LOUISVILLE, KY :: With his rookie stripe removed, 16-year-old Louisville, Kentucky, native Ben Rhodes entered his second season of UARA-STARS Late Model Stock racing on Saturday, March 9th, racing in the 150-lap series opener at Southern National Motorsports Park in Kenly, North Carolina.  After starting the No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions Ford with Hawk-McCall Motorsports from the fourth position, Rhodes never dropped out of the top five during the race, taking the checkered flag in the third position, collecting his second podium finish in two races so far this season.

Rhodes and Hawk-McCall Motorsports unloaded the No. 41 machine Friday looking to use the entire day of series practice to try multiple set-ups, but an early engine issue put the team behind during the day.

“When we hit the track for the first time in the morning there was a strange sound coming from under the hood,” said Rhodes.  “I brought the car in and we looked into where it was coming from.  Instead of taking any chances, we decided to change out the engine.  The good thing is we had a lot of time with the extended practice day.  We were able to get everything changed and got on track for a few hours of practice.”

After two shorter practice sessions on Saturday morning, Rhodes took to the track for qualifying.  With a 15.427-second lap, he timed in fourth fastest.

“We didn’t have time to make a true mock qualifying run during practice since we lost hours of practice Friday changing the engine,” said Rhodes.  “We had a plan going into the weekend to work on the handling of the car on old tires so we could be strong at the end of 150 laps, so we stuck to that.  We did bolt on four new tires close to the end of practice to just see where we were at, but we didn’t have time to get the engine cooled down or really get it ready for a mock qualifying run.  We were happy being fourth fastest in qualifying.”

At the drop of the green flag, Rhodes was able to squirt up into the third position, where he rode for the first 87 laps of the race.  Being pressured for the third spot, Rhodes dropped back to fourth until late in the race when he moved back to third, chasing down the second-place driver.

“Early on we got in a comfortable spot in third, just riding and saving the tires for the end of the race,” explained Rhodes.  “I worked a lot on my line to adjust for where the car felt comfortable.  Rather than fighting for position on the track, after the halfway point I dropped back to fourth.  Once we had the caution with less than 50 laps to go I got up on the wheel and started working back towards the front.

“I was able to close on second and had a chance there in the last few laps to move him for the position, but I do not like to race that way.  I didn’t want to dirty him up for the position.”

Crossing the line in third, Rhodes was satisfied with the result.

“Of course we go to each race looking for victory, but we are all happy with the third-place finish.  It was a great start to the UARA series this year, and with our second-place finish at Daytona (in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series UNOH Battle At The Beach), Lee and the entire Hawk-McCall Motorsports team has the No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions ride rolling.  This gives me great momentum going into my first start in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East next weekend at Bristol.”

The No. 41 machine is also sponsored by Alliance Comfort Systems, Kentucky National Guard, Refrigerant Rescue, and Park Community Federal Credit Union.

Rhodes’ crew chief Lee McCall will join him at Bristol Motor Speedway (TN) on Saturday, March 16th, for his first-career NASCAR K&N Pro Series East start, driving the No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions Chevy with Turner Scott Motorsports.

For more information on Ben Rhodes, including media availability, contact Jason “Stix” Buckley of STIX FX Entertainment at (704) 519-5528 or [email protected], and make sure to keep up to date on his racing career at www.benrhodesinc.com, like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/benrhodesinc, and follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/benrhodesinc.