It’s been a season of firsts for Chad Finchum.
Fresh off his first-career win in the NASCAR K&N East Series on April 16th at Bristol Motor Speedway, Finchum collected his first-ever checkered flag at Motor Mile Speedway Saturday, routing a field of accomplished regulars en route to victory in the Shelor Motor Mile 150.
It marked Finchum’s third win in three NASCAR starts in 2016.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Finchum said. “We’ve had great success running at different tracks throughout the southeast, but this has been one on my bucket list.”
In just his second-career O’Reilly Auto Parts Late Model division start, Ryan Repko snared the Price’s Body Shop pole award. Repko led the 13-car field to the green flag, but a miscue in turn three on the opening circuit triggered the first and only caution of the contest. Carnage engulfed turns three and four after Repko’s no. 14 drifted up the banking and into Tommy Lemons, Jr. The contact sent Lemons careening into the path of Brandon Butler and Philip Morris, and subsequent impacts with both entries sheered away the front end of Lemons’ no. 27. Lemons was relegated to the garage; Butler and Morris soldiered on with cosmetic damage.
“He got us one time, and I thought I had it saved,” Lemons said. “He got us again, and I got turned around in front of the field. It ended our day.”
Displaying maturity beyond his years, the 16 year-old shouldered the blame for the incident.
“I just got loose, overcorrected, and got into him,” Repko explained.
Butler inherited the lead on the lap one restart, pacing the race for the opening 28 laps of the contest before relinquishing the point to Lee Pulliam. Over the next 17 circuits, an increasing collection of slower traffic began impeding Pulliam’s progress— a development that allowed Finchum to erase the gap and converge on Pulliam’s no. 5.
The third and final lead change of the race occurred on lap 45, with Finchum maneuvering to the inside of Pulliam in turn one. It proved to be the pass for the win.
After utilizing the bottom groove to amass a three-second-plus advantage, Finchum journeyed topside, building a colossal 5.068-second lead by race’s end. At the checkers, only the top three performers remained on the lead lap. Pulliam placed second, and Butler, despite the damage sustained in the lap one crash, finished third —a staggering 13.933 seconds behind the winner.
“I don’t think we suffered any major damage. Kinda got lucky,” Butler said of the contact. “We had a good car last week, and it didn’t turn out the way we wanted. We’re going to have something to race them with before long.”
After a convincing sweep of the April 16th twinbill, Pulliam was left puzzled by Finchum’s domination in the 150-lap feature.
“We had a good car, that’s what’s so bad about it. It was a real good car,” Pulliam acknowledged. “In the last 50 laps I started riding, just hoping we might get a caution. Just trying to play chess. It just didn’t work out.
“We gotta do our homework,” Pulliam concluded.
The remarkable performance came as a surprise to many, including the winning driver.
“I was shocked. I think we knew we had that kind of a car, but I didn’t think we had that good of a car,” Finchum said. “We’re on a good streak right now, and I hope we can keep it up.”
IN OTHER DIVISIONS
Scott Lancaster visited victory lane in the Collision Plus Limited Sportsman division Saturday, leading rag-to-rag in the 50-lap heat. It was the twelfth-career win for the 2014 track champion.
Karl Budzevski finished second, and Amber Balcaen claimed third following a disqualification to Brian Sutphin in post-race inspection.
Chucky Williams snapped a six-race winless streak dating back to June 28th, 2015 with a victory in the 30-lap MOD-4 sprint. Williams bested Doodle Lang and Joshua Gobble to claim the checkers.
Rodney Dye and Sparky Staton took top honors in the Southern Ground Pounders’ Motor Mile Speedway series debut. The 25-lap race featured two divisions of throwback race cars, with Dye’s 1935 Ford modified winning the Modified class and Staton’s 1955 Chevrolet claiming the checkers in the Sportsman class. The popular vintage racing series returns on August 6th.
-Motor Mile Press Release. Photo credit: Joe Millis/Motor Mile Speedway