KINGSPORT, Tenn. (Aug. 28, 2015) — The 2015 racing campaign kicked off on a sunny Saturday afternoon back in March, marking the 50th anniversary of Kingsport Speedway. Many former racers from the track’s glorious past were present Friday for Racers Reunion/Championship Night at the Races in the season finale.
With his success in stock car racing over the past few years, winning back-to-back NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national championships, it’s not like Lee Pulliam of Alton, Va., really had anything left to check off his “bucket list” except, finally capturing a NWAAS victory in the Volunteer State. He had visited Kingsport Speedway a couple of times back in 2012 only to come up a little short of reaching victory lane.
Pulliam pulled alongside defending track champion Kres VanDyke with five laps remaining in the 75-lap “First Kingsport Credit Union” Late Model Stock Car feature to challenge for the lead, and ultimately the race victory. The duo received the white flag battling side-by-side, and that’s how they came off the fourth turn headed to the checkered flag, with Pulliam barely edging VanDyke for the win by just a couple of feet.
“Wow, was that an exciting finish or what,” said a smiling Pulliam after climbing from his car in victory lane. “To be quite honest, I didn’t know if I was going to be able and get to (Kres) VanDyke. After I got around the 19-car (Chad Finchum), VanDyke was several car lengths ahead and the laps were quickly winding down.
“I caught him there with five laps remaining and I felt good about our chances. Racing here a few years ago I’d come up short for the win on the final lap racing off the fourth turn, and I wasn’t about to let that happen again. I was able to get alongside of VanDyke there with three laps to go, and what a battle we had until the checkered flag waved. There on the final lap, we were door-to-door all the way around this place and then as we raced off the fourth turn, it was a drag race to the start-finish line. That’s what racing’s all about, and the fans definitely saw an exciting finish.”
Chad Finchum of Knoxville, the 2013 track champion, won the season-opener but wasn’t racing weekly as he was concentration on making some NASCAR K&N Pro Series starts. In pole qualifying, Finchum set fast-time at 15.019 seconds, with VanDyke right on his heels at 15.039.
Finchum grabbed the lead at start over VanDyke, Kyle Barnes, Zeke Shell and Ronnie McCarty. VanDyke pulled alongside Finchum on the fifth circuit to challenge for the lead, and after running three laps racing side-by-side VanDyke moved to the point. Barnes began pressuring Finchum for the second spot, but unfortunately he suffered a flat left-front tire on lap 10 at end of the front straightaway entering the first turn and slowed to a stop bringing out the caution.
VanDyke pulled back ahead off the double-file restart over Finchum, McCarty, Shell and Pulliam. With the race running clean-and-green, VanDyke began to put some distance between himself and those giving chase behind him, holding almost a half-straightaway advantage at lap 30.
Racing off the second corner on lap 40, Pulliam moved past Shell for the fourth spot. Entering the night with a commanding points lead for the track Late Model Stock Car championship, disaster struck McCarty on lap 50 at end of the backstretch entering the third turn when the right-front suspension broke and McCarty hit the outside wall between turns three and four to bring out the yellow flag and ultimately the red so officials could clear the track.
The race would go back green, but only for three laps before Emilee Riley, making her first-ever start at “The Concrete Jungle” and Derek Lane got together and spun in turn two.
Once again off a double-file restart, VanDyke took the lead followed by Finchum and Pulliam. Pulliam got around Finchum for second place on lap 57 racing off the second corner, and set his sights ahead on leader VanDyke who was about 10 car lengths ahead.
Pulliam slowly began cutting into VanDyke’s advantage lap-after-lap, to pull to his back bumper with five circuits left. Would the defending track champion VanDyke be able to hold the two-time defending NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion Pulliam off for the victory?
