LOUISVILLE, Ky. (February 19th, 2013) – On Monday, February 18th, three days before his 16th birthday, Louisville, Kentucky, native Ben Rhodes was able to fulfill a life-long dream of racing at Daytona International Speedway (FL). Entering the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series portion of the inaugural UNOH Battle At The Beach, Rhodes and the No. 46 Alpha Energy Solutions Chevy with Hawk-McCall Motorsports left their mark on the newly-designed 0.4-mile oval on the backstretch of the superspeedway. The young racer won his heat race in a dominating fashion, started on the pole for the feature, and led 87 of the 150 laps, finishing second to his teammate Kyle Larson in a wild finish to the checkered flag.
“It was a great night at Daytona for my entire Hawk-McCall Motorsports team,” said Rhodes. “I would have liked to win the race and have Kyle second, but it was still a good start to our 2013 season.”
Rhodes and the Hawk-McCall Motorsports team unloaded the Alpha Energy Solutions Chevy for three rounds of practice. After having to change from his 2013 number of 41 to 46, Rhodes hit the track with the other 28 racers and was third fast in the first practice, second fast in the second. The third and final practice was a “qualifying” practice to determine the heat race line-ups. He was fourth fastest, putting him on the outside pole for the second heat race.
“We had a great car right off the trailer,” said Rhodes. “We made some adjustments during the sessions to get the car to handle better through the corners, but overall the car was solid going into the heat race.”
After Larson won the first heat race, Rhodes took the green flag for 25 laps of racing in the second. It was an eventful start as the No. 46 Chevy was forced into the wall coming off turn two. A caution came out before completing one lap for another car bouncing off the wall on the front stretch, forcing a restart. With some damage to his car, Rhodes took the green flag again, racing his way to the lead after the opening lap. He pulled away from the field, taking the checkered flag first for his first-career Late Model heat race victory.
“I got shoved into the wall pretty good there, but it didn’t affect the handling of the car,” said Rhodes. “He (Coleman Pressley) didn’t mean to do it and he apologized later. The corners are tight and we were still putting down rubber. The exit of turn two was pretty difficult the whole night to come off side by side.
“Coleman’s car appeared to wheel-hop going into turn two and I dove under him. Once I got to the lead I was able to pull out to about 15 car lengths just to check and see how my car was handling, but then I backed off and saved our car to the checkered flag.”
While the Hawk-McCall Motorsports crew made damage repair after the heat and before the feature, Rhodes and Larson headed to center stage for a coin toss to decide which heat race would start on the inside line and which would start on the outside line. Rhodes won the coin toss and elected to start on the pole position.
“Half of the field is probably happy with me, and half is probably mad,” laughed Rhodes before the driver introductions. “The inside line is the place to be on this track, so there was not a doubt in my mind what I was going to choose.”
At the drop of the green flag of the 150-lap feature, Rhodes was able to get a half-straightaway lead on the field before lap 10. Five cautions in the first half of the race kept the field bunched up, but Rhodes was able to hold on to the top spot until lap 88.
“The car was really good the first half of the race. Once I got away from the field, I went into conservation mode as much as I could. Towards the halfway part of the race though my car started getting tight and the No. 40 (C.E. Falk) was really putting some pressure on me. Lee (McCall, crew chief and car owner) and I talked about it under caution a few times what to do. At first we were just going to let Falk go, but many cautions there right at the halfway mark got us thinking we should probably just stay out front. Falk did get by us though, so we decided to just save the car for a late charge in the race.”
With about 25 laps remaining, Rhodes felt pressure from teammate Larson as the two had a hard battle for the second spot. Rhodes eventually dropped back to third, losing ground to the two leaders. In the closing laps though, he gained ground back as the top two battled hard for the victory. Coming to the checkered flag, the leaders tangled, allowing Rhodes to finish second behind teammate Larson.
“The car got really got tight there at the end of the race, which was affecting my corner exit speed,” said Rhodes. “It was go time so I raced as hard as the car would let me. Lapped traffic was a bit difficult, but my spotter (Lloyd Garner) helped me weave through them. I was able to gain some ground back on C.E. and Kyle.
“We had a comfortable lead over fourth, but I knew the two up front were racing hard for the win so I kept pushing hard just in case something happened. When I came off turn four to the checkered flag and saw C.E. sideways, trying to get back to the line after they got crossed up, I felt like I was pushing the gas pedal through the floorboard trying to get back to the line before him. I was able to just get by and get second.”
Even though he wanted the victory, Rhodes was satisfied with his second-place finish behind teammate Larson, who was driving Rhodes’ back-up car.
“We always go to a track wanting to win,” explained Rhodes. “The entire Hawk-McCall Motorsports team had my Alpha Energy Solutions Chevy strong tonight and we thought we might have been able to pull it off. A second place isn’t bad though and it was a good result for the team finishing first and second. I had a great time racing with everyone, especially C.E. and Kyle. Both of those two are some of the best in the business, and it was great being able to mix it up with them.
“Racing at Daytona International Speedway is something every driver wants to do as they move up in the sport,” continued Rhodes. “This was an awesome experience, and I have to thank my entire crew for their hard work to get ready for this event. We have some great notes and we hope this event becomes a yearly tradition at Daytona. We will be back in 2014 to go for the victory.”
Rhodes will spend the next few weeks testing the No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions ride with Hawk-McCall Motorsports with his next race occurring on Saturday, March 9th, in the UARA-STARS Late Model Stock opener at Southern National Motorsports Park (NC). Rhodes will race the entire UARA-STARS tour in 2013 as well as various NASCAR Whelen All-American Series events with Hawk-McCall Motorsports. He will also race seven NASCAR K&N Pro Series East events with Turner Scott Motorsports, making his series debut at Bristol Motor Speedway (TN) on Saturday, March 16th.
Rhodes is sponsored by Alpha Energy Solutions as well as Alliance Comfort Systems, Kentucky National Guard, Refrigerant Rescue, and Park Community Federal Credit Union.
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 Ben Rhodes’ racing career at www.benrhodesinc.com, and follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/benrhodesinc and Twitter at www.twitter.com/benrhodesinc.
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