PENSACOLA, Fla. – Turner Scott Motorsports (TSM) had an outstanding night at Five Flags Speedway in the eighth race of the 2014 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East (NKNPSE) season, the Pensacola 150. Ben Rhodes carried the torch for TSM, winning his third straight race and fourth overall in 2014. Brandon Jones and Cameron Hayley followed with second- and third-place finishes, respectively. Kaz Grala and Scott Heckert suffered late-race setbacks, hindering their overall finishes.
Rhodes entered the Pensacola 150 with a ton of momentum and a lot of confidence in his No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions team. Rhodes, the winner of the previous two NKNPSE races, looked to keep his hot streak rolling as he began the Pensacola 150 in the second position. As the race began, Rhodes quickly settled into second place, looking to close the gap as the race wore on. By lap 45, Rhodes had run down the race leader and worked his way into the top spot. The NASCAR Next driver was able to hold onto the race lead until the midway point of the race at lap 77. When the race resumed, Rhodes fell from the top spot and settled back into second. Rhodes continued to save his car falling back to the fourth sport and waiting for the right opportunity to move back up. A caution on lap 123 gave Rhodes the opportunity he needed. As the race resumed on lap 132, Rhodes made some daring passes and worked his way back to the race lead. The 17-year-old held onto the top spot for the remaining 17 laps en route to his fourth win of 2014. Rhodes led a total of 50 laps in the race and extended his NKNPSE Driver Point Standings lead to 55 points over second place.
Ben Rhodes on his fourth-win of 2014:
“The No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions team implemented a great strategy at Five Flags Speedway. Saving tires is always hard, but the pace we were running was unbelievably fast. Luckily, we caught the caution at the end of the race that allowed the field to bunch back up and gave me the chance to use the tires I saved. I can’t begin to thank my entire Turner Scott Motorsports crew enough; we’ve been on a great run and I’m looking forward to Langley Speedway next weekend.”
Jones has been on a roll of his own over the past few races and that continued in the Pensacola 150. Jones began the race in the third position after a solid qualifying effort by his No. 33 Wolfpack Energy Services team. When the race began, Jones settled into the third position and wouldn’t fall outside the top five for the entirety of the race. Jones hung tough around third for a majority of the race, falling as far back as fifth on Lap 110. Jones had something left in the tank, however, as he made a late-race charge up to the second position in the race’s closing laps, ultimately bringing home a second-place finish at Five Flags Speedway. The second-place finish marked a career best for Jones in the NKNPSE. It was the 17-year-old’s fourth top five and sixth top 10 in 2014. Jones now sits fourth in the NKNPSE Driver Point Standings, 68 points out of first.
Brandon Jones on his career-best finish:
“What a race weekend, I’m so proud of my Turner Scott Motorsports team. We had such a fast racecar and were able to hang inside the top five all night long. I’m glad we capped it off with a great finish too. I’m really looking forward to Langley and keeping up this great run we’ve been on.”
Hayley came into the Pensacola 150 looking to turn around the bad luck that had plagued him as of late. Hayley was able to accomplish just that, putting together a strong qualifying effort, starting the race in the fifth position. When the race began, Hayley slipped a couple positions, falling back to eighth. By Lap 25, Hayley was running in seventh and looking to make his way back to the top five. The 17-year-old worked up to the fifth position by lap 70. At the midway break of the race, Hayley was running fourth with one of the fastest cars on the track. When the race resumed, Hayley’s fast laps continued, and by lap 92, Hayley was running in the second position looking poised to challenge for the race lead. On lap 114, Hayley overtook the lead hoping to hold on to earn his first-career NKNPSE win. Hayley held the point position for 20 laps, until losing the lead to eventual race winner and TSM teammate Rhodes. Hayley fell one more position in the race’s closing laps, bringing home a third-place finish. The result got the 17-year-old’s season back on track and marked the third top-five finish for Hayley in 2014. Hayley now sits third in the NKNPSE Driver Point Standings, 66 points out of the championship lead
Cameron Hayley on his top-five finish:
“What a race tonight at Pensacola. We really needed a good finish for this No. 98 Cabinets by Hayley team and we got that. I always want to win, and tonight I think we had a car that could’ve won, but it’s hard to be upset with a solid top-five finish. Hopefully we can take this and put together another solid run next weekend at Langley.”
Grala came into the Pensacola 150 looking to put together a solid race, coming off a frustrating run at Bowman Gray. Grala qualified 10th in his first-ever NKNPSE race at Five Flags Speedway. When the race began, Grala looked to learn the track as the 15-year-old had limited experience at Five Flags Speedway. The youngest driver in the field did just that, holding strong in the top 10 in the early laps. By lap 15, Grala had gained a position and was running in ninth. By the midway break, Grala had fallen a few positions and was running in 11th, looking to make up some positions when the race resumed. By lap 80, Grala was running in 12th, gaining more experience and looking to work his way back into the top 10. The 15-year-old was able to continue working his way forward as the laps wound down, running up in the ninth position in the closing laps. Grala looked poised to finish inside the top 10, however, a flat tire on the final lap relegated the 15-year-old to a 16th-place finish. Grala now sits 11th in the NKNPSE Driver Point Standings.
Kaz Grala on his race at Five Flags Speedway:
“This was a tough way to finish what could have been a great night for our No. 31 OzLINK team at Five Flags. It looked as though we were going to have a solid top-10 night when our tire cut down on the final lap. We worked hard all night to get into the position we were in for a top 10 until we were hit with misfortune. I’m looking forward to Langley next weekend and putting together a solid finish with my Turner Scott Motorsports team.”
Heckert entered the Pensacola 150 looking to rebound from a disappointing finish at Bowman Gray. Heckert and the No. 34 team began the race in the 18th position. Heckert looked to save his equipment and methodically work his way through the field at Five Flags. By lap 40, Heckert had already worked inside the top 15 and was running 13th. By lap 70, Heckert was up inside the top 10 and looked poised for more. After the midway break in the race, Heckert continued to run strong inside the top 10. As the laps wound down, Heckert slipped a bit, falling to the 12th position on lap 110. Heckert’s charge for a top 10 was halted as an incident on lap 123 collected Heckert when competitors in front of the No. 34 got together and the 20-year-old had nowhere to go. The No 34 team was unable to repair the damage with the amount of laps left, resulting in a 17th-place finish for Heckert. Heckert now sits 14th in the NKNPSE Driver Point Standings.
Scott Heckert on his race at Five Flags Speedway:
“This was a tough day overall for our Turner Scott Motorsports team. We struggled with qualifying, but the guys gave me a great car in the race and we definitely should’ve finished inside the top 10. We were able to work our way up there and, unfortunately, just got collected and had nowhere to go. It’s disappointing, but we’ve had fast racecars each weekend and hopefully we can put together a solid finish at Langley.”
What’s Next: The NKNPSE returns to action next week on June 21 at Langley Speedway for the ninth race of 2014.
Team PR – Speed51.com photo