VanDyke, Leatherwood, Helton, Gobble, Durbin visit victory lane at Kingsport Speedway

As has been the case on so many occasions this season, late afternoon summer thunderstorms around the region threatened to wash racing activities out at Kingsport Speedway. But once the rain stopped and track drying occurred, fans were treated to Bradley’s Funeral Home & Crematory along with Melling Performance presented Ford Mustang Night at the Races in the Model City.

The phenomenal campaign for Kres VanDyke of Abingdon, Virginia, continued as he swept twin NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model Stock Car features for his eighth and ninth victories. Through 14 races at “The Concrete Jungle” in 2017, VanDyke has nine wins, four second-place finishes, and one third-place effort to firmly entrench himself atop the points leaderboard.

Defending NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion Lee Pulliam made a surprise visit to Kingsport Speedway, and he was quick in practice and was fastest at 15.008 seconds in qualifying. However, his time was disallowed in tech when car was too low following his run. Having the option to make corrections and start the first race from back of the field, Pulliam instead chose to load up and not race much to disappointment of fans in attendance.

Zeke Shell grabbed lead at start of the first 35-lap Late Model Stock Car feature, but just three laps in the red flag waved when Marty Tunnell slammed the outside wall around turns one and two after his throttle had hung (wide-open) at end of the straightaway. Back under green for only five more circuits and the caution waved when Duke Bare spun in the second corner.

Off the ensuing double-file restart, Shell once again powered back out ahead over Nik Williams, VanDyke, Ronnie McCarty and Wayne Hale. Robbie Ferguson passed Joey Trent for the sixth spot on lap 10 between turns three and four, while at the same time just ahead of them VanDyke was overtaking Williams for second in the running order.

VanDyke immediately closed to leader Shell’s back bumper to mount a challenge for the lead, and racing up off the fourth turn on lap 14 he pulled alongside Shell racing down the front straightaway into the first turn. As they raced off the second corner VanDyke powered into a lead he would never relinquish.

VanDyke was smooth-and-steady out front en route to the checkered flag in easily winning over Shell, Williams, McCarty and Ferguson.

Completing the top 10 finishers were Hale, Trent, Bare, Derek Lane and Darin Silver.

The top eight finishers from the first race were inverted for the night’s finale, putting Bare and Trent on the front row. On the first attempt to start the race with cars side-by-side and nose-to-tail accelerating off the fourth turn onto the front straightaway, Shell got into the back of McCarty to sustain front-end damage, thus bringing the caution out before the opening lap was complete.

The next try to get the race under green saw Trent take the lead over Bare, Hale, Ferguson and McCarty. Bare quickly began losing positions as he dropped out of the top five, with VanDyke and Williams also getting around him in the opening laps.

With Trent showing the way out front, he was being cheered on by many in the crowd who were hoping to see him record his first-ever victory. Ferguson passed Hale for second on lap 5 racing off the fourth turn, which opened the door for both McCarty and VanDyke to also overtake Hale.

VanDyke began pressuring defending track champion McCarty for the third spot, and racing up off (turn) two on lap 10 he gained the position. Closing in behind Ferguson, VanDyke pulled the trigger and shot around him to take over second place on lap 15.

VanDyke set his sights ahead on Trent, who was driving an incredible race leading the field. On several occasions VanDyke stuck his nose (front-end) under Trent racing off the corners, but each time Trent managed to slam the door shut on VanDyke’s advances.

VanDyke pulled to inside of Trent racing off the fourth turn on lap 25 and over the next three laps they raced side-by-side before VanDyke moved ahead into the lead. Over the remaining distance VanDyke put a few car lengths breathing room between himself and Trent on his way to a sweep of the night’s Late Model Stock Car action. VanDyke was chased to the checkers by Trent, McCarty, Ferguson and Williams.

Completing the top 10 finishers were Lane, Hale, Bare, Billy Light and Silver.

Divisional point leader Royce Peters showed the way out front in the 30-lap Modified Street race until 10 laps remained when issues with his accelerator (gas pedal) sticking wide-open forced him to give way to Jason Leatherwood and Trey Lane. Leatherwood, from Waynesville, North Carolina, held on to capture his first win of the season over Lane, Peters, Kevin Wolfe and Rusty Clendenin.

Keith Helton of Kingsport has visited victory lane on 21 occasions in the “Toyota of Kingsport” Pure 4 division since Kingsport Speedway reopened in 2011, but stepping away to concentrate on business obligations this season has meant he’s no longer competing weekly. But rest assured he’s still a contender to win when he straps in behind the wheel.

Through the first half of the 30-lap feature the racing action was intense among front-runners Billy Ketron, Kenny Absher, Jason Ketron, Billy Byington, John Ketron, Helton, Kevin Darnell, Bucky Smith and Chad Jeffers. Strong runs for Billy Ketron and his father John Ketron, along with Darnell, ended prematurely after getting collected in wrecks.

Helton worked his way around Jason Ketron and Byington with just a couple of laps remaining to capture his first win of the season in just his third start. Rounding out the top five finishers behind Helton were Byington, Jason Ketron, Jeffers and Larry Stapleton.

Just like in the 1970s television sitcom “All In The Family,” that’s how the 30-lap Mod 4 feature played out as Joshua Gobble of Abingdon, Virginia, outran his father Kirby Gobble to capture his first win of the season. Finishing third through fifth, respectively, were Dennis Arnold, Billy Duty and Chris Amburgey.

Doug Austin and Jamie Meadows each experienced mechanical issues while leading the Pure Street feature before the halfway point and dropped out. Then after Dustin Smith had apparently gone on to capture the win, along with Will Vannoy finishing in the runner-up position, both cars did not pass post-race technical inspection. With that ruling Bobby Durbin of Johnson City got his first-ever victory over Ryan Hyatt, Anitra Little, Jeremy Draughn and Meadows.

Kingsport Speedway PR