LOUISVILLE, Ky. and MOORESVILLE, N.C. – Story by Race Chaser Online Mid-Atlantic Correspondent Marshall Gabell — Performance Motorsports Network audio – Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images North America photo –
Santa Claus must have had a tough time finding a gift that would please 2014 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East champion Ben Rhodes after the incredible accomplishments and laughs he had this season.
Hailing from Louisville, Kentucky, Rhodes ended his remarkable rookie season with a series-leading five wins – at five different tracks – and a championship trophy that now sits in his living room – serving as a reminder to his magical run.
“It (the trophy) is sitting in my living room right now (laughter),” Rhodes explained. “Just looking at it takes me back and (helps me realize) how amazing our season was. I just think about the friendships and relationships that were created. And just thinking about the wins and poles that we have had just made it look like a dream season. I cannot thank my dream team enough.”
And while Rhodes was brilliant behind the controls of the No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions Chevrolet, the 17-year-old credits the communication of his ‘dream team’ for his achievements – something that is hard to find on a group led by a rookie driver.
“I think it was the communication that we had,” Rhodes expressed. “We all worked together so well – there was never a time where we stepped over each other’s feet. And even when we had a small mistake we would rally back from it – and that’s just how a team should work and behave.”
Although the championship took the entire organization endless work and perseverance, crew chief Mark McFarland – a former driver in the NASCAR Nationwide Series — is who Rhodes considers the mentor that helped him capture the title and all the respect after a dominant season.
“I think one big thing was our crew chief Mark McFarland,” Rhodes commented. “He and I have a similar communication style and just our attitudes are similar. And I think it is cool that we are able to be compatible and get along so well.”
Rhodes now faces a new challenge in 2015 as he joins JR Motorsports in the NASCAR Xfinity Series to pilot their No. 88 Chevrolet alongside NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne.
“It’s a huge step for us – to make it to a NASCAR National Series level,” Rhodes expressed. “And to be running for a team (JR Motorsports) of that caliber is huge. It’s just a dream come true. I mean, sharing a ride with Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne is pretty amazing to say the least.”
His 10-race schedule will begin at Iowa Speedway; a track he scored a win and another top five at in the K&N Pro Series East/West combination race there.
“I am going to be running 10 races in the Xfinity Series – and the first one is at Iowa Speedway,” Rhodes explained. “That’s going to be a huge race for me. It will be a new car that I will not have run before -because of the testing schedule. And I am going to be at a track I am comfortable with – and I will get to be with a new team.
“We are just trying to keep stuff familiar and as simple as possible. Hopefully after that, the results will come.”
Listen in to an extended cut of Race Chaser Online’s conversation with Ben Rhodes during the final Stock Car Steel/SRI Motorsports Show of 2014: