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Red-hot Rhodes wins pole for K&N Pro Series East race at NHMS

LOUDON – Ben Rhodes’s hot streak might be extending to another venue.

The 17-year-old grabbed the pole for today’s K&N Pro Series East Granite State 100, turning a fastest lap of 128.580 mph to finish in front of Jesse Little (128.359). Chad Finley, Sergio Pena and Gray Gaulding rounded out the top five.

The lap broke the track record set in 2012 by Brett Moffitt – and Rhodes was actually eyeing more.

“I was expecting to run a little faster, based off our mock run times in practice, but the track certainly got a lot slicker out there,” he said. “I just hope tomorrow, with the rubber being laid down by the Modifieds and the other series on the track, that it doesn’t change too much on us.”

By setting the record, Rhodes found a way to turn even a qualifying run into a headline on a season that’s been full of them. The pole was his fifth of the season, and it puts him in prime position to win his sixth race of the season – and fifth in a row.

It’s gotten to the point where Rhodes is the favorite the moment he gets into his car, but he said he doesn’t see it that way.

“Going into each event, I don’t go in there expecting to win or anything,” he said. “It’s helped my confidence a lot, but I still know how tough this field is. The competition is very tough.”

That qualifying run will give him a nice head start though, especially at NHMS, where drivers from each series have bemoaned the difficulty it presents to pass other cars.

“This is a big track, where you definitely need to be in the front,” Rhodes said. “As all the Cup drivers and everybody knows here, track position is going to be key.”

Rhodes’s recent run is one of the more dominant stretches the series has seen, and considering the names of drivers that have graduated from it – such as Joey Logano and Kyle Larson – there’s reason to believe Rhodes could be setting himself up for advancement down the road.

Not that he’s letting the potential stakes of success affect him.

“I hope so. Running at tracks like this, combination events, that really puts you in the spotlight,” he said. “It’s something I have to get used to. With that comes a little more pressure, but I don’t put that on myself. I just do my thing. My best saying, I always say this, is ‘Do my best, forget the rest.’ That’s what I’m trying to live by this year.”

(Drew Bonifant can be reached at abonifant@cmonitor.com or 369-3340 or on Twittter @dbonifant.)

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