As Ben Rhodes celebrated his fifth NASCAR K&N Pro Series East 21 Means 21 Pole Award Thursday afternoon at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the 17-year-old reiterated his personal racing motto several times. That motto has served him well so far in 2014.
“I just try to do my best and forget the rest.”
Rhodes’s best has been good enough to give him now five poles, five wins in the last six races and a gigantic lead over the rest of the field in the point standings into Friday’s Granite State 100, the 10th race of the 2014 season. The Kentucky native will start from the top spot in Friday’s race, which if he wins, would tie Ricky Craven’s record set in 1991 with five-straight victories.
But those stats mean little to Rhodes, who is not about to let the records interfere with his duties behind the wheel.
“I try not to put any added pressure on myself,” said Rhodes after Thursday’s qualifying. “I figured out when I was young racing go-karts, I always made mistakes when I put pressure on myself. I always looked back and put more pressure on myself and pull away from people, but I’d make mistake. Ever since then, I just decided to do my best and forget the rest.
“Last year I was putting a lot of pressure on myself in qualifying. That’s when I started having really bad qualifying spots, back in 20th place or so, just overdriving the car a lot. I’ve learned since then that if you just drive the car how you’re supposed to and how the car wants, you’ll do a lot better.”
Rhodes was quickest in one of the two qualifying sessions at NHMS Thursday, then backed it up with a lap that broke Brett Moffitt’s qualifying record time set in 2012. It was yet another feather in the cap for a driver who humbly noted that there is still work to be done.
“My confidence has gotten better, but going into each event, I still don’t go in expecting to win or anything. I expect the opposite. I try not to expect anything because once you expect something and it doesn’t happen, I find myself getting worried and trying to make something happen when it’s not meant to be. I still know how tough this field is. Going into each event, we’ll run good, but I just don’t know how good. They’re all good drivers and good teams that are all hard to drive against.”
Rhodes will start inside fellow NASCAR Next driver Jesse Little on Friday when the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Granite State 100 takes the green flag.
“It’s big (to start up front) because this track is so hard to pass on,” added Rhodes. “I like the track, but it’s so hard and so difficult. I saw last year Dylan Kwasniewski trying to pass for the lead and ended up getting into a wreck because of that. Starting up front is certainly going to make it easier to save tires and will be easier on equipment so I can just ride the whole time.”
Michigan’s Chad Finley will start Friday’s race from the third spot, while Sergio Pena and Gray Gaulding will start from the top five.
Cale Conley failed to make a qualifying lap when his car suffered a mechanical problem. Giles Thornton and Akinori Ogata also did not make qualifying attempts due to right-front tire issues that forced them each to hit the wall in practice.
The Granite State 100 will take the green flag at 6pm ET Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Replay the NASCAR Home Tracks Race Central Live coverage from NHMS Thursday by clicking here.
– By Matt Kentfield, Speed51.com Executive Director – Twitter: @MattKentfield
Granite State 100 Qualifying Results
|10||15||Nick Drake *||29.903|
|11||27||Kyle Benjamin *||29.903|
|13||22||Austin Hill *||29.941|
|23||05||Codie Rohrbaugh *||30.482|
|25||1||David Garbo Jr.*||30.578|
|26||04||Ronnie Bassett Jr. *||30.594|
|27||77||Anderson Bowen *||30.668|
|30||47||Cale Conley||No Time|