Ben Rhodes is our next guest on Fan4Racing Fan2Fan NASCAR & Race Talk on Monday, November 10, 2014 at 9 pm ET. Call 347-996-5176 with any questions or comments during the LIVE broadcast.
Fresh off of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Championship podium, Ben Rhodes made his fourth-career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) start at Phoenix International Raceway, where he scored his career-best qualifying position along with his career-best race finish of fifth in the No. 32 Alpha Energy Solutions Chevrolet Silverado.
Rhodes and two-time NCWTS championship-winning crew chief Mike Hillman Jr. utilized both practice sessions to get acquainted with the mile-long track before advancing to the final round of knockout qualifying.
After a lengthy delay due to a power outage in the Phoenix area, Rhodes took the green flag from the fourth position and gained one spot before a two-truck accident occurred on the first lap. Restarting 18 laps later, Rhodes found himself in the fifth position when a competitor in front of him slowed down going through Turns 1 and 2, causing the No. 32 Chevy to snap loose and spin. Like a pro, the young driver held onto his machine and managed to receive very minor damage to the left-side bumper.
After repairing the damage on pit road under caution, Rhodes rejoined the field in the 28th position. By lap 40, however, the 17-year-old had worked his way into the top 15 and began running top-five lap times by lap 65. Rhodes broke into the top 10 on lap 85 and reached as high as the second position when green-flag pit stops began to cycle.
Coming to pit road under caution on lap 103, Hillman called for four new tires and fuel, along with air-pressure and track-bar adjustments to tighten up entry and free up the center. Shortly after the restart, the yellow flag waved once again on lap 112 and the Alpha Energy Solutions Chevy was scored in the fourth position.
Rhodes dropped back to the seventh position following the restart, but began picking off competitors when, out of nowhere, the entire track suddenly went dark with 24 laps to go. Forced to call another caution, NASCAR made the ultimate decision to conclude the race following the blackout on lap 126, scoring Rhodes with a fifth-place finish.
Although not the conclusion the No. 32 team had hoped for, Rhodes had an impressive performance in his first-career start at Phoenix and ends his NCWTS season with one top-five and three top-10 finishes in just four starts.
“This was a crazy race. It was tough to get into a rhythm with all of the cautions, and my spin kind of hurt us at the beginning. It was a really good learning experience, though, to restart at the back and have to race my way back up to the front. Fortunately, Hillman and my Turner Scott Motorsports team gave me an awesome truck to do that with. I can’t thank my team, Hillman, Harry Scott and Alpha Energy Solutions enough for their support this season. I’m really thankful for the opportunity to run four Truck Series races with such a great team. I wish we could’ve gotten a win, but at the end of the day, I’ve learned a lot and am really looking forward to what the future holds.”