In his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) debut, Ben Rhodes proved he had what it took to contend on the national level. Currently competing full time in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East for Turner Scott Motorsports (TSM), the 17-year-old was calm, cool and collected as he climbed aboard the No. 32 Alpha Energy Solutions Chevrolet and hit the 0.526-mile oval at Martinsville Speedway. Rhodes got his first taste of the NCWTS during the weekend's two practice sessions, where he ranked 12th and third fastest among the field. The much-anticipated rain, however, forced qualifying to be canceled and Rhodes was placed in the 12th position for the start of the Kroger 250 per the NASCAR rulebook. The inclement weather also forced NASCAR to postpone the NCWTS race, making it a double-header race day on Sunday. As the green flag waved shortly after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, Rhodes quickly got shuffled to the outside, which seemed to be an ongoing issue throughout the 250-mile race; but that didn't stop him from consistently posting the fastest lap times on the track. The No. 32 TSM team opted for a different pit strategy, pitting just once throughout the first three cautions for tires, fuel and a slight adjustment to correct handling. By the fourth caution, however, Rhodes had four new sticker tires while most of the field had 30 or more laps on theirs. One-by-one, Rhodes was able to maneuver his way through traffic and before long, he had wheeled the No. 32 Alpha Energy Solutions Chevy to the top ten. During the two green/white/checkered attempts, Rhodes managed his truck like a pro and scored a well-deserved eighth-place finish as the checkered flag waved.
Highlights - Rhodes made his NCWTS debut during the Kroger 250, and will run four additional races in the No. 32 Alpha Energy Solutions Chevy for TSM.
Ben Rhodes on Racing at Martinsville Speedway:
"That was a crazy race, but I had a lot of fun. I was really hoping we would've been able to qualify because we definitely had a better truck than our 12th-place starting position. My crew chief Mike [Hillman, Jr.] and I discussed strategy before the race and opted to stay out of trouble, have good pit stops and gradually make our way to the front. We had a different pit cycle than everyone else but that was intentional. The caution came out at the right time for me to get new tires and start making my way up to the front, but I got caught on the outside and it stopped my charge forward. Once I got down to the inside, I was able to continue the charge. All afternoon I got caught on the outside line and it was hard to gain position when you're stuck out there. There was so much beating and banging throughout the race, especially at the end, but that's all part of short-track racing. My spotter Eddie D'Hondt kept me focused on the last two restarts and we were able to work our way from 15th to eighth. It was a great effort by my entire Turner Scott Motorsports team, and to get a top-10 finish in my first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race was pretty cool. I can't wait until we get to race the No.32 Alpha Energy Solutions truck again at Dover in May!"