Making just his seventh start in NASCAR Late Model Stock competition, the Knoxville driver drove away from veterans Wayne Hale and Robbie Ferguson to his first-ever victory in the second of twin 35-lap features at Kingsport Speedway.
Defending track champion Kres VanDyke won the first feature race.
Bayne, the 14-year-old brother of NASCAR Monster Cup Series driver Trevor Bayne, pulled his No. 21 Ford away from the No. 19 Ford of Hale at the start of the nightcap. He then held off a challenge from the veteran Ferguson in the blue No. 7 Ford, finally creating some distance between their two cars midway through the race and driving on to his first win.
“That was awesome. We’ve gone through some obstacles to get here, but I think we finally got it figured out,” Bayne said. “We definitely worked hard. My dad stayed up about all night last night. There have been nights and nights to get things together, but we’re finally here.”
While it wasn’t nearly as big an upset as his older brother’s win in the 2011 Daytona 500, the result was somewhat unexpected after a rough start to the season. Bayne’s first race car was demolished in a scary accident earlier on April 27, and he hadn’t finished in the top five before his winning run. However, he had a solid effort with an eight-place finish in the first race Friday and started from the pole for Race No. 2 due to a NASCAR-ruled inversion of the top finishers.
Once out front, he was there to stay. Listening to the advice of spotter and driver coach Wade Day, he was flawless in hitting his marks to hold off the group of cagey veterans.
“A couple of times Wade was telling me that I’m the man,” Bayne said. “He told me to drive it straight and protect my line and be consistent. I ran a protective line to hold them off, but then I was able to pull away from them, so that was good.”
Ferguson, the 2002 track champion from Jonesborough, was impressed by the poise shown by Bayne in position for his first win.
“He just outran us,” Ferguson said. “We had something for him early, but the car got tight and once it got tight, he rolled off from me and I couldn’t do nothing with him. We keep ringing off the top fives, but we will roll in there and win one before it’s over.”
Nik Williams of Chuckey finished third, while Hale and Derrick Lancaster rounded out the top five.
VanDyke drove his No. 15 Chevrolet to a second straight victory and third win of the season in the opening race. The Abingdon driver scooted away from pole sitter Zeke Shell’s No. 1 Ford at the start and then watched in his rear-view mirror as Derrick Lancaster and Shell battled for second place.
“Everybody has worked hard to get this old car running decent,” VanDyke said. “The first race was phenomenal. The second race, we started eighth on the inversion. We got behind everybody, got the brakes hot and kind of neutralized out. The twin 35’s aren’t really long enough to show what the cars can do. We gained points on the championship, but we just didn’t get to race for the win like we wanted.”
Lancaster finished second in the opener, while Shell held on to finish third. Shell’s pole winning effort came despite a couple of problems with his throttle during his qualifying run. As he was coming around for his first lap on his first qualifying lap, the throttle hung on his No. 1 Ford and the Johnson City driver nearly hit the wall between turns 3 and 4.
The second time was even scarier as Shell literally mashed the gas pedal at the end of his qualifying lap and the pedal went through the floorboard. He slammed on the brakes and his tires left skid marks nearly 200 feet before the car stopped just a few feet before a head-on collision with the turn 1 wall.
“There’s no kill like overkill,” Shell said. “The first time, the throttle spring broke and they (track officials) let us put a new spring on it for a safety issue. The second time, I guess I got a little excited and the pedal stuck straight into the floor.
“I didn’t save it. Jesus took the wheel on that one. I was waiting for the crunch. I don’t know how I didn’t hit something.”
Ronnie McCarty of Kingsport and Ferguson rounded out the top five for the second race.
Kevin Canter of Abingdon, Va., recovered from an early accident and came back to win the Mod 4 race with the hood removed from his black No. 3 Chevrolet. He had double reason to celebrate Friday night with his 74-year-old grandfather Hershell Robinette finishing third. Keith Helton of Kingsport scored his second straight win in the Pure 4 division.
Joey Sykes of Dante, Va., won the Pure Street race, while Joshua Gobble dominated the Mod Street race. Nick Cole will likely be suspended or banned from the track following his post-race antics, some of which were caught on video on the RACE22 facebook page. After Cole and Derek Lane got together on the final lap of the Mod Street feature, Cole wheeled his No. 63 Camaro around and hit Lane’s car head-on, nearly pushing it into the backstretch wall.
Afterwards, Cole hastily loaded up his trailer, slinging equipment inside it and sped out of the pits. He drove his truck and trailer below the Pure 4 cars lined up on the backstretch for the next race and sped out of the track.