On Saturday, May 31st, 17-year old Louisville, Kentucky, native Ben Rhodes started the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East “NASCAR Hall of Fame 150” from the pole at the historic Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, driving the No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions Chevrolet with Turner Scott Motorsports to the victory. The NASCAR Next driver and current series points leader led all but one lap to earn his third-career series win and second victory in a row.
Rhodes started the day by setting fast time in the single practice session of the day, which translated over to qualifying where he turned a 14.382-second lap on the quarter-mile flat asphalt oval. That time was not only the fastest time during the session, giving him the pole position, but was also a new track record for the K&N Pro Series East (previous record was 14.471 set in 2013 by Brett Moffitt).
The 150-lap race was plagued by multiple caution flags early on, which kept the field tight on Rhodes’ bumper. And despite a few longer green flag runs, lapped traffic as well as pressure from behind had him fighting hard to keep the top spot.
A late-race caution set up a green-white-checkered finish where Rhodes had to fend off a challenge on the restart by Daniel Suarez on the high side. He was able to take the white flag unchallenged, racing his way to the win
Rhodes’ third victory of the year also earned him his sixth Sunoco Rookie of the Race award, fourth Autolite Iridium XP Lap Leader Award (has led 502 of 984 laps this season), and his fourth 21 Means 21 Pole Award. After seven of 16 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East races, he extended his points lead to 49 points and continues to lead the Rookie of the Year standings.
Ben Rhodes Quotes
Your fourth-career pole was a new track record at BGS. Tell us about your pole run. “The track was really slick in practice so I knew our first lap in qualifying was going to be a little slow while our tires gripped up. I got a little sideways coming off turn four to take the white flag and I slipped a little in turn two, but it was still a great lap. I think that is my first track record in qualifying and it was my fourth pole position of the year. The Turner Scott Motorsports Alpha Energy Solutions Chevrolet ran strong right off the hauler, and that helped going into qualifying knowing when the car leaves the shop it is fast.”
There were a lot of cautions during the race. Was it hard to keep focused? “It seemed at first we couldn’t get the race going. It was also hard to get into a rhythm with the yellow flag flying as much as it did. But it actually helped me. I forgot to get my heat shield strapped on my race shoe, so my foot was very hot. The cautions allowed me to pull my foot up and cool it down a little.”
You had to hold off a lot of pressure the entire race. “It was an intense race from the start until the checkered flag flew. Gray Gaulding was fast and was right on my bumper the entire race. We also had a lot of lapped traffic to get around and a few times we had to avoid a spinning or wrecked car in front of us. I had to stay up on the wheel the entire race, but I had my spotter Lloyd Garner keeping me out of trouble. I was able to survive that green-white-checkered at the end, and I do not think I relaxed one bit until I crossed the line for the win.”
What does it mean to win at Bowman Gray Stadium? “This was a race that I wasn’t sure how it would go. It is such an exciting track for the fans, but very nerve-racking for the drivers. To win a big race at Bowman Gray, you have to have a great team, a great car, and some luck. We were able to pull out the victory and that is really cool because of the history of this place. I don’t think it has really sunk in yet.”
You were able to extend your points lead once again. “I am very fortunate to be in the position I am and be surrounded by such a great team. My crew chief Mark McFarland is one of the best in the business and my entire Turner Scott Motorsports team works very hard in the shop and at the track to make sure I have a fast Alpha Energy Solutions Chevrolet. We do have a decent points lead, but there is still a lot of racing to go this year. We are just going to keep doing what we are doing and hope to continue the great season we have had.”
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 7 of 16
Saturday, May 31st, 2014
“NASCAR Hall of Fame 150”
Bowman Gray Stadium (0.25-mile asphalt oval) – Winston-Salem, NC
Laps Completed (Led): 152 (151)
Championship Points Position: 1st (by 49 points)
Rookie of the Year Points Position: 1st
TV Broadcast: FOX Sports 1 on Saturday, June 7th, at 10:30am (Eastern)
NASCAR K&N Pro Series East
Saturday, June 14th, 2014
Five Flags Speedway (0.5-mile asphalt oval) – Pensacola, FL
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