NASCAR: Ben Rhodes wins K&N East championship, then does pre-calculus homework

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17-year-old Ben Rhodes’ dominant season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East culminated with him clinching the series title last night with a fourth-place finish at Greenville Pickens Speedway.

Rhodes seized the points lead thanks to his inaugural series win at GPS in March. He then went on to claim four more wins (those four coming in succession), and now holds an insurmountable 62-point lead going into the season finale on Sept. 26 at Dover International Speedway.

But earning a championship in one of NASCAR’s top minor leagues did not earn Rhodes a “get out of homework” pass. Rhodes is a senior student at Holy Cross High School in Louisville, Kentucky, and one day after his big moment at GPS, he’s back to hitting the books:

As for last night’s race, Rhodes needed a finish of 13th or better to clinch the title. But in the opening moments of the Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 140, he was hit with a drive-through penalty for jumping the start from pole position.

However, Rhodes was able to stay on the lead lap and had driven up to seventh by the halfway break at Lap 70. He would get as high as P2 in the second half of the race before dropping a few spots in the last restart of the night with 12 laps to go.

“I was really mad at myself for [the mistake at the start], but I had to refocus and get back to the front,” Rhodes said in a post-race release. “Once I got up there, I thought about racing for the win again, but the car wasn’t as good during the second half as it was during the first.

“When the caution came out at the end of the race and I had to restart on the outside lane, I knew I needed to just protect the points.”

Austin Hill won the race ahead of Cameron Hayley, Gray Gaulding, Rhodes, and Nick Drake. Hayley will look to secure second in the championship later this month at Dover; he holds that spot by 20 points over Brandon Jones, who finished seventh in the race.

March 29 in Motorsports History: Scott Dixon wins first race after reunification

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Reunited and it felt so good.

That’s what drivers likely thought before the 2008 IndyCar opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

For the first time since 1995, major-league open-wheel racing in the United States was under the banner of a sole sanctioning body as Champ Car and the Indy Racing Leauge had reunified just a month prior.

Scott Dixon celebrates after winning the 2008 IndyCar opener at Homestead. Photo: Jim Hines/IndyCar.

The first race after reunification also saw a reversal of fortunes for Scott Dixon, who won the race after losing the 2007 IRL championship in crushing fashion.

In the 2007 season finale at Chicagoland Speedway, Dixon ran out of fuel while leading on the final lap of the race. The race victory – and championship – went to Dixon’s future teammate, Dario Franchitti.

But the tides turned for Dixon nearly seven months later, and the Kiwi was able to win with the help of another driver’s misfortune.

Tony Kanaan was leading with seven laps remaining when E.J. Viso spun and made contact with Kanaan’s car. Kanaan remained on track through the caution period despite suffering obvious damage to his right front suspension.

On the final restart with three laps remaining, Dixon and others cars easily passed Kanaan’s wounded car on the outside. Dixon then maintained his lead through the checkered flag to win at Homestead for the second time in his career.

“I think Marco (Andretti) and T.K. probably had a little bit better cars today, but we came through with the win, and that’s what counts,” Dixon told ESPN after his 12th career victory.

Following his victory at Homestead, Dixon continued to redeem himself through the course of the 2008 season. In May, he won the Indianapolis 500 for the first (and so far only) time. Following Indy, he went on to win four more times in 2008 and won his second series championship.

Also on this date:

1998: Mika Hakkinen won the Grand Prix of Brazil, the first of eight victories in his first championship season.

2010: Will Power won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which was held on a Monday morning because of rain postponing the race on Sunday.

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