Rookie Rhodes shines at Bowman Gray; teenager wins 150-lap K&N race

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — From Monster Mile to the Madhouse, red-hot rookie Ben Rhodes made a quick and memorable transition, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.

Rhodes, a 17-year-old up-and-comer from Louisville, Ky., started ninth but finished a disappointing 22nd in Friday night’s NASCAR Trucks series race at Dover, Del.

He raced for the first time at Bowman Gray Stadium on Saturday night, recovered nicely going from a high-banked mile track to a flat quarter-mile bull ring and won the NASCAR Hall of Fame 150 in the K&N Pro Series East series.

He had to work to do it, surviving 12 double-file restarts after caution periods.

In Saturday night’s opening race, Burt Myers sent Junior Miller spinning in the final turn of the final lap of a wreck-filled 100-lap Modified race and went on to notch his 60th career victory at Bowman Gray. Myers, Bowman Gray’s defending champion and current points leader, completed a worst-to-first recovery. He started from the rear of the 23-car field as result of a draw.

Rhodes, who leads NASCAR’s touring K&N Pro Series East this season with three wins and five straight top-five finishes, started from the pole position for the 150-lap main event. That hasn’t been the place to be in the three previous K&N races at Bowman Gray. The average finish of the top qualifier was 13th before Rhodes’ breakthrough.

Qualifying was the easy part, though. He had to outduel Gray Gaulding in double-file restarts after the first 11 caution periods, before Gaulding spun out on the final attempt to take the lead.

And, of course, there was the dramatic change from a track like Dover to one like Bowman Gray.

“It was definitely a challenge,” Rhodes said. “At Dover, you just charged the corners as hard as you can; here, it’s sure different. But these K&N cars are like home to me now. I’m more comfortable in them than in the trucks right now.

“Gray Gaulding had been here before, he’s got a race under his belt, and I didn’t. So I had to just go off what I thought and what people were telling me, which sometimes may or may not be true.”

Rhodes’ final challenge came in holding off charging Daniel Suarez, a three-time tour winner who was racing for the third time at Bowman Gray, on a final restart with two laps left.

“I saw the front of his nose beside me and I knew he had to have been getting into some people to get that damage but I felt I could hold him off,” Rhodes said.

Suarez had made his way from last place in the 20-car field.

“To make it all the way to the front is difficult,” Suarez said. “I think I had him once in the corner and, I don’t know who, but somebody touched me in the back and that killed all my momentum.”

Suarez settled for second. Rookie Austin Hill was third, Brandon Jones fourth and Winston-Salem’s Ronnie Bassett Jr. — the son of a former Bowman Gray racer — made his Bowman Gray stock-car debut and finished fifth.

Myers won for the fourth time in eight races this season in Bowman Gray’s featured Modified Division. But it took some doing in the wildest race of the season.

Chris Fleming, who entered the race seeking his third win and was in striking distance of Myers’ points lead, drew the pole position.

His lead lasted through 54 laps and several restart battles with Bowman Gray rookie and Whelen Southern Modified Tour contender Kyle Ebersole, until he and Ebersole both spun out battling for the lead.

Miller, Bowman Gray’s all-time leader in feature-race victories, had ended a five-year winless drought just a week earlier.

He was a turn away from winning again when he got a shot from behind from Myers and went spinning. Myers gathered his partially-sideways car and made it to the checkered flag. Lee Jeffreys wound up second and Ebersole third.

An enraged Miller sped after Myers and rammed his car into Myers’ car.

Myers, picking up the trophy at the finish line amid jeers and an irate fan that accosted him, said that third-running and fastest-qualifier Tim Brown was shoving him into Miller, and that Miller checked up in the final turn.

“Did I turn him around? I sure did,” Myers said. “But he stopped, I got hit. This is Bowman Gray racing.”