Change is good.
That’s the belief of Ben Rhodes as the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East makes its 12th visit to Greenville (S.C.) Pickens Speedway on Saturday, March 22 for the Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 150.
“I think adding the break and giving us four tires will make a huge difference over what we saw last September,” said Rhodes.
After several drivers opted to employ a tire-saving strategy in the last series race at the South Carolina half-mile oval, NASCAR decided to add a halfway break and allow the teams four additional tires to use during the event.
“Adding the break and giving us some tires is huge,” said the driver of the No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions Chevrolet. “It changes the whole deal. Four fresh tires for the second half will make it pretty interesting.”
After a disappointing day at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway on March 15, Rhodes is ready to get back on the horse.
“It’s just too bad we couldn’t get the win (at Bristol), but we’ll head to Greenville and try to get a win there,” said the 17-year-old from Louisville, Ky.
Rhodes led 130 of 132 laps after starting on the pole for the second consecutive race at Bristol, but the two he didn’t lead were the last two. Race winner Eddie MacDonald made contact with Rhodes in the closing laps which left the youngster with some damage to his car.
“The damage made my car too tight for the green-white checkered so I had to choose the outside for the restart” Rhodes stated. “At that point there was nothing I could do and I was a sitting duck. I got shoved up out of the groove and was just trying to hang on for a solid points day.
“It was very frustrating. I really wanted to win this for my team. They did a great job giving me a car that was fast all weekend,” he continued.
In his only series start in Greenville last September, Rhodes started 19th and finished sixth.
“It’s kind of a tricky place, but we did some testing there and think we found a few things and I’m looking forward to see how they work out,” he said.
The Race: The Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 150 is the fourth event of the season for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. It’s the fourth of 14 oval track events and 16 races, overall, on the 2014 schedule. This is the series’ 12th visit to the historic South Carolina oval.
The Procedure: The starting field is 30 cars, including provisionals. The first 26 cars will qualify through two-lap time trials while the remaining four starting spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 150 laps covering 75 miles with a break at or near the conclusion of Lap 75.
The Track: Greenville Pickens Speedway is a half-mile asphalt oval with five degrees of banking in the turns. The facility opened in 1946 with a dirt racing surface and was paved in 1970. There were 29 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races held there from 1951-71. The track has also hosted two NASCAR Nationwide Series, four NASCAR Convertible Series and two NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour events.
The Records: The one-lap qualifying record for the series at Greenville of 20.534 seconds (87.659 mph) is held by Brett Moffitt and established on April 2, 2011. The 150-lap race record of 1 hour, 2 minutes, 27 seconds (72.058 mph) was set on April 6, 2013 by Brandon Gdovic.
GREENVILLE RACE NOTES
Double 'Em Up: The Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 150 is the first of two visits to Greenville Pickens for the K&N East this season with the return trip scheduled for early September. It’s one of two tracks on the 2014 schedule that hosts two events with the other being Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa.
Talent To Win: Wins at Greenville don’t come easy. Four of the previous 10 overall K&N East winners at the South Carolina half-mile have graduated to success in NASCAR’s national series. Darrell Wallace Jr. is the only two-time series winner. The other three prominent winners to win at Greenville are Austin Dillon, Dylan Kwasniewski and Joey Logano.
Been There; Done That: Of the drivers currently entered in the race only Sergio Peña has gone to Victory Lane at Greenville. The Winchester, Va., won the September 2011 race.
Fast Learners: Greenville Pickens can be as tricky as it is historic. Eleven drivers on the current entry list are looking to make their series debut at the nearly flat half-mile. Several have late model experience at the track, but the K&N machines are a bit of a different animal to handle.
Home Tracks Update: Anthony Anders of Easley, S.C., began his track late model title defense on March 15. The Greenville championship helped Anders to the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series state crown for South Carolina. Last season, Ryan Walker and Marty Ward challenged Anders for the title.
LAST TIME OUT: PittLite 125 at Bristol Motor Speedway
Eddie MacDonald passed Ben Rhodes on a green-white-checkered finish to snap a 53-race winless streak. Rhodes started from the pole for the second straight race.
• With a runner-up finish Gray Gaulding took over the lead in the championship standings and becomes the youngest points leader in series history at 16 years, 1 month, 5 days. Darrell Wallace Jr. previously held the mark at 16 years, 5 months, 19 days.
• The NTS Motorsports duo of Gaulding and Brennan Newberry logged top-five finishes at Bristol. NTS is new to the series this year and also fields NASCAR Camping World Truck Series teams for the two young drivers.
• In what is sure to be a nip and tuck battle all season Rhodes took over the lead in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year points standings followed closely by Patrick Staropoli and Austin Hill.
NEXT TIME OUT: Blue Ox 100 at Richmond International Raceway
After a brief three-week break, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East travels to Richmond (Va.) International Raceway on Friday, April 25 for the Blue Ox 100 in companion with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series. A year ago, Ryan Gifford picked up his first series win after pole sitter Gray Gaulding and Corey LaJoie got tangled in a Turn 2 accident. Brandon Gdovic finished second followed by Cole Custer in third.