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VanDyke holds off Shell in Kingsport opener

Jeff Birchfield • Mar 31, 2018 at 9:21 PM

KINGSPORT—Defending track champion Kres Van Dyke made his sponsor happy in Saturday's season-opening Food City 175 at Kingsport Speedway, although Zeke Shell made sure it didn't come easy.

VanDyke, driving the No. 15 Food City Chevrolet, held off Shell in the No. 1 Budweiser Ford to win the featured 60-lap Late Model Stock race at the 3/8-mile concrete oval.

In qualifying, VanDyke set a new track record of 14.869 seconds (90.793 mph), followed by Shell at 14.879 (90.732). But, Shell didn't follow for long, taking the lead away on lap 4.

VanDyke regained the top spot on lap 18 and held off Shell after some closely contested restarts, which included Shell taking the lead at the line on lap 41.

"We would get a little lead and then try to save tires and brakes because you never know when you're going to get a caution," VanDyke said. "The crew has done a great job the last couple of months working this car and we knew we were going to be fast with a pretty sporty car. We're making our sponsors happy and collecting wins, although Zeke was sure staying after me."

Shell wanted the win, but the Johnson City driver finished about six car lengths — at .784 of a second — behind VanDyke at the finish. He gave it his best shot, challenging VanDyke even on a final restart with eight laps to go.

"About halfway through the race, we knew we didn't have what it took to win," Shell said. "We accepted that, but that wasn't the point. We had a little life left in the car and tires, so we were going to use it up and have fun doing it."

Mike Looney, a Catawba, Va., driver, rounded out the top three in his No. 87 Chevrolet, followed by Wayne Hale of Bluff City in the No. 19 Ford and Robbie Ferguson of Jonesborough in the No. 7 Ford.

"VanDyke was tough, we had a couple of tough cars out of Virginia and Zeke Shell is tough every day," Ferguson said. "You can't count any of them out. We had a good top-five car, but we have a little work to do to pick up speed and run with those top two."

YOUNGER BAYNE DEBUTS

Trevor Bayne, the 2011 Daytona 500 winner, was at the track to see his 14-year-old brother, Trey, make his Kingsport debut. Trey Bayne qualified and finished 13th with the right-front fender ripped off at the end.

"It's really wild here," Trey Bayne said. "It's really a learning curve, but I hear this is the toughest track to get around. You're always around cars and trying to get around them."

LOCAL DRIVER REACTION

Kingsport driver Derek Lane finished eighth after opting to give up his eighth-place qualifying spot to start at the back of the field.

"We had a good car, but with the way other races had gone here today, I opted to start in the back," he said. "We had a bunch of new guys out there who had raced before but didn't have experience in a Late Model and it was all new to them. I wanted to ride it out and then decided to go. We came out of here with a good finish — no damage on the car — so it was a pretty good day."

Two-time track champion Ronnie McCarty of Kingsport finished ninth after an early incident which sent Nik Williams of Greeneville spinning.

"We missed our set-up a little with some last-minute tire-pressure adjustments," McCarty said. "You miss it a little here and you're off a lot. Then we had a little trouble at the start. I was trying to stay off Wayne (Hale) and I touched Nik's car.

“He was trying to do a crossover and I wasn't expecting it. I thought he would collect it, but he didn't. It was my fault and I take credit for that."

Joey Trent of Gray finished 10th and he was happy to come away with no damage after some fierce racing throughout the 60 laps.

"The first couple of cars were in a different class," Trent said. "We had one of the best qualifying runs we've ever had, but the car got tight throughout the day and I really had to fight for the top 10. I had to crank the steering wheel at the end, but that's a good way to start the year, taking the car back in one piece without really a scuff on it."

MOD STREET

Royce Peters bolted out front from the outside pole position at the start of the 30-lap feature.

His No. 42 Chevrolet stayed out front the first 22 laps until getting tapped from behind coming off turn 2 by the No. 63 Chevy of Nick Cole. It set off a wild chain of events with six caution periods over the rest of the race before Peters regained the lead with two laps to go.

Cole was chasing him at the end, finishing second and Kevin Wolfe finished third.

MOD 4

Brad Ball took an early lead when pole sitter Kevin Canter got caught up in an early skirmish and led the rest of the 30 laps.

Dennis Arnold finished second in the red No. 7, while Canter, in the black No. 3 designed to look like Dale Earnhardt's old ride, rallied from four laps down to finish third.

PURE 4

Kenny Absher and pole-sitter Brandon Southerland traded the lead three times over an 11-lap stretch before Absher made winning pass on lap 22.

Southerland faded to fourth as Bruce Crumbley moved to second and Todd Duff was third. Absher passed Duff with two laps to go to finish third.

PURE STREET

Rob Austin made a last-lap pass of Joey Sykes and then held on as both drivers' cars got sideways off turn 4 for the Pure Street win.

Austin, in the No. 18 Chevrolet, passed Sykes for the lead a first time on lap 9 when Sykes got loose coming off turn 2. Sykes got into the side of Austin two laps later, sending him into a spin and to the back of the pack.

Both raced past Jay Swecker in the No. 77 Chevy to set up the dramatic finish.

the dramatic finish.

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