As Zeke Shell struggled to get past Derrick Lancaster in the battle for second place, Hale pulled away in his No. 19 Ford in the 60-lap Late Model Stock feature for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. By the time Shell finally cleared Lancaster, Hale was well on his way to the victory.
While Hale is a two-time runner-up in the track point standings at Kingsport, it was just the Bluff City driver's second ever win on the 3/8-mile concrete oval.
"It's good to win this early in the season," Hale said. "Last week, we had some circumstances with the car being torn up, but we still finished fourth. We pieced it back together. I liked getting the win and getting the points. The championship is really what we're after."
Shell finished second in the No. 1 Ford after having a tough time getting around Lancaster. He bumped Lancaster in the back a couple of times, getting his No. 25 Chevrolet sideways before letting him regain control.
With seven laps to go, Shell finally got alongside Lancaster in a paint-trading battle before pulling ahead and bringing third-place Kres VanDyke in the No. 15 Chevrolet with him.
"You have to give a little and take a little," said Shell, whose car turned the fastest lap in qualifying at 15.033 seconds. "Derrick Lancaster had a good piece, and he didn't deserve to have me wrecking him and having issues with him. I just let him know that I was in a hurry a few times. I got around him, but it was just too late. I just ran out of laps."
VanDyke talked about the race being slowed by only one caution period after yellow flags flew multiple times the previous week. With the long run, the cars’ brake rotors glowed orange against the nighttime backdrop.
"We had the long run and I got the brakes pretty hot and the tires got sliding, and we lost a lot of ground," VanDyke said. "I was trying to gain it back there. Everybody was tight there for a long time. You could about thrown a blanket over all of us. It was good racing."
Nik Williams of Greeneville finished fourth, while Jonesborough's Robbie Ferguson rounded out the top five, finally muscling his way past the fading car of Lancaster on the final lap. Ferguson wasn't happy with Lancaster blocking the cars behind him the second half of the race.
"Derrick got real tight and he finally left the door open with a couple to go where I was able to get under him," Ferguson said. "I was able to squeeze in there and get a top-five. You can make that car seem 30-foot wide if you want to. That's a driver's prerogative. Derrick has been driving long enough to know that's his prerogative, but it's mine to get by him. That's the way race car drivers handle it."
Lancaster finished sixth, ahead of Kingsport driver Ronnie McCarty in seventh. Trey Bayne, the 14-year-old brother of NASCAR Cup Series driver Trevor Bayne, was eighth in just his third start in a Late Model Stock car.
Derek Lane of Kingsport finished ninth and Bryson Dennis, a Greeneville driver who is transitioning from dirt late models to the paved oval, rounded out the top 10. Joey Trent of Gray was 11th, one spot ahead of 14-year-old Sullivan South freshman Dillon Hodge, who had started on the pole when the top six qualifiers were inverted at the start.
Kevin Canter, driving the black No. 3 Chevrolet, swept twin features for the Mod 4 division.
Joshua Gobble won in the Mod Street division, as Kevin Wolfe escaped from his wrecked car after a hard crash crushed the right front and caught the car on fire. John Ketron won a wreck-filled Pure 4 division race, while other winners were Doug Austin (Pure Street) and Duke Bare (Vintage).