Race fans from around Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia and Western North Carolina came out in huge numbers for the 2013 season-opener at Kingsport Speedway on a beautiful, sunny Saturday afternoon in the Model City.
Chad Finchum of Knoxville chauffeured the A-1 Finchum Heating & Cooling/Texas Roadhouse/ Finchum Paint & Body/Creekside Grill/Loveland Baptist Church/Robbie White Race Engines/Leavitt Race Cars/No. 19 Chevrolet SS to his first-ever NASCAR Whelen All-American Series “Dalton Direct Carpets” Late Model Stock victory after getting to the inside of Hayden Woods with five laps remaining in the 60-lap feature to take the lead, and then withstanding a couple of challenges from Woods over the closing laps.
“I was digging as hard I could,” Finchum said. “Hayden and I were running hard, and I spun the tire coming off (turn) two. He gave me a shot going into (turn) three, but I wouldn’t expect anything less from him. That’s just good short-track racing and I loved every minute of it. Once I saw that white flag come out, it was like I’m going to get this one”
The 18-year-old Finchum led a parade of teenagers across the finish line. Woods, a 17-year-old who attends Providence Academy in Johnson City, came home in the runner-up position and 16-year-old Blake Jones of Sevierville finished third.
Woods passed Jones for the lead on lap 31, and was closing in on a first Late Model victory until Finchum made the winning pass.
“We had the lead up to the mid-50’s, but Finchum had a great car,” Woods said. “I was following him and he could just turn down at the center of the corner. He just turned below me. We had a strong car too. If we had two more laps, we might have had him back. When I hit him, it actually unsettled my car and I couldn’t get below him. It didn’t work like I thought it would.”
It was rough-and-tumble action throughout the race, slowed by seven cautions over the first 23 laps. Jones’ No. 80 Chevrolet Camaro SS looked worse for wear, with sheet metal damage to both the front and back of his car. Emergency crews gave him oxygen after the race as the damage led to overheating in the cockpit and being overcome due to high levels of carbon monoxide.
“It definitely wasn’t the race we were looking for,” Jones said. “We were looking to win without even tire marks on our race car. But, we didn’t get the qualifying run we were used to, and I was stuck without rear brakes for most of the race. We charged up there and led, and I was proud of that. We’ll be back next week looking for a checkered flag.”
Zeke Shell, a 25-year-old from Johnson City, appeared to have the only car to outrun the wild band of teenagers. His No. 97 Ford led the first 23 circuits until his right front tie-rod came loose as the cars were ready to take the green flag on a restart.
“We knew we had something in practice, but we didn’t want to show how fast we were,” said Shell after a 17th-place finish.
“When the race began, we let the big dog eat. I feel real bad for my team. They deserve a lot better than this, but we know what we’ve got and what we can come back with.”
Paul Nogradi Jr. paced qualifying with a track-record lap of 15.060 seconds in his Dodge. He was involved in a wreck on lap 23 with Adam Long on the backstretch while battling for position and finished 18th in the 20-car field.
For his part, Finchum was glad to avoid most of the contact.
“Everybody was moving around and skating,” Finchum said. “That first corner, they went three-wide and the No. 02 spun up. Everything was happening so fast here. It really was ‘The Concrete Jungle’ today.”
Finchum was chased to the checkers by Woods, Jones, followed by Lee Tissot and Anthony Anders to round out the top five. Completing the top 10 finishers were Long, Daniel Pope II, Kres VanDyke, Austin Peters and Tyler Goodwin.
Allen Rich jumped into the lead over Rob Austin at start of the 30-lap Street Stock feature. Austin got around Rich for the lead on lap 9 and remained there until John Harrell of Surgoinsville powered past him on lap 21. Once out front, Harrell then set the cruise control to easily win over Austin, Rich, Tony Vance and Marvin Green Jr.
