Ben Rhodes loosely quoted a movie that was released 17 years before he was born after winning Friday’s NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Pensacola 150 at Florida’s Five Flags Speedway. When referring to his tire-conservation that saw him drop from the lead to fourth after the race’s competition caution at halfway, he cited a line from a recent viewing of Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film “The Shining.”
“All ride and no race makes Benny a dull boy,” Rhodes said, basing his strategy on a quip from Jack Nicholson’s deranged character in the film.
When the “dull boy” flipped the switch to become his own nickname, “The Savage,” with about 100 laps to go, the fun returned with it.
Laps after losing the lead, Rhodes methodically worked his way back to second by passing polesitter Gray Gaulding on lap 132, then edged out Cameron Hayley following a restart inside of 20 laps to go for his fourth win of the 2014 season and third straight on the season.
“We were watching ‘The Shining’ on our way to Langley last week in the van for our test. Quoting the movie, I said, ‘All ride and no race makes Benny a dull boy.’ I told them I was about to make some magic happen. I didn’t know if I could, but it was something there at the end. I wasn’t expecting it.
“Trying to save tires is tough. You never know what you’re going to catch. You don’t know if you’re going to get the breaks at the end, yellow flags. It’s a mind game. Once you start saving, you just hope you can get a break and get back up there or that you have enough tire left to get back up there. I was trying to do both. That caution was a blessing. I don’t know if I could’ve gotten back up there without it. Those guys were running hard and I know that it gave me a chance to cool my stuff down.”
Rhodes had just enough left in the tank to move past Hayley on lap 133. Hayley lost second to Brandon Jones on the final lap, but the podium finish was still a momentum-builder for the native Canadian.
“Early on I knew I needed to get to the front,” said Hayley, who took the lead from Gaulding on lap 114. “My car was loose in traffic, so I know I needed to lead. Tires are so precious here. I saw Ben saving and I knew I was in a bad spot. I probably shouldn’t have passed him, but I think it was the only option I had and it burned my tires up a little bit too much.”
Scoring proved that Jones had the fastest car on the track in the final circuits, but he ran out of time before he was able to put up a challenge for what could have been his first K&N Pro Series victory.
” We were about a tenth (of a second) faster every lap, but I think we saved too much there at the end. We’ve been third, second and now we know what we’ve got to do next week at Langley.”
For Rhodes, Friday’s race at Five Flags was another feather in the cap of what has proven to be a dominant season.
“I would’ve never thought we’d win this many, especially three in a row, four of the last five and second in the one we missed out on. I never would’ve thought we’d have such a good season.”
Kenzie Ruston overcame an early flat tire that put her a lap down to finish fourth ahead of Gaulding in fifth.
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East returns to action on Saturday, June 21 at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Virginia.
– Story by Matt Kentfield, Speed51.com Executive Director – Twitter: @mattkentfield.
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