LOUISVILLE, Ky. (July 29th, 2013) – Ben Rhodes knew heading to Langley Speedway in Virginia on Saturday, July 27th, was going to be tough. The 16-year-old Louisville, Kentucky, native felt racing against the local drivers in the “Hampton Heat” 200-lap NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model Stock event put him at a disadvantage since he had never turned a lap on the track before the weekend in a full-bodied car. However, the NASCAR Next driver was able to qualify ninth of the 30 cars and was second with a few laps to go contending for the victory before contact relegated him to a seventh-place finish.
Rhodes and the Hawk-McCall Motorsports team practiced the No. 11 Alpha Energy Solutions Chevrolet all day Friday to prepare for Saturday’s race. After three rounds of practice before qualifying, Rhodes felt comfortable around the track.
“We threw a lot at the car on Friday and Saturday,” said Rhodes. “C.E. Falk showed me the line weeks back, and once I got on the track I was able to work on driving the line and finding the speed I needed. Initially we weren’t too fast, but once I got comfortable with the track and the car, we fine-tuned everything for the race.”
Starting the 200-lap race from the ninth position, Rhodes fluctuated between 15th and sixth, and was fifth at the halfway break.
“We had multiple cautions during the first half of the race, and every restart was a cone choose,” explained Rhodes. “We stayed to the inside line initially since the outside groove was just not there, but it sent us back to 15th at one point. A few times we went to the outside and we were able to get down and maintain position.”
Once the second half of the race started, Rhodes did drop back to seventh on a choose, but worked his way back up and was running fourth with 50 laps to go. He got shuffled back to sixth with 15 laps to go, but quickly worked his way up to second with 12 laps to go until a caution flew, setting up a green-white-checker finish.
“I had to decide whether to restart in second outside the leader or start behind the leader on the inside in the third position. I remembered last year’s Martinsville (VA) race where I chose the outside and was shoved up to the wall, losing about 10 spots. So I decided to start on the inside line and if the leaders got together maybe I could squeeze by and win the race.”
When the green flag flew, the outside front-row car was able to get down ahead of Rhodes, putting him third as they were approaching the final lap of the race. However, a car on the outside of the No. 11 Chevy kept turning down and almost spinning Rhodes on the straight, and eventually got behind him on the last lap, ramming him almost in the wall. Rhodes saved his car, but lost multiple positions, crossing the finish line in seventh.
“I have no idea what that was about,” said a very frustrated Rhodes after the race. “Whoever that driver was hit me so hard many times in the right rear it felt like he was trying to turn me right up into the wall. He got behind me going into turn one on the white flag lap and never lifted.
“Contact happens in short track racing. Earlier in the race I got into C.E. and told my spotter to tell his spotter I didn’t mean to hit him like that. C.E. got into me later in the race too, and after the race we were both fine with each other. We actually were joking around in the pits before leaving the track. But whatever that other driver was doing I have no idea. He drove right through me.”
Despite the frustrating finish, Rhodes had a great time racing at Langley Speedway.
“We decided to race this race because it was going to be a challenge racing against people with a lot more experience than I have and at a track I have never raced at in a Late Model. We had a great field of 30 cars and I enjoyed racing against many of the local drivers. Even though I didn’t get the finishing result I thought we were going to get, it was still a great weekend.”
Putting Langley Speedway behind him, Rhodes will head to Iowa Speedway (IA) with his Turner Scott Motorsports team to race in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East-West combo event on Friday, August 2nd. It will be his fourth-career race in the series, and second time at Iowa Speedway. In June, Rhodes finished fifth overall, third among the East drivers, in his first time at the track.
In 2013, 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 his racing career at www.benrhodesinc.com, like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/benrhodesinc, and follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/benrhodesinc.
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