwards in order to for Rhodes to exit the box, costing him one lap and 12 positions on the track. Rhodes was able to regain his momentum and work his way into free pass position, but never got the caution required for him to get his lap back, although his 12th-place result was enough to maintain the No. 88 team’s fifth-place position in the NXS owners standings.
Denny Hamlin led the field to the checkered, earning his second NXS victory of 2015. Austin Dillon, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch and Daniel Suarez rounded out the top five.
Ben Rhodes, driver No. 88 Alpha Energy Solutions team
“We had a pretty good race; the No. 88 Alpha Energy Solutions Chevy was pretty fast. I learned a lot throughout the race. We had constant improvement, which is good for a rookie like me. It definitely showed throughout the race. I made a few mistakes – slid sideways through the box and had an incident early on. I’m not sure whose fault that was. I felt like he came down and I probably could’ve moved down a little bit, could’ve been more conservative at the beginning of the race and saved my stuff. I’ve got to be easier around guys and not so aggressive and greedy, but that’s just me wanting to go fast.
“I need to slow down and save my stuff to make sure I’m that at the end. As long as I can do that, I know we’ll have a great finish. I finished in position eight, but were scored as 12th being a lap down, which is where I got us in a hole in the beginning. I’ve got to do a better job on that, not make as many mistakes, learn from them and move on.”