Once Pulliam got alongside of VanDyke with three laps remaining, fans stood up anticipating an exciting finish. They would not be denied, as VanDyke and Pulliam gave it all they had on the final lap with Pulliam, driving the Kiker Tree Service/Biggs & Watson Wrecker Service/Mincey’s Graphics/Kowalsky Racing Engines/JRI Shocks/Five Star Race Car Bodies/Eibach Springs/Marlowe Race Cars/No. 5 Chevrolet SS, beating VanDyke by just a couple of feet for the victory. Finishing third through fifth, respectively, were Finchum, Wayne Hale and Justin Fontaine.
Completing the top 10 finishers were Tyler Goodwin, Joey Trent, Royce Peters, Riley and Lane.
“I kind of felt like this place owed me one from my last visit here a few years ago, when I raced off the fourth turn with Nate Monteith and Adam Long three-wide for the win, with Monteith getting the victory,” said Pulliam. “There’s some really tough competition here, and it’s not easy for somebody that doesn’t run here weekly to come in and outrun these guys. We had to work hard for this win tonight.
“It feels good to say I’ve finally won a race at ‘The Concrete Jungle’ and also this is the fourth state (along with Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina) that I’ve now won NASCAR Whelen All-American Series races in. The season’s winding down and I’m chasing wins and points in trying to win another national championship.”
McCarty captured the Late Model Stock Car track championship.
Jared Broadbent took the lead at start of the 40-lap Street Stock feature over John Harrell and Keith Stiltner, with Greg Grindstaff and Paul Shull close behind. Caution waved on lap 11 when Danny Casteel got into the backstretch outside wall racing off turn two.
Broadbent jumped back out to the lead off the restart, followed by Harrell and Stiltner. Stiltner quickly got around Harrell for second and pulled to Broadbent’s rear bumper. The racing between Broadbent, Stiltner and Harrell was tight. Stiltner, from Grundy, Va., kept looking to the inside of Broadbent racing off the corners on each end of the track, and finally powered his way past Broadbent for the lead on lap 27 racing up off (turn) two. Once out front he pulled away to win over Broadbent, Harrell, Grindstaff and Shull. Harrell, from Surgoinsville and with 11 victories this season, captured the Street Stock track championship.
John Ketron grabbed the lead over Billy Ketron and Tim Abelseth on start of the 30-lap Pure 4 feature, with son Billy overtaking his father for the lead on the third circuit. Action was fast-and-furious back through the top 10 in the running order behind the front-running trio involving Dylan Bates, Kenny Absher, Jason Ketron, Brandon Sutherland, Billy Byington, Bruce Crumbley and Keith Helton, with cars running two- and three-wide around the .375-mile banked concrete oval.
Helton, who started from deep in the field, was making a charge forward and got around Jason Ketron for the fifth spot on lap 12. Bates, from Kingsport, began pressuring Billy Ketron for the lead and made the pass for position on lap 20 racing off the second corner. Bates would go on to record his second win on the season over Helton, Abelseth, John Ketron and Billy Ketron. Jason Ketron would capture his second Pure 4 track championship.
Billy Duty jumped out to lead at start of the Mod 4 feature and led until getting spun by Jason Yates in the fourth turn to bring out the caution. This wasn’t the only incident involving the duo, as they would also exchange sheet metal later in the race. Kirby Gobble of Abingdon, Va., battled with Dennis Arnold up front before moving ahead and never looking back en route to recording his sixth win of the season. Finishing behind Gobble and Arnold were Yates, John Ketron and James Deese. Arnold, from Meadowview, Va., captured the Mod 4 track championship.
Brad Ball appeared to be on his way to winning the Pure Street feature, leading on the final lap. But racing into the third turn, Marty Tunnell drove to the inside of Ball and the ensuing contact led to both cars spinning. The last lap melee between Ball and Tunnell opened the door for Dennis Arnold of Meadowview to get the victory over Hershell Robinette, Ball, Tunnell and Dennis Deese. Nasty Jones of Chilhowie, Va., captured the Pure Street track championship.
Ben Barker of Bluff City recorded his fourth Rookie Pure 4 victory over Dwayne Banks, William Hale, Craig Phelps and Dennis Stanley. Banks, from Kingsport, captured the Rookie Pure 4 track championship.