Johnson City driver Amber Abram, making her Pure 4 debut at the track, made contact with leader Keith Helton on lap 16 in an accident which sent her pink No. 97 Ford in a barrel roll down the backstretch at “The Concrete Jungle.” Emergency personnel were quickly on the scene and while the 20-year-old Abram was momentarily shaken following her wild ride, after catching her breath she was able to climb from her badly damaged machine to cheers from the crowd.
Back under green Helton remained in the lead until lap 21, when he was teamed up on by the father-son duo of Jason and John Ketron. Jason Ketron, defending divisional champion, pulled into the lead with his father in tow. They finished that way ahead of Helton in a 1-2-3 finish of Kingsport drivers. Dan Hall and Kenny Absher finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
Zack Walton of Blountville, a Sullivan Central High School student, made his way to the front on lap 5 and never looked back en route to winning the Legends race over Drew Shortridge, Jacob Owens, Derek Lane and Hubert Whitehead.
Chris Steadman of Kingsport won in Rookie Pure 4 action over Billy Byington and Brandon Sutherland.
NASCAR WHELEN ALL-AMERICAN SERIES “DALTON DIRECT CARPETS” LATE MODEL STOCK (60 laps)
Showing Finish Position, Starting Position In Parentheses, Driver Name, Car Number, Hometown
1. (10) Chad Finchum #19-Knoxville, TN
2. (3) Hayden Woods #87-Piney Flats, TN
3. (7) Blake Jones #80-Sevierville, TN
4. (6) Lee Tissot #7-Asheville, NC
5. (13) Anthony Anders #36-Easley, SC
6. (8) Adam Long #3-Pounding Mill, VA
7. (1) Daniel Pope II #16-Smyrna, TN
8. (5) Kres VanDyke #15-Claypool Hill, VA
9. (12) Austin Peters #66-Kingsport, TN
10. (16) Tyler Goodwin #64-Kingsport, TN
11. (11) Royce Peters #38-Kingsport, TN
12. (9) Ryan Stiltner #22-Grundy, VA
13. (18) Rick Pannell #33-Kingsport, TN
14. (20) Dean Barrett #82-Abingdon, VA
15. (19) Erika Schmidt #14-Greenback, TN
16. (14) Taylor Coffman #30-Bean Station, TN
17. (2) Zeke Shell #97-Johnson City, TN
18. (4) Paul Nogradi Jr. #02-Clinton, TN
19. (17) Bruce Blessing #00-Gate City, VA
20. (15) Joey Trent #26-Gray, TN
STREET STOCK (30 laps)
1) John Harrell #19; 2) Rob Austin #25; 3) Allen Rich #03; 4) Tony Vance #07; 5) Marvin Green Jr. #15; 6) Nick Cole #63; 7) Sam Hurd #11; 8) Rick Smith #33; 9) Tony Ward #7; 10) Alonzo Henderson #08; 11) Dan Smith #05; 12) Jared Broadbent #74; 13) Jeff Counts #11; 14) Roger Neece #22; 15) Chris Tunnell #6; 16) Paul Shull #48
PURE 4 (25 laps)
1) Jason Ketron #28; 2) John Ketron #26; 3) Keith Helton #9; 4) Dan Hall #88; 5) Kenny Absher #11; 6) Chris Neeley #94; 7) Dylan Bates #6; 8) Jay Holland #06; 9) David Trent #57; 10) Danny Pless #5; 11) Bill Coleman #15; 12) Kevin Hubbard #18; 13) Todd Cross #41; 14) Travis Light #18; 15) Darrell Whitehead #44; 16) Glen Hughes #75; 17) Amber Abram #97; 18) Tim Abelseth #96
LEGENDS (15 laps)
1) Zack Walton #38; 2) Drew Shortridge #32; 3) Jacob Owens #8; 4) Derek Lane #9; 5) Hubert Whitehead #3; 6) Tony Wiggins #4
ROOKIE PURE 4 (12 laps)
1) Chris Steadman #14; 2) Billy Byington #11; 3) Brandon Sutherland #22 – *** Remainder of results to follow on Monday, March 11)
Kingsport Speedway PR