One of the big stories coming into the 2016 racing season was depth of regular competitors boasted by the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, but at Saturday’s end at Bristol Motor Speedway in the PittLite 125, it was one of the local drivers Chad Finchum, with up-and-coming team Martin McClure Racing that had nabbed both the trophy and the headlines.
Finchum and the team made their first start of the 2016 season at the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile”, putting together a solid effort on Friday by qualifying fourth. Harrison Burton led the field from the pole while Finchum moved up to second despite a start that wasn’t to his liking.
A restart on Lap 14 put Finchum to the inside of Burton, which has not been the preferred area at Bristol in recent years. Burton bobbled on the restart allowing Finchum to take the lead for good. When Burton fell out after a parts failure, Kyle Benjamin became Finchum’s main competition the rest of the race, with Finchum also focusing on nailing restarts.
“As the race went on I kept trying to do different things and perfect the restart,” Finchum explained to the media after the race. “Obviously the outside in the Xfinity race and in our race was the way to go in years past, so I just relied on that, and I just kept everything just nice and clean and smooth. I knew that Kyle Benjamin and a couple of other guys were really strong behind. My spotter came on the radio a couple of restarts about halfway through and we’d go ‘Clear by two, three, four,’ and we’d just hold that gap. I knew we had the speed to get it, I was just making sure we didn’t make a mistake.”
Finchum, who hails from the city of Knoxville, TN just down the road on I-81, has been coming to Bristol for many years, witnessing many NASCAR moments over those seasons. He has also made multiple K&N East starts in 2012, 2013, and 2015, with the goal of achieving that dream victory.
“I came here as a fan for many years and watched people like Earnhardt, Labonte and all the best.” Finchum recalled. “I’ve been running at the local level for quite some time and had great success there. This is my fourth trip to Bristol, we came here three times prior with our own car and our best finish was seventh. When Eric and Hal made this team with Reynold’s Wrap on the car, they gave me the call and they said ‘Will you come drive for us? This is what we are going to do.’ I was so happy, happier than I am right now, I couldn’t thank them and the whole organization more.”
A veteran of the Late Model Stock ranks, Finchum has won track championships at Lonesome Pine Raceway in 2014, and his home track of Kingsport Speedway in 2013. Kingsport, like Bristol, also has a concrete surface with high banks, which is to his liking.
“Coming from Kingsport being a concrete surface, high banked, short track, this is kind of my playground. I love the short tracks, I love the concrete tracks.”
In the end, he gave all the credit to his crew, the ownership team of Hal Martin and Eric McClure, and veteran crew chief Chris Carrier. It was the first win for the Martin-McClure team since coming on the scene in K&N East last summer.
“We had success today, we showed a lot of potential, and I hope that carry through,” Finchum said proudly. “All the ‘pat on the backs’ go to Chris Carrier, all the guys that work in the garage, Hal and Eric, I just showed up and drove. They put this car together, they built one really nice piece, a lot of hours on it. I drove from Knoxville to Virginia working on it probably three or four days a week. Outside of the racetrack, that’s what we have been doing and all the hard work payed off. I’m proud of each and every one of them.”
The team is running a part time schedule the rest of the season, but hopes that they can possibly do a bit more with this great success.
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-By Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com State Editor (CT, MA, LI) – Twitter @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com
NASCAR K&N Pro Series East PittLite125
Bristol Motor Speedway, Bristol, Tennessee
|11||30||Dominique Van Wieringen|
|18||6||Ruben Garcia Jr||N/A|
|19||04||Ronnie Bassett Jr.||-33|
|22||42||J.A. Junior Avila||OUT|