A spring chill in the air around Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia didn’t keep the big crowd from being present Friday at Kingsport Speedway for running of the Easter Xtravaganza 160, which featured 160 laps of exciting green-flag racing action in six divisions.
Kres VanDyke of Claypool Hill, Va., remained perfect to start the season as he flexed his muscle by leading all 60 laps en route to capturing his second straight NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model Stock feature win.
Defending track champion Chad Finchum toured the .375-mile banked concrete oval quickest in qualifying with a lap of 15.154 seconds to narrowly surpass VanDyke’s time of 15.179, with Lee Tissot timing-in third at 15.189. Following an invert of the top three from time trials, Tissot and VanDyke brought the 18-car field to green from the front row.
VanDyke powered into the lead on the opening lap over Tissot, Finchum, Paul Nogradi Jr. and Zeke Shell. Shell moved around Nogradi for the fourth spot on lap 6 racing off turn two.
The 33-year-old VanDyke, driving the Service Fuel, Inc./Pizza Plus/Pro Image Graphics/84EXPO/RW Race Engines/Townsend Race Cars/No. 15 Ford Fusion, quickly began to distance himself from his closest challengers. With the race running caution free and VanDyke setting a blistering pace out front, at the halfway point he held a commanding 10 car length advantage over Tissot and Finchum, who had a rearview mirror full of Shell.
Caution waved on lap 46, when Tissot and Shell tangled at end of the front straightaway entering turn one. Shell attempted to get inside of Tissot for position, but the resulting contact saw both cars spin between turns one and two. Tissot rejoined at the rear of the field for the restart, while Shell’s night ended prematurely in the pits with a hole in his radiator.
Back under green for the stretch run to the finish, VanDyke once again asserted his strength to pull back out ahead of Finchum. Just behind the front-running duo, Derrick Lancaster and Ryan Stiltner were battling for the third spot. Stiltner grabbed the position on lap 48 racing off the fourth turn and quickly closed on Finchum’s rear bumper.
Stiltner got around Finchum for the runner-up spot with eight laps remaining and set his sights ahead on VanDyke. Stiltner managed to close the gap on VanDyke in the waning laps, but time ran out to catch him.
VanDyke recorded the victory while Stiltner nailed down his best-ever finish at “The Concrete Jungle.” Finishing third through fifth, respectively, were Finchum, Lancaster and Tissot, who worked his way back from the earlier incident with Shell to post a top five run.
Completing the top 10 finishers were Ronnie McCarty (who was making his first start of the season after having to recuperate from off-season surgery), Nogradi, Zack Walton, Tyler Goodwin and Joey Trent.
“Man, this is awesome to begin the racing season with back-to-back wins,” said a smiling VanDyke in the pits following the victory lane ceremonies. “Not only have we won both races, but we’ve also led both races flag-to-flag and that’s just incredible when you consider the strong caliber of competition you’re racing against. Our car’s good, it’s really handling well. Some people might think you have to have a brand new race car every season, but that’s just not the case. This Townsend car of ours is over 10 years old (built in 2001), and everybody’s seeing it’s getting the job done. With our car, we’re really good in the corners on both ends of the track. When you’ve got a car that’s working really well in the turns so that you can quickly pick the throttle back up to accelerate off the corner, it will launch you down the straightaway. Forward bite off the corner, that’s the ticket right there.
“I want to thank my wife Erin and also my dad and mom (Kenneth and Peggy VanDyke) for all of their support of my racing. Wade Day helps me some working on the setup of the car, but it’s mainly just me and my dad and some of my buddies working on the car. I’m a coal miner and put in 50-60 hours during the week, and just work on the race car when I can. Some race teams have full-time paid people to work on the equipment during the week, and it’s really gratifying when a little team like ours can outrun operations like that. We’ll be back next Friday to give it our best effort to win our third consecutive race.”
John Harrell of Surgoinsville knows his way to victory lane at Kingsport Speedway, having recorded seven Street Stock feature wins last season en route to tying Nick Cole for the division championship. Harrell bounced back from a DNF (Did Not Finish) in the season opener a couple of weekends ago to lead flag-to-flag for the win over Alan Rich, Cole, Rob Austin and Royce Peters.
Kenny Absher of Kingsport grabbed the lead from Keith Helton on lap 2 of the Pure 4 feature and, once out front he remained there until the finish, barely holding off a last-lap charge from John Ketron to capture the victory. Finishing third through fifth, respectively, were Kirby Gobble, Helton and Jason Ketron.
