LOUISVILLE, KY – The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East returned to Iowa Speedway (IA) on Friday, August 1st, for the second East-West combo event of the 2014 season. 17-year-old Louisville, Kentucky, native and East division championship points leader Ben Rhodes was looking to go to victory lane in the “Autolite Iridium XP 150” race and sweep the Iowa double, but the NASCAR Next driver had to settle for a seventh-place finish after the No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions Chevrolet with Turner Scott Motorsports was assessed a pit road penalty midway through the race.
After timing in third and fourth respectively in the two practice sessions of the day, Rhodes was able to qualify fourth for the 150-lap race, his 11th top-five starting position in the first 12 races of the season.
At the green flag, Rhodes picked up one position before completing the first lap, but slipped back to fourth at lap 25 just after a caution flag restart. However, once tire management came into play, he was able to work his way up taking the top spot at lap 50 and leading until a caution just before the halfway break.
While circulating under yellow flag conditions, a miscommunication had Rhodes and three other top-four drivers pitting one lap too early for the halfway break. NASCAR penalized all four drivers, sending them to the back of the pack for the second half of the race.
Rhodes rallied hard, driving from the back of the 43-car field after the halfway break to seventh. On a late-race restart with 11 laps remaining he was able to survive a lot of competitor contact that damaged his car to finish in the seventh spot.
Despite the penalty that took him out of the lead, the recovery during the second half of the race helped increase Rhodes’ championship points lead from 62 points to 71 with just four races remaining in the 2014 season. Rhodes was also the highest-finishing rookie, which helped extend his points lead from 29 to 32 in the chase for the rookie of the year honors.
Ben Rhodes Quotes
How was your car for the first half of the race? “My Alpha Energy Solutions Chevrolet was really good early. It felt better than it did during qualifying and it seemed like the track was coming to us as we went on. Going into the halfway break Mark McFarland (crew chief) and I decided to only make a minor adjustment because we didn’t want to dial ourselves out for the second half.”
What happened that caused you to get penalized by NASCAR? “I was told to come to pit road during the yellow as that would be the halfway break, so I came down pit road and so did three others up front. The rest of the field didn’t, and then we were told to go back on the track. A lap later they brought the whole field down, and after the break they said all four of us had to go to the back. I don’t know what happened, but it was very frustrating for all of us.”
You were still able to race to seventh and salvage points. “I felt we had a car that could win the race, so seventh isn’t what we wanted. But with the situation we were handed at the halfway break I had to refocus and get as much as I could. I think we could have made it back to third but there was a lot of contact up front with everyone going for it at the end of the race and my car got damaged. I am not happy with seventh because of what we could have done, but we were able to gain some more points so that is one positive that came out of the day. We will take it, put it behind us and look forward to Watkins Glen next weekend.”
In 2014, Ben Rhodes is sponsored by Alpha Energy Solutions, Alliance Comfort Systems, Kentucky National Guard, Park Community Credit Union, and Refrigerant Rescue.
NASCAR K&N Pro Series East – Race 12 of 16
Friday, August 1st, 2014
“Autolite Iridium XP 150”
Iowa Speedway (0.875-mile asphalt oval) – Newton, Iowa
Laps Completed (Led): 150 (25)
Championship Points Position: 1st (by 71 points)
Rookie of the Year Points Position: 1st (by 32 points)
TV: Friday, August 8th at 11am ET / 10am CT on FOX Sports 1
NASCAR K&N Pro Series East
Friday, August 8th, 2014
“Bully Hill Vineyards 125”
Watkins Glen International (2.45-mile road course) – Watkins Glen, New York
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