WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – By Jason Cunningham, NASCAR — Bob Leverone/Getty Images for NASCAR photo — Ben Rhodes turned in a dominating victory in the NASCAR Hall of Fame 150 Saturday night in NASCAR K&N Pro Series East action at historic Bowman Gray Stadium.
Rhodes, a NASCAR Next driver from Louisville, Kentucky, became the first driver in four all-time races at The Stadium to win from the pole. He led all but one of the 152 circuits to emerge with his third victory of the season and extend his lead in the K&N Pro Series East championship standings in his first Bowman Gray start.
“My Turner Scott Motorsports team just gave me a great car today,” said the 17-year-old. “(Crew chief Mark McFarland) and I communicate really well. I didn’t know what to expect here having never been here before. It’s good to have a great team to lean on.”
Rhodes’ triumph was not without challenges, however. He had to keep his No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions Chevrolet out in front through 12 caution restarts – most with Gray Gaulding to his outside – on the tight quarter-mile for the hard-earned win.
“I had Gray right behind me just about the whole race,” said Rhodes. “I knew it was going to be a little tricky. I didn’t know if I was going to get moved up the track or not. If it wasn’t him, then it was going to be somebody else. That’s what this track creates.”
The final caution set up a green-white-checkered flag finish where Daniel Suárez beat Rhodes to the line to lead restart Lap 150, but Rhodes regained the advantage and held on for the checkers.
Suárez rallied from back in the pack after starting from the rear after making contact with the outside retaining wall during his qualifying run and finished as the NASCAR Hall of Fame 150 runner-up.
“(Starting from the back) was pretty difficult. I think we had one of the best cars in practice, but in qualifying we had a problem with the rear brakes and hit the fence,” he said. “We had to make some repairs, so that sent us to the back for the start. We had some luck to get up to the front. So, we’ll go home with a happy face and a second-place finish.”
NASCAR Next’s Austin Hill picked up his fifth top-five finish of the season with a third-place effort. Like Rhodes, it was Hill’s first taste of The Madhouse.
“It was wild that’s for sure. We had a great car at the beginning, but it started to go away as we went on,” said the driver out of Winston, Ga. “It was bumper to bumper the whole time. I ended up a lap down at one point, but was able to get that back. Finishing third is definitely exciting, but I want to win one of these.”
Brandon Jones and Ronnie Bassett Jr. brought home the top five while the rest of the top-10 finishers Saturday night at The Stadium included Gaulding, Ryan Gifford, Kenzie Ruston, Jay Beasley and Nick Drake.
Both Gaulding and Ruston scored their second straight Bowman Gray top 10. Rev Racing’s and Drive for Diversity product Jay Beasley has strung together consecutive top 10s after a fourth-place showing at Iowa Speedway in Newton on May 17.
Rhodes’ points lead grew to 49 over Gaulding with Suarez and Cameron Hayley in third and fourth, respectively.
Earlier in the evening Rhodes set the series’ track qualifying record at Bowman Gray in recording his fourth 21 Means 21 Pole Award by Coors Brewing Company.
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East will return to action on Friday, June 13 with the Pensacola 150 at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida.
The NASCAR Hall of Fame 150 will air on FOX Sports 1 on Saturday, June 7 at 10:30 a.m.