NEWTON, Iowa – By Jason Christley, NASCAR — Getty Images for NASCAR photo — Ben Rhodes turned an impressive performance Saturday night into his second NASCAR K&N Pro Series win of the season.
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship points leader piloted the No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions Chevrolet to Victory Lane at Iowa Speedway in the Casey’s General Store 150. Rhodes, 17, from Louisville, Ky., led the final 115 laps and bested the field by 2.377 seconds in the combination race between the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and West.
“It was a great night. The whole team worked really hard all week to give me a fast car,” said Rhodes, who is in his second season with the NASCAR Next program. “We struggled in practice getting the feel and comfortability I wanted. And it was the same in the early part of the race. Then, at the (halfway) break we made some changes as the track was changing and the track really came to us.”
Just after the halfway break Turner Scott Motorsports teammate Scott Heckert got the rear deck lid of Rhodes and appeared ready to make a move, but Rhodes was able to snuff that bid.
“I was trying to take it easy and save a little,” said Rhodes. “About the only way he was going to be able to get around was to take me out, but Scott is a friend and a great teammate and he wasn’t going to do that. I was just so good at getting off the corners with all of the momentum you get here. So, I was confident in what we had.”
Nick Drake, 18, ended up finishing second for his best finish in seven K&N Pro Series starts. The Mooresville, N.C., driver finished third in April at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway behind the wheel of his No. 15 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota.
“We qualified 11th and that was a little disappointing, but after falling back early on we got to seventh at the halfway break,” Drake said. “I just think we had too much ground to make up. If we could have gotten a late caution, I think we were as good as Ben.”
Like Drake, Heckert, 20, scored a series career-best finish with a third-place showing. His previous best effort was seventh in last season’s finale at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Ga.
“We’ve had an up and down season. Always have had fast cars, but seem to catch the bad luck more than I’d like,” said Heckert. “I thought we had a chance there, but the car just got a little loose at the end. Third is a good night, so we’re happy with it.”
Jay Beasley – a member of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program – rolled across the finish line in fourth for the Rev Racing competitor’s first career top-five finish. Another of the Turner Scott entries Brandon Jones followed in fifth while Brennan Newberry, Daniel Suarez, Ronnie Bassett Jr., David Mayhew and Austin Hill, also a NASCAR Next driver, rounded out the top 10.
NASCAR Next spotlights young, emerging talent in the sport. Kyle Larson, Dylan Kwasniewski and Darrell Wallace Jr. are among the alumni of the four-year-old initiative.
Mayhew is credited with a victory as the top-finishing NASCAR K&N Pro Series West driver, the third time he’s accomplished that in the combination race at Iowa. It was Mayhew’s second straight West win having won on May 3 at Stockton (Calif.) 99 Speedway.
Greg Pursley finished 12th overall and was second among the West. He leads Mayhew by 12 and Dylan Lupton by 14.
Rhodes, who won at Greenville (S.C.) Pickens Speedway in March, collected his fifth top five in six races to extend his points lead to 38 over Cameron Hayley and 39 over Gray Gaulding.
Brodie Kostecki, who won the 21 Means 21 Pole Award earlier in the day, wound up 33rd after being involved in an accident after losing the lead to Rhodes in traffic on Lap 36.
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West races next in the Armed Forces 150 at Kern County Raceway Park in Bakersfield, Calif., on Saturday, May 24. The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East will return to the track Saturday, May 31 with the NASCAR Hall of Fame 150 at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C.
The Casey’s General Store 150 will air on FOX Sports 1 on Saturday, May 24 at 8:30 a.m.