JR Motorsports Race Report
Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015
Race 19 of 33: U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway
Track Specs: 0.875-mile oval / 250 laps
Weather: Clear; 82 deg.
Race Winner: Ryan Blaney
Rhodes’ finish: 30th
Ben Rhodes was heading toward his desired top-10 finish in the Alpha Energy Solutions Chevy in Saturday night’s U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway, when another competitor made contact with his No. 88 machine just 11 laps shy of the finish, sending him into the wall and ending his night. His 30th-place finish didn’t reflect the patience and effort that the young driver showed during the eventful 250-lap race.
The 18-year-old started 13th in his fourth career NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) race and was steadily climbing toward the top 10 in the early going. When the first caution flag flew on lap 76, Rhodes was running 12th. At the start of the race, the No. 88 Chevrolet was loose on corner exit, but as the sun set, the track temperature cooled and started tightening up, leaving Rhodes with a handling condition that persisted throughout the race – loose on entry, tight in the center, and lacking forward bite on exit. Crew chief Dave Elenz called for wedge and track bar adjustments along with four tires and fuel on the first pit stop, and Rhodes restarted 10th. Unfortunately, he quickly reported a vibration that was the result of a loose right-front wheel from the stop, and he returned to pit road on lap 96 to remedy the issue.
With the unscheduled green-flag pit stop, Rhodes went a lap down to the leaders and had to spend the next 113 laps fighting to get in position for the free pass. Two quick cautions in succession gave the JRM rookie an opportunity to get back on the lead lap on lap 210, and he immediately began the march forward. Within 11 laps, he was inside of the top 15.
When the caution flag flew for the fifth time on lap 230, Rhodes was scored 13th. After just a single lap, he had advanced to 12th and was looking to reenter the top 10, when the No. 1 car of Elliott Sadler came up on him from the inside and turned him into the wall. Unfortunately, the Alpha Chevy was unable to continue and Rhodes was scored 30th.
Ryan Blaney earned his third NXS victory of 2015, followed by JRM’s Regan Smith, Brian Scott, Ty Dillon and Brendan Gaughan.
Ben Rhodes, driver No. 88 Alpha Energy Solutions team
“It was an unfortunate incident that happened in tonight’s XFINITY Series race with the No. 1 car. I’m aware of it going forward next time. It’s bad because as a rookie, my primary goal out here is to run the entire race, log laps, gain experience in the Alpha Energy Solutions Chevy so that I can get better and improve. You can’t improve with a torn up race car, and what’s even worse is that we were in position to meet both goals with completing all the laps and getting a top-10 finish.
“We rebounded from such an unfortunate event early on with the right-front tire being loose. There were a lot of ‘bads’ in today’s race, but I learned so much at the same time, passed a lot of cars, and learned how to race people – and learned what people to be careful around as I ran up through the field. That was a racing deal that happened at the end, but I’m talking about other cars too. When you get to race around everybody, you get to know what they run like and how to set them up for passes.”