The Rookie Pure 4 feature provided quite possibly the night’s best action, with a tight, three-car battle for the victory between Brandon Crumbley of Kingsport, Michael “Mook” Jeter and James Deese. Jeter looked like he might make it two consecutive wins, but Crumbley was up-on-the-wheel and searching for his first-ever victory. With the white flag waving for the final lap, it was a toss-up who would come out victorious. But the 32-year-old Crumbley would not be denied as he held Jeter and Deese off for the win, with Trey Lane and Tim Jennings rounding out the top five at the checkered flag.
Roby Orr of Glade Spring, Va., recorded the Pure Street victory over Duke Bare, Nasty Jones, Wade Day and Iggy Ratliff.
Jerry Lane of Kingsport will have bragging rights in the Lane family all next week, as he outran his two sons, Derek and Trey, for the Legends victory. Hayden Ottinger and Hannah Ottinger finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
NASCAR WHELEN ALL-AMERICAN SERIES LATE MODEL STOCK (60 laps)
Showing Finish Position, Starting Position In Parentheses, Driver Name, Car Number, Hometown, Laps Completed In Parentheses
1. (2) Kres VanDyke #15-Claypool Hill, VA (60)
2. (8) Ryan Stiltner #22-Grundy, VA (60)
3. (3) Chad Finchum #19-Knoxville, TN (60)
4. (6) Derrick Lancaster #25-Christiansburg, VA (60)
5. (1) Lee Tissot #7-Asheville, NC (60)
6. (14) Ronnie McCarty #5-Kingsport, TN (60)
7. (4) Paul Nogradi Jr. #02-Clinton, TN (60)
8. (7) Zack Walton #38-Blountville, TN (60)
9. (11)) Tyler Goodwin #64-Kingsport, TN (60)
10. (9) Joey Trent #26-Gray, TN (59)
11. (12) Justin Fontaine #60-Fletcher, NC (59)
12. (13) Rick Pannell #33-Kingsport, TN (57)
13. (16) Austin Peters #48-Kingsport, TN (57)
14. (17) Phil Harris #55-Johnson City, TN (55)
15. (15) Luke Fox #94-Weaverville, NC (54)
16. (5) Zeke Shell #97-Johnson City, TN (46)
17. (10) Wayne Hale #19-Bluff City, TN (45)
18. (18) Adam Gray #37-Kingsport, TN (3)
STREET STOCK (30 laps)
1. John Harrell #19
2. Alan Rich #03
3. Nick Cole #63
4. Rob Austin #25
5. Royce Peters #48
6. Jared Broadbent #74
7. Chris Tunnell #6
8. Mark Christian #43
9. Steve Sims #10
10. Sam P. Hurd #11
11. Jared Bruner #8
12. Danny Casteel #41
13. David Schmidt #20
14. Brian Russell #22
PURE 4 (25 laps)
1. Kenny Absher #11
2. John Ketron #26
3. Kirby Gobble #74
4. Keith Helton #9
5. Jason Ketron #28
6. Jon Pittman #00
7. Lloyd Baker #7
8. Billy Byington #01
9. Tim Abelseth #66
10. Tim Jennings #16
11. B.C. Penley #7
12. Matthew Ford #97
13. David Trent #57
14. Todd Cross #41
15. Kenneth Street #2
16. Richard Quillen #14
17. Chris Neeley #94
18. Dylan Bates #6
19. Bruce Crumbley #33
ROOKIE PURE 4 (20 laps)
1. Brandon Crumbley #7
2. Michael Jeter #53
3. James Deese #25
4. Trey Lane #7
5. Tim Jennings #16
6. William Hale #47
7. Craig Phelps #00
8. Andrew Hill #97
9. Derek Gilliam #34
10. Chris Wilhelm #99
11. Gary Crumbley #59
12. Larry Stapleton #14
13. Larry Bowens #18
14. Seth Clement #02
15. Tammy Cross #41
PURE STREET (15 laps)
1. Roby Orr #81
2. Duke Bare #52
3. Nasty Jones #13
4. Wade Day #17
5. Iggy Greer #33
6. Rusty Ratliff #9
7. Danny Pless #1
LEGENDS (10 laps)
1. Jerry Lane #9
2. Derek Lane #19
3. Trey Lane #28
4. Hayden Ottinger #84
5. Hannah Ottinger #97