Kres VanDyke started the 2014 NASCAR Whelen All-American Racing Series season off with a bang by winning the first two races at Kingsport Speedway, leading flag-to-flag for each victory.
On the season VanDyke, from Claypool Hill, Va., has recorded three victories at the .375-mile banked concrete oval in the Model City, with six top-five finishes (three wins, two second-place and one third-place effort) overall, while sitting atop the point standings entering the month of June.
Competing on Saturdays at Lonesome Pine Raceway, located in Coeburn, Va., VanDyke has two victories to his credit with six top-five finishes (two wins, two second-place, one third-place and one fifth-place effort) overall, and currently sits third in the point standings.
This past Saturday at LPR, VanDyke timed-in fourth quickest in qualifying for the 100-lap Late Model Stock main event. Choosing to just ride and take care of his rubber (tires) in the first half of the race, VanDyke trailed Chad Finchum, Ryan Stiltner and Brian Blevins.
Following a late-race restart on lap 77, VanDyke powered into a lead he would never relinquish en route to capturing his second win of the season and fifth overall combined between Kingsport Speedway and Lonesome Pine Raceway.
“Man, that was a tough race and I definitely had to get up on the wheel to earn that trip to victory lane,” said a smiling VanDyke. “It was good, hard-nosed short-track racing at its best between Chad (Finchum), (Ryan) Stiltner, Brian (Blevins) and myself. I guess any of the four of us could’ve won the race, but I’m very thankful to have come out on top.
“After setting fast-time at Kingsport Speedway the night before and leading early in the race just to have to settle for a third-place run, it was great to get the victory Saturday at Lonesome Pine Raceway.”
In the latest (June 1, 2014) NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national points, VanDyke is ninth in the standings ranked among the top 500 in the country and Canada. Between competing at Kingsport Speedway and Lonesome Pine Raceway, VanDyke has recorded five victories and 12 top-five finishes out of 14 starts. To view the NWAAS national points click http://hometracks.nascar.com/standings/Whelen-All-American-Series/national_top500/2014.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a harder worker than VanDyke, be it around the racetrack or during the week at his full-time job mining coal thousands of feet underground.
VanDyke works the night (graveyard) shift at the Consol Energy mining operation in Oakwood, and spends time preparing the race car for another weekend of racing at Kingsport Speedway and Lonesome Pine Raceway as time allows during the week.
Sleep during the week, that’s something VanDyke hardly knows the meaning of.
“I work hard in the (coal) mine all week,” said VanDyke. “Usually around 50-60 hours a week is what I’ll put in. Working underground as a coal miner will get you in good shape physically. Between working in the mine and then the time I’ll spend back in the shop working on the race car, it’s tough to find time for sleep. I go on adrenaline, I guess.
“You’ve got to work on your (racing) equipment during the week if you expect to run up front on race night. After I work overnight Thursday and get off Friday morning, I’ll stay up all day working on the race car before time to go race at Kingsport Speedway.
There’s a saying that good things come to those who wait, and VanDyke waited over a decade between victories at Kingsport Speedway.
Having won at “The Concrete Jungle” on May 3, 2002, when he finished runner-up in Late Model Stock points for the season, he wouldn’t visit victory lane again until June 21, 2013. But in all fairness to the 33-year-old VanDyke, the track sat closed from end of 2002 until reopening for weekly NASCAR Whelen All-American Series sanctioned racing in 2011.
VanDyke began racing in the mini-stock Mod 4 class at Lonesome Pine Raceway in 1998, and just two years later won 15 races and a track championship. In VanDyke’s first full-season racing Late Model Stocks in 2001 at Kingsport Speedway, he finished third in points. One year later in 2002, he lost the championship in the final race of the season by just one-point to Robbie Ferguson.
“To say the least, that was heartbreaking to be so close to winning the championship, yet wind up losing by just one-point,” said VanDyke while shaking his head. “But, hey, I guess that’s just racing. Overall, though, for my first two seasons racing a Late Model Stock, we did very well and I’m quite proud of our showing. I really hated seeing the track (Kingsport Speedway) close following the ’02 season. After that happened, over the next decade I didn’t really race much period.”
Getting off to such a hot start to the 2014 racing season for VanDyke didn’t catch him by surprise.
“We put the hard work in back at the shop over the winter off-season, and you see the dividends it paid when we came out of the gate strong on opening day to win at Kingsport Speedway,” VanDyke stated. “We didn’t win because we caught a lucky break or anything. We won because we put forth the necessary hard work to have our equipment well prepared. We’ve got a good car, but just look at the caliber of competition you’re racing against every Friday night. There are about eight cars on any given night capable of winning if they just hit the right (chassis) combination and then drive a smart race.
“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.”
There are many to thank for being there to support VanDyke with his racing. Dedication and determination, both describe his passion for racing.
“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,” VanDyke said. “Wade Day (WD Performance) helps me some working on the setup of the car, but it’s mainly just me and my dad working on the car during the week and then I’ve got some buddies who will help out on race night. 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. When we show up to the track, rest assured we’ll give it our best effort to run up front and contend for the win.
“We’re leading the point standings at Kingsport Speedway and we’re third in points at Lonesome Pine Raceway. When you look at the NASCAR Home Tracks national point standings and see you’re ranked ninth out of drivers from all across the United States and even at NASCAR sanctioned tracks in Canada, that’s just awesome. I don’t know, maybe it’s too early still in the season to even be thinking about winning a championship. But I can tell you, if we do win the title it will be the greatest accomplishment to this point in my racing career. We’re going to give it our very best, and we’ll see how everything plays out. That’s all you can do, put forth your best effort and then hope you’ve done enough.”
The next racing action for VanDyke at Kingsport Speedway will be on Friday, June 13, with the next racing program scheduled at Lonesome Pine Raceway set for Saturday, June 21.
Besides Kres VanDyke behind the wheel of the Late Model Stock, the race team is headed at the track by crew chief Kenneth “Bayne” VanDyke, with crew members Kevin Canter, Chris Barbour, Todd Estep, Jeff Hale, Austin Williams and Hershell Robinette.
Supporters for Kres VanDyke Racing in 2014 on the No. 15 Ford Fusion include: Service Fuel Inc., Pizza Plus, Catch 22, RW Race Engines, Townsend Race Cars, WD Performance, AR Bodies, Pro Image Graphics, 84EXPO, Randall Perry Motorsports Photography and Walden Motorsports Communications.
To learn more about possible sponsor opportunities with Kres VanDyke Racing, contact Kres VanDyke at (276) 701-9815. To keep up with VanDyke’s racing throughout the season visit his Facebook page at Kres Vandyke Racing.
– Photo credit: Randall Perry (RPM Photos and official Kingsport Speedway photographer).