MORRISTOWN, Tenn. — Lance Gatlin loves to race, but he’s not been behind the wheel of a race car full-time since his championship-winning season a couple of years ago at Lonesome Pine Raceway in Coeburn, Va.
Gatlin will have two upcoming opportunities as Kingsport Speedway and LPR will host a big Fourth of July holiday weekend doubleheader on Friday, July 4 and Saturday, July 5, with the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model Stocks headlining the Independence Clash racing programs.
Each night’s 125-lap features pay $2,000-to-win and they’re presented by Freedom Ford of Wise, Va., and WQUT FM 101.5 in the Tri-Cities. Also, Century 21 Pro Service Realtors broker/realtor Teresa Isaac of Johnson City is offering the “$1,000 Bonus Bucks Bonanza” should the same driver win at both tracks. Should that occur, factoring in the $1,000 bonus, that will be $5,000 for the two nights of racing.
“Oh yeah, I’m really looking forward to the ‘Independence Clash’ doubleheader weekend,” said Gatlin over this past weekend as he took a break from working on the race car. “With back-to-back nights featuring 125 laps of NASCAR sanctioned racing and $2,000-to-win each race, there should be a pretty good field of cars for these shows. Plus, you’ve got the $1,000 bonus if the same driver can win both races, and that would be a $5,000 payday for the weekend. When I saw the two tracks were combining to do this Fourth of July weekend show, and each race being 125 laps, I knew I had to somehow put a deal together so I could run both races.
“I’ve got a really good Billy Hess (Hess Racing Products Inc.) race car that I’m going to run. I was just looking around trying to decide what kind of car I wanted to drive, and I know the Hess race cars are good pieces and win races everywhere. An opportunity presented itself to run the (Hess) car, and I really think we should be right in the mix to hopefully contend for a win – or at least top-five finish. I’ll also have a good powerplant under the hood with a Jeremy Upchurch Ultratech Race Development engine. I’m planning on being at Kingsport Speedway on Thursday for open practice so we can really work with the car and get it dialed-in for Friday’s racing program.”
The 2012 racing season was a dream campaign for the 29-year-old Gatlin, who’s married to wife Kerry and they have an infant daughter. On the strength of capturing 10 feature wins and recording a total of 14 top-five finishes, along with earning five pole awards, Gatlin, driving the Nolan Nance, Harold Nance and Jeff Douglas-owned Holston River Machine No. 97 Ford Fusion won the Lonesome Pine Raceway Late Model championship. But on a much grander scale, he finished second nationally in American Speed Association points and won the ASA East Regional championship.
Gatlin was faced with a tough decision during the off-season following his LPR championship. It was basically a done-deal that he would be taking a different job, which wouldn’t allow him to race full time. However, after having already informed his team owners and they’d found a new driver, the job didn’t materialize and Gatlin was left sitting on the sidelines during the 2013 racing season. He did make a couple of starts, which only whetted his appetite for racing even more.
Gatlin, who lives in Morristown and is originally from Jefferson City, has captured 40 career Late Model victories. He hasn’t raced any this season at “The Concrete Jungle,” but last October in the Robert Pressley Invitational, Friends of Coal – We Support Coal Miners 125, he recorded a strong fourth-place finish and was in contention to get the victory until having a flat-tire late in the race. But he battled back over the final 24 laps to get a top-five finish from the stellar 25-car field present.
“Sure, as a racer you always want to win,” Gatlin said with a smile on his face. “We had a really strong run last fall in the big race former promoter Robert Pressley put on. I really believe we would’ve been right there in the fight for victory in the race, but we had a flat (tire) and after coming into the pits to get it changed, we had to race our way back up through the field.
“But we finished fourth and were pleased overall, especially considering I just don’t have much racing experience at Kingsport Speedway. I’ve mainly raced at Lonesome Pine Raceway and Newport Speedway in my career. I was just very appreciative that Jeff and Jason Herron let me drive their J&J Racing ride. Those guys are super-nice and they’ve got really good equipment.”
Like a lot of racers, Gatlin started out in go-karts from age 10-14 and by the time he stepped aside he’d recorded over 50 karting victories. As a teenager in 2000, he began racing in the Limited Sportsman division at 411 Motor Speedway just outside of Knoxville, where he claimed Rookie-of-the-Year honors.
He first strapped in behind the wheel of a Late Model Stock for the 2002 racing season at Newport Motor Speedway, where he had several good runs and wound up being named the division’s Rookie-of-the-Year. During his senior year of high school in 2003, Gatlin began racing with the Hendersonville, N.C.-based United Auto Racing Association-Southern Touring Asphalt Racing Series.
Due to lack of funding (sponsors) that prevented him from continuing to travel with the UARA-STARS around the Southeast, Gatlin teamed-up with car owner Ron Jenkins to make a run for the Newport Motor Speedway Late Model Stock title in 2004. A stellar season with eight victories catapulted Gatlin to the track championship. Gatlin cherishes the memories from over five years racing with the late Jenkins, who passed away recently.
Supporters of Lance Gatlin on the Lance Gatlin Racing No. 52 Toyota Camry for the Fourth of July weekend Independence Clash at Kingsport Speedway and Lonesome Pine Raceway include: Appalachian Animal Health Center of Grundy, Va., Warren Stenson DDS of Jefferson City, Tenn., Hunley Built Shocks, Hess Racing Products Inc., Ultratech Race Development, WD Performance (Wade Day), Pro Image Graphics, Mitch West, Jeremy Pike, Kevin Morgan, J&J Racing, Randall Perry Motorsports Photography and Walden Motorsports Communications.
For more information regarding marketing opportunities with Lance Gatlin Racing, contact Lance Gatlin at (865) 898-7653.
– Lance Gatlin Press Release