Apr 26, 2013
Ben Rhodes Caps off Richmond Double with a Podium Finish in the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown
Press Release

No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions / J.D. Byrider Ford Fusion
No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions / J.D. Byrider Ford Fusion
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (April 26th, 2013) – Louisville, Kentucky, native Ben Rhodes completed another step in his racing career on Thursday, April 25th, racing in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East “Blue Ox 100” and the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown at Richmond International Raceway (VA). After a strong run in the K&N East race, the 16-year-old shined in the Showdown where he finished third behind NASCAR top-tier drivers Kyle Busch and David Ragan.

Rhodes, one of only a couple drivers doing double duty during the day, spent the morning and afternoon running back and forth between the No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions / Park Federal Credit Union Chevrolet with Turner Scott Motorsports for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race and the No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions / J.D. Byrider Late Model with Hawk-McCall Motorsports for the Short Track Showdown. While the logistics throughout the day was challenging, Rhodes was able to transition well between both cars in the practice sessions.

“It was a little different getting into two different cars back and forth,” said Rhodes. “From the team side, both the Hawk-McCall Motorsports and Turner Scott Motorsports guys had everything taken care of so I didn’t need to worry about that. Mentally it initially was challenging since both cars have different horsepower and a bit different driving styles, but it wasn’t too bad.”

Rhodes was second quick in both sessions while he was sixth in the first K&N Pro Series East practice and 17th fast in the final practice.

“In the Late Model we sat on top of the last practice until the last few minutes when Kyle Busch knocked us off,” said Rhodes. “We were really happy with that car. The K&N car was really good too, but on our mock qualifying run a caution came out which killed our tires and time on the chart. We were confident going into qualifying.”

Without any series provisionals, Rhodes needed to time in within the top 30 in the K&N Pro Series East. He barely made it in due to an error during his run, qualifying 25th.

“That qualifying session was almost a disaster,” said Rhodes. “I clipped the apron in turns three and four on my first lap and it got me sideways coming off the corner. It hurt both the first lap and second since this track is a momentum track. The good thing is we made it in the race. I knew the car would race better than where we qualified.”

In the Short Track Showdown qualifying practice session, Rhodes timed in fifth fast.

At the start of the 100-lap NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race, Rhodes slowly worked his way from the 25th position up through the field without burning up his tires so he could have something left at the end for a late-race charge to the front. By lap 30, he worked his way to the 15th position. He continued to slowly work forward through the mid portion of the race and cracked the top 10 by lap 70, but smoke coming from the car forced him to pit road and out of the race.

“The Turner Scott Motorsports guys had my car really fast and I wasn’t pushing it hard at all,” said Rhodes. “During the middle of the race we were turning lap times faster than the leaders. Lee (McCall, crew chief) and Lloyd (Garner, spotter) kept telling me to save my tires, but I was still able to turn quick laps while taking care of them.

“NASCAR had us come to pit road because they were worried we might be dropping fluid on the track because of the smoke. My crew checked it out and it looks like we either had a seal that was leaking or a very small crack in the oil pan. It wasn’t much fluid at all coming out, but NASCAR felt it was best if we didn’t go back out on the track with it like that. It was disappointing ending our race like that because I think we could have worked our way to the top three for sure, but it is better to not risk causing a wreck if the leak got worse.”

Shaking off the conclusion of his K&N Pro Series East race, Rhodes hopped in his Late Model and took the green flag from the fifth position for the 75-lap Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown, a special event benefitting the Denny Hamlin Foundation, which raises awareness and funding for Cystic Fibrosis research and treatment. During the first segment of the race, he hung around fifth and was able to continue on after an incident on the track that damaged his Hawk-McCall Motorsports teammate Tony Stewart’s car.

“On a restart around lap 25 we ended up three wide going into turn one with me on the bottom,” explained Rhodes. “Tony was in the middle and got crowded down the track into me. I really had nowhere to go exempt on the apron of the track and it caused him to spin out. I got a little damage on my car, but it tore off the front of his car. I felt bad because I thought we both had race-winning cars, but Tony made sure to tell me through my spotter that I didn’t do anything wrong and he wanted me to go up and win the race. He actually came down to my pit during the competition caution and we talked about race strategy to get me to victory lane.”

With just under 30 laps to go and after the competition caution, Rhodes moved from fifth to fourth, and with five laps to go made a move to get by for third. While he was reeling in Busch and Ragan in the final laps, he didn’t have time to catch them, finishing third.

“I was trying a lot of different things there at the end of the race. Some things Tony was telling me worked, but some weren’t with the way my car was handling. I did find something there in the final laps that really worked well that I think I can apply next year and get to the front quicker. A third place though wasn’t too bad.”

In the 2012 Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown, at just 15 years old, Rhodes finished sixth as the least-experienced Late Model driver in the field. This year he was the highest non-top-tier NASCAR driver in the Short Track Showdown. And, after having a strong run earlier in the night in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race, his second start in that series, Rhodes is even more anxious to get into victory lane.

“I really think Hawk-McCall Motorsports and Turner Scott Motorsports both gave me cars we could have won with here at Richmond, and that is such a huge confidence booster. Circumstances have kept us out of victory lane this year, but there is nothing you can do about that. We are very close and I think a win is right around the corner. If we get a little luck on our side, we will be celebrating a win soon.

“I want to take a moment to thank the Denny Hamlin Foundation for putting on this great race and J.D. Byrider for coming on board. Also big thanks to all my sponsors for both cars, including Alpha Energy Solutions, Kentucky National Guard, Refrigerant Rescue, and Park Community Federal Credit Union. Having their support and the support of my fans means a lot to me and my race teams.”

The next Late Model Stock event for Rhodes and the Hawk-McCall Motorsports team will be the UARA-STARS event on May 18th at Dillon Motor Speedway (SC). He is currently second in points in the series after three races.

Rhodes will make his third start in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East with Turner Scott Motorsports on June 7th at Iowa Speedway (IA). He will race a total of seven races this season in the series while running for the Rookie of the Year honors in a full schedule with TSM in 2014.

Source: STIX FX Entertainment Press Release

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