Melee highlights Kingsport Speedway opener

Jeff Birchfield • Apr 5, 2014 at 8:02 PM

KINGSPORT — It sure didn’t take long for Kingsport Speedway to live up to its nickname of the “Concrete Jungle” Saturday afternoon with a feature race which could have easily been sanctioned by the WWE as NASCAR.

On just the second lap of the 60-lap Late Model Stock feature for the NASCAR All-American Series, defending track champion Chad Finchum’s Ford rubbed against the side of Blake Jones’ Ford in pass for second place on the backstretch.

Jones retalilated by ramming the back of Finchum’s car as they came back around to the start-finish line. He wasn’t finished and turned Finchum’s car sideways in turn one before running over the hood of Finchum’s car, taking out both of them and also wrecking fourth-place Lee Tissot.

After getting his radiator fixed on pit road, Finchum proceeded to come back out on the track, stopping in front of Jones’ car. He then slammed his Ford in reverse, tearing off the rest of Jones’ left front fender. It set off a wild melee in the pits which forced track officials and police officers to intervene.

“I cleared him off (turn) four and I got a tap going into one,” Finchum said about the wreck which sparked the fight. “It was more than a tap. He ran over us. I thought it was uncalled for. I apologize for my actions, but that was really uncalled for.

“Really, I can see bump-and-run and in short-track racing, you’re going to have it. I would have been alright with that, but getting turned plumb sideways and to destroy the car on lap three, I think that was uncalled for.”

Jones was unavailable for comment as his team was ordered by track officials to load up the car and leave the track. During a lap-19 caution period, the race was stopped to allow Jones’ team transporter to exit. One of his crew members hung halfway outside the team’s truck and waved feverishly at the crowd as it circled the track.

Johnson City driver Zeke Shell, who finished second to Kres Van Dyke in the race, said the incident was a result of all the drivers going all out in the early stages.

“Everybody is pushing their cars way too hard, way too early,” Shell said. “For a red flag on lap one, that’s almost embarassing. But then again, it was a good show and at least everybody got to see what they paid their tickets for. This ain’t Daytona. You’re going to a fight and going to watch a race break out. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

“This is fun. This is excitement and you’re seeing driving. It’s not all about aerodynamics, who has the most engineers or the biggest shop. It’s run what-you-brung, and have fun.”

Once the action between Finchum’s and Jones’ teams cooled down, Van Dyke took control of the race.

The Claypool Hill, Va., driver led all 60 laps and his No. 15 Chevrolet was never seriously challenged other than by Shell on restarts.

“The car has worked pretty good since we’ve been back down here,” Van Dyke said. “We put a lot of work in it and it’s paid off. It felt good, very drivable. Anywhere I wanted to put it, it would go.”

Shell was pushing hard to catch him in his red No. 97 Ford, getting the car sideways coming off turn four on a couple of occasions. Shell was fighting the front end of the car pushing, although he said the conditions might have been a result of his aggressive driving.

“You have two components,” Shell said. “You have the car and you have the driver. Which one was making it push? I will leave that up to the fans to decide. We had a great car and I think I got a little too anxious to get up there. When I burned the front end up, I had to fall back.”

Virginia driver Ryan Stiltner finished third for his best ever Kingsport finish.

It wasn’t just up front, however, where the racing was intense.

Joey Trent of Gray, who finished eighth, acknowledged the racing got a little rough behind the leaders.

“We got a doughnut (tire mark) or two on our car,” Trent said. “When I came out of turn two and saw Jones up in the air over Finchum’s hood, I said, ‘It’s going to be one of those days.’”

It was already one of those days to a lesser extent in the Street Stock race.

North Carolina driver Alan Rich admitted to shoving leader Nick Cole out of the way on the final lap to make a winning pass. The two argued on the frontstretch after the race as track officials tried to conduct victory lane ceremonies.

“I didn’t want to wreck him, but I sure wanted to win,” Rich said.

In the other preliminary classes, John Ketron of Kingsport held off Kenny Absher and Keith Helton to win the Pure 4 feature, and Rocky Yates won in Mod 4 after pole sitter Kirby Gobble had early problems. Mook Jeter led flag-to-flag to win the Rookie Pure 4 feature.

There is no racing at Kingsport Speedway scheduled for this Friday night with many of the drivers to compete at Lonesome Pine (Va.) Raceway. Racing is slated to return to Kingsport on Friday, April 18.

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