Seventeen-year-old NASCAR Next driver Ben Rhodes is one fire in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East in 2014 after reeling off his third straight win and fourth in the past five races at Five Flags Speedway Friday night. Rhodes passed Gray Gaulding after the final restart of the race with 17 laps left to win the Pensacola 150.
After eight of the 16 races on the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East schedule Ben Rhodes has now opened up a 55 point lead in the championship standings over Gray Gaulding.
Gaulding started from his second career pole position and Rhodes started second of the 21 cars in the field for the 150 lap race. Gaulding would lead through lap 44 before Rhodes passed him for the top spot working lap 45. After a caution for the halfway break Gaulding took the lead back on lap 78 and would lead until Cameron Hayley moved to first on lap 114. Hayley would lead until lap 134 when Rhodes made the winning move only three laps after a restart. Rhodes would end up winning by a margin of 0.985 seconds over Brandon Jones.
Brandon Jones made moves late to end up finishing in second place. Cameron Hayley finished third, Kenzie Ruston rallied from a lap down to finish fourth, and Gray Gaulding, who led the most laps in the race with 80, finished fifth. Jesse Little finished sixth, rookie Jay Beasley seventh, Sergio Pena eighth, rookie Ronnie Bassett Jr ninth, and rookie Austin Hill tenth. Also on the lead lap at the finish were Duke Wiseant in 11th in his season debut, Mackena Bell 12th, Codie Rohrbaugh 13th in his season debut, Nick Drake 14th, Brennan Newberry 15th, and Kaz Grala 16th.
Daniel Suarez crashed on lap 19 to bring out the first caution and finished 21st. Akinori Ogata crashed on lap 26 to bring out the second caution of the race and he finished 20th. Lee Puliam then crashed on lap 38 to bring out the third caution and finished 19th. The fourth caution was for the halfway break and the fifth and final caution flew on lap 123 when Scott Heckert crashed. He finished 17th. Finishing in 18th was Ryan Gifford who exited the race after 87 laps due to an axle issue.
Rhodes, who is in his first full season of East Series competition, made seven starts last season with five top fives.
After eight of the 16 races Ben Rhodes has scored 345 points with four wins and seven top five finishes. Gray Gaulding is 55 points back in second place. Cameron Hayley is 65 back in third, Brandon Jones is 68 back in fourth, and Austin Hill is 75 back in fifth. Daniel Suarez is sixth, Nick Drake seventh, Ronnie Bassett Jr eighth, Jesse Little ninth, and Kensie Ruston tenth.
The next race up for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East is next Saturday, June 21st at Langley Speedway for the Visit Hampton 175.Tags: Austin Hill, Ben Rhodes, Brandon Jones, Cameron Hayley, Daniel Suarez, Five Flags Speedway, Gray Gaulding, Jay Beasley, Jesse Little, Kenzie Ruston, Motorsports, NASCAR, NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, NASCAR Next