Rusty Clendenin of Church Hill got the Legend victory over Trey Lane and Les Ottinger. Trey Lane of Kingsport captured the Legend track championship.
KINGSPORT SPEEDWAY – FRIDAY, AUGUST 28, 2015 – RACERS REUNION/CHAMPIONSHIP NIGHT AT THE RACES
NASCAR WHELEN ALL-AMERICAN SERIES “FIRST KINGSPORT CREDIT UNION” LATE MODEL STOCK CAR (75 laps)
Showing Finish Position, Starting Position In Parentheses, Driver Name, Car Number, Hometown, Laps Completed In Parentheses
1. (5) Lee Pulliam #5-Alton, VA (75)
2. (2) Kres VanDyke #15-Abingdon, VA (75)
3. (1) Chad Finchum #19-Knoxville, TN (75)
4. (7) Wayne Hale #19-Bluff City, TN (75)
5. (11) Justin Fontaine #60-Fletcher, NC (75)
6. (8) Tyler Goodwin #64-Kingsport, TN (75)
7. (15) Joey Trent #26-Gray, TN (75)
8. (10) Royce Peters #38-Kingsport, TN (75)
9. (13) Emilee Riley #21-Jasper, GA (75)
10. (12) Derek Lane #28-Kingsport, TN (75)
11. (17) Rick Pannell #33-Kingsport, TN (73)
12. (3) Ronnie McCarty #5-Kingsport, TN (53)
13. (6) Zeke Shell #97-Johnson City, TN (41)
14. (4) Kyle Barnes #15-Draper, VA (39)
15. (16) Jamie Harrison #76-Church Hill, TN (32)
16. (9) Lee Tissot #7-Asheville, NC (22)
17. (14) Allen Hawkins #14-Kingsport, TN (9)
18. (18) Tim Crosby #55-Alton, VA (1)
STREET STOCK (40 laps)
1. Keith Stiltner #22
2. Jared Broadbent #74
3. John Harrell #19
4. Greg Grindstaff #3
5. Paul Shull #48
6. Mark Christian #43
7. Dennis Deese #24
8. Danny Casteel #41
9. Sam P. Hurd #11
10. Todd Duff #16
PURE 4 (30 laps)
1. Dylan Bates #6
2. Keith Helton #9
3. Tim Abelseth #66
4. John Ketron #27
5. Billy Ketron #26
6. Kenny Absher #11
7. Jason Ketron #28
8. Brandon Sutherland #5
9. Billy Byington #01
10. Bruce Crumbley #33
11. Kevin Darnell #4
12. Billy Taylor #14
13. David Trent #57
14. Richard Quillen #15
15. Robert Darnell #79
MOD 4 (30 laps)
1. Kirby Gobble #77
2. Dennis Arnold #7
3. Jason Yates #8
4. John Ketron #2
5. James Deese #25
6. Hershell Robinette #9
7. Darrell Whitehead #43
8. Billy Duty #45
9. Chris Amburgey #17
10. Jerry Miller #01
PURE STREET (25 laps)
1. Dennis Arnold #7
2. Hershell Robinette #9
3. Brad Ball #52
4. Marty Tunnell #99
5. Dennis Deese #60
6. Travis Stoots #0
7. Nasty Jones #13
8. Roby Orr #1
ROOKIE PURE 4 (15 laps)
1. Ben Barker #54
2. Dwayne Banks #4
3. William Hale #47
4. Craig Phelps #00
5. Dennis Stanley #21
6. Wes Fields #11
7. Larry Stapleton #15
8. Robert Young #59
9. Larry Bowens #18
10. Daniel McMurray #0
11. Johnathon Stidham #14
12. Alexcia Ray #99
LEGEND (12 laps)
1. Rusty Clendenin #9
2. Trey Lane #28
3. Les Ottinger #97
-Kingsport Speedway press release. Photo Credit: Randall Perry Photography