COPPER HILL, VA :: Ben Rhodes has never won a Late Model Stock Car race. Daytona could be different for the young driver. Strong runs at Martinsville and Richmond last season, along with a veteran crew chief turning the wrenches, give Rhodes confidence entering the UNOH Battle at the Beach.
Rhodes has never been to Daytona before. When he drives down International Speedway Boulevard, it will be the first time he’s ever laid eyes on coliseum of speed. His view of the speedway will be from the cockpit of his Late Model Stock Car.
“I’m excited about it, been looking forward to it for weeks now,” Rhodes said. “I can’t wait; it’s going to be a great experience. There’s going to be a lot of competition. We’ve got a great team down there. Lee McCall is my crew-chief. This year, we’re going to have a pretty full schedule, running some K&N races, Dover and New Hampshire. Last year, I raced at the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown.”
Lee McCall, Rhodes’ crew-chief for the event, is a veteran crew-chief. McCall has five wins in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series as a crew-chief, four with Sterling Marlin (2001-2002) and one with Jamie McMurray (2002). Marlin, with McCall on the pit box, was en route to win the 2002 Sprint Cup Series Championship before a serious accident injured the two-time Daytona 500 winner, ending his season. McMurray, who took over for Marlin for the remainder of the 2002 season, won in just his second start with McCall as his crew-chief.
Rhodes, unlike some of his fellow competitors, feels the straight-rail cars could have an advantage but trusts NASCAR will be able to make the cars more equal.
“Naturally, straight rails will have the advantage but I trust NASCAR to put their best foot forward, make sure everything’s fair for everybody and make sure everything’s equal.
“It would be like a dream, national coverage, everybody’s there,” Rhodes said about the possibility of winning his first career Late Model Stock Car race at Daytona. “That’s one of the biggest races for me and it would be something special that I’d remember for the rest of my life. I expect the same results at Daytona (as Martinsville and Richmond). I’ve got a great team behind me and I expect to have a great car off the bat. Luck just needs to be on our side.
“Having Lee McCall is a huge advantage. He’s got so much experience and expertise in the industry. That’s a huge advantage having him. I’d love to run more big events like Daytona and this year we’re running as many as we can.”
Rhodes has never been to Daytona before so, for the young UARA-STARS competitor, he will be living a dream later this month.
“I’ve always wanted to go to Daytona,” Rhodes stated. “It will be an experience for sure to be racing there. When I was younger, watching the races being a NASCAR fan, I thought it would be cool to race there or go there. I’ve imagined it before and being a racer, I’ve always thought about being an experienced racer going so to be going is awesome.”
The mission for Rhodes is simple; he’s on a mission to win.
“We’re going there to win,” Rhodes explained. “Every race we approach to win. Tough competition, best of the best, the experience I’m going against, a top-five would be pretty good. You never know how things go, we had a lot of back luck last year but hopefully it’s gone away and we have a good show.”
Rhodes is looking forward to taking on the 4/10 mile course, set up along Daytona International Speedway’s Superstretch, and with high expectations, he thinks the caliber of competition will make for an entertaining race.
“I think the layout’s going to help guys used to flat tracks but with the caliber of competition, it shouldn’t be too hard to catch on,” Rhodes said.
Rhodes’ Late Model is sponsored by Alpha Energy Solutions, the Kentucky National Guard, Park Federal Credit Union and Refrigerant Rescue. The NASCAR Whelen All American Series portion of the UNOH Battle at the Beach will go green on February 18th. RACE22.com will be there and will get you up to speed on the big event.