KINGSPORT, Tenn. — Ronnie McCarty of Kingsport just might have picked up the nickname “Ace,” because on consecutive weekends in mid-December he had a smile on his face while handling hardware.
McCarty was honored for his Kingsport Speedway championship, plus Tennessee NASCAR Whelen All-American Series title, with other track and state/province champions from across the United States and Canada as part of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series awards banquet on Dec. 11 at the Charlotte Convention Center and NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina.
This past Saturday night in the Model City at MeadowView Conference Resort and Convention Center, McCarty was recognized for winning the Kingsport Speedway championship.
McCarty finished the 2015 racing season ranked 34th out of the top 500 drivers in the North American standings in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, posting six victories, 17 top-five and 20 top-10 finishes in 21 starts at Kingsport Speedway. He also had seven fast-time pole awards. The 2015 racing season turned out to be a breakout year for the 29-year-old McCarty, who competed weekly at Kingsport Speedway in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model Stock Car division. Back during the winter months while preparing the No. 5 Ford Fusion for the upcoming racing campaign at “The Concrete Jungle,” McCarty and members of the race team discussed what their goals would be.
“You know, back when we (Ronnie McCarty Racing members) were kind of sitting around one night at the race shop, we got to talking about what we hoped to accomplish with our racing efforts this season,” said McCarty earlier in the evening prior to awards being handed out at the Kingsport Speedway banquet. “Our goals were to show up at the track with the race car well-prepared, ready to hopefully run strong and contend for race wins. Some people asked us, ‘Are you planning on running for the point championship?’ Well, really what we mainly wanted to focus on was just trying to win races.
“Sure, in the back of our minds we wanted to hopefully put ourselves in position to contend for a track championship, but you don’t want to really get wrapped up thinking about racing for points right out of the gate. When you get in that mindset, you race conservatively and you’re not racing for wins. And that’s what we wanted to accomplish, was to win races. We got our first-ever NASCAR victory last year and we hoped to visit victory lane as often as possible headed into 2015.”
McCarty began the season with an eighth-place run, followed by a runner-up finish and then a victory in just the third race, with a third-place effort in the fourth event of the season to firmly establish himself as a legitimate contender for the track title. McCarty reeled off three straight victories to begin the month of May. He would go on to capture two additional wins for a total of six on the season. But more importantly in his bid to win the Kingsport Speedway championship – he was recording top-five finishes in each race – which in turn helped vault him to the top of the point leaderboard.
“We started the season off by recording several top-five finishes and found ourselves with momentum on our side and we were right in the hunt to where we had to kind of rethink our race strategy heading into summer and the second half of the season, because we were leading the point standings,” McCarty said. “Let me tell you, when you get to points racing you’re just a bundle of nerves. Are you trying to win races, or are you just trying to bring home the best finish you can in the race to help you points-wise? I can tell you, we wanted to win races. But as a race car driver and for the team also, how many times in your career will you be able to legitimately contend for a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series championship?
“We won our sixth race on July 17, and really from that point on until the end of the season we raced conservatively. We had to, because you’ve got to race smart and not allow yourself to get into risky situations where you’ll be in trouble and possibly get caught up in a wreck. If you’re parked in the pits with a torn-up race car, at the finish in the race you’re not getting maximum points from being out on the track.”
Winning both the Kingsport Speedway and also Tennessee NASCAR Whelen All-American Series state championships, capped off a “dream season” for the third-generation racer McCarty.
“It’s really hard to put into words what we accomplished in 2015 means to not just me personally, but for our race team,” McCarty said while reflecting on what his family-owned race team experienced. “There are several really good drivers at Kingsport Speedway, I’m going to say that weekly there was at least seven or eight cars capable of winning the race. To win my first-ever track and also earn the Tennessee NASCAR Whelen All-American Series state title, it’s just the greatest feeling in the world. I’m not going to say as a boy attending Sullivan North High School when I first started racing that I never dreamed about hopefully one day I’d be a NASCAR champion, but to actually accomplish that means so much. It’s special, very special. Racing means a lot to my family, with my late papaw (Tom Ketron) and also my mother, Gina McCarty having raced.
“Going over to Charlotte at the NASCAR Hall of Fame and being recognized as a track and state NASCAR champion, being there with racers from all across the country – that was an awesome experience. But I didn’t do it by myself, there were many who supported me each and every week along the way. My dad and mom (Ron and Gina McCarty), I just can’t thank them enough for all the opportunities they’ve provided me throughout my life. Then there’s my crew chief Mark Ketron, who’s a former racer and very knowledgeable about working on the race car, he just helped try to keep me calm over the radio on race nights and I guess you could say guide me around the track. Pit crew members Mike Loyd, Kevin Street and Kellie Hopper, those guys were dedicated in working on the car both at the shop during the week and at the track on race night. And last, but certainly not least, is the great support from my fiancée Patricia Dygert.”
Supporters for Ronnie McCarty Racing in 2015 on the No. 5 Ford Fusion included: Luv Homes of Kingsport (423-323-3588) / Ron’s Mobile Home Parts & Service of Kingsport (423-288-3020, located just out past Kingsport Speedway at 3028 N. John B. Dennis Hwy.) / Corner’s Nest Antique Mall in Elizabethton / Bill Parsons Insurance Agency in Bristol, Va. / A-Hood Bail Bonds of Kingsport / Charlie Long Race Engines / Marlowe Racing Chassis / Performancenter Racing Warehouse (Statesville, N.C. 704-838-1400).