LOUISVILLE, KY – In the eighth race of the 2014 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East (NKNPSE) 16-race season 17-year old NASCAR Next driver and current series points leader Ben Rhodes drove the No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions Chevrolet with Turner Scott Motorsports to victory in the “Pensacola 150” on Friday, June 13th, at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida. The win was his third in a row as well as his fourth season win overall for the rookie driver from Louisville, Kentucky.
With a heavy downpour of rain earlier in the day canceling the first practice session, Rhodes had just 45 minutes to learn the track in his first appearance at Five Flags Speedway as well as tune in his car for qualifying and the race. He was able to turn the quick time during practice, which translated over to qualifying where Rhodes was second quick, just 0.001 seconds off the pole position, earning his seventh front row starting position of the year.
Rhodes took the green flag and ran within the top three early on until taking the lead at lap 45, holding the top spot until the halfway break for fuel and four tires. When the race resumed, Rhodes dropped a few positions as the competition pressed hard early on to move forward. With 35 laps remaining, Rhodes moved from fourth to third and began to run down the top-two drivers. A caution a few laps later helped his drive to the front as he moved to second after the restart on lap 133, and then took the lead on lap 134. With no more cautions, Rhodes was able to distance himself from the field, taking the checkered flag first.
His fourth victory of the year also earned Rhodes his seventh Sunoco Rookie of the Race award out of eight races and continues to lead the Rookie of the Year standings. He was also able to extend his points lead from 49 to 55 points in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship standings.
Ben Rhodes Quotes
You just missed earning your fifth pole by 0.001 seconds. “That was really close! I might have been able to get the pole, but I messed up a little during my qualifying run. It was still a great starting spot though for my Alpha team.”
Were you worried about the race with the short track time you had? “The rain put us a little behind. I have never been to Five Flags Speedway before, so getting only 45 minutes of practice was tough for us to cram in every second of track time we could to get my Alpha Energy Solutions car fast and handling the way I wanted. But the good thing is I have a great team behind me that works hard to make sure we have a great car when it leaves the shop. Mark McFarland (crew chief) and the guys were able to spend that 45 minutes fine tuning for the race.”
Was the race pace what you wanted? “It was a lot faster than I wanted to go. Gray Gaulding kept the pace up for the first part of the race and the start of the second half of the race. It is a hard balance to keep in touch with the leader and still take care of the tires so you have something to race with at the end of the race. In the second half there was a lot of pressure early on so I dropped back to fourth and did what I could save. I was making up some time with about 40 laps to go, but that caution really helped. I am not sure if I was going to be able to get by them, but that allowed me to restart right behind my teammate Cameron Hayley, and I was able to get around Gray and him right after the restart and get away from the pack a bit.”
What does this win mean to you? “Every win means a lot. This one was pretty big though. Five Flags Speedway is known for the Snowball Derby (Super Late Model race) that people like Darrell Waltrip, Donnie Allison, and Kyle Busch has won. Recently Chase Elliott and Erik Jones had won that race, and last year Ben Kennedy won the K&N Pro Series East race. When you win a big race at Five Flags Speedway, it is a big deal. I couldn’t have done it though without my Turner Scott Motorsports team. We are very fortunate to be where we are at the halfway point of the year. We are going to just keep doing what we are doing and hope for the best.”
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 8 of 16
Friday, June 13th, 2014
Five Flags Speedway (0.5-mile asphalt oval) – Pensacola, Florida
Laps Completed (Led): 150 (50)
Championship Points Position: 1st (by 55 points)
Rookie of the Year Points Position: 1st
NASCAR K&N Pro Series East
Saturday, June 21st, 2014
“Visit Hampton 175”
Langley Speedway (0.395-mile asphalt oval) – Hampton, Virginia