Shell shows he can bounce back in impressive win

Jeff Birchfield • Apr 29, 2014 at 10:38 PM

Johnson City driver Zeke Shell came back with a vengeance last Friday night at Kingsport Speedway.

One week after getting sidelined by an early accident, Shell’s red No. 97 Ford led all 60 laps of the NASCAR All-American Series Late Model Stock feature at the 3?8-mile concrete oval.

Shell qualified sixth, but started first after an inversion of the top qualifiers. He quickly moved past 16-year-old rookie Justin Fontaine at the start and cruised out front the first quarter of the race.

After a pair of caution periods, Shell was locked into a fierce battle for the lead with Kingsport driver Ronnie McCarty. They raced side-by-side for four laps, but Shell bolted out ahead. With Shell out front, McCarty was left to battle for second, a position he eventually lost to pole sitter Kres VanDyke.

VanDyke’s bid for a third straight win to start the season came up just a couple of car lengths short. For Shell, it was a nice recovery from the disappointment of the previous week when he got tangled up in an early accident with rival Lee Tissot.

“Man, following our deal last week in wrecking while battling with Lee for position and having to work on the car back at the shop this week, to bounce back strong tonight and get an impressive win, this is totally awesome,” said the 26-year-old Shell. “We had a really good car and I believe we showed that during the race. I admit the luck of the invert really helped by putting us starting from the pole position. Hey, the deal with the invert is it can hurt you or help you. I’ve been quickest in qualifying before and with the invert I’ve had to start from the third row. It’s just one of those deals you hope will work out well for you.

Shell, who has been runner-up for the track championship each of the past two seasons, moved from eighth to fourth in the point standings. He now trails VanDyke by 30 points and is tied with Tissot, although Shell holds the tiebreaker by virtue of the win.

“We opened the season with a solid second-place finish, then last week the DNF was pretty disappointing because I know we had at least a top-three finishing car,” Shell said. “I just want to thank everybody who helps me live out my dream of racing, my father (Pat Shell), and Danny Rollins for all his advice and unreal racing knowledge on setting the car (chassis) up, along with BRM, Joey Buckles, Scott Clark, and my fiancée Amber Abram. Nights like tonight, when after a week of working on your equipment and you get to the track and things go your way, this is what it’s all about. You get the win, then you’ve got bragging rights as being the winner until the next race.”

Shell will have an extra week to celebrate as the next race at Kingsport isn’t scheduled to race again until Friday, May 9.

Behind Shell and VanDyke, Tissot, defending track champion Chad Finchum and McCarty rounded out the top five. Other finishers included Phillip Harris of Johnson City in 10th and Joey Trent of Gray in 11th.

James Deese, who is an officer for the Elizabethton Police Department, did a little speeding off his own to win the Rookie Pure 4 race. Deese finished third in a three-car battle for the win coming off turn four the previous Friday night. This time around, he made the winning pass of Michael Jeter with two laps to go.

Royce Peters of Kingsport jumped out to the lead in the Street Stock race when pole sitter Sam Hurd didn’t come up to speed at the start. After a wild race which several contenders were eliminated, Peters held off Bristol driver Nick Cole for the win.

John Ketron of Kingsport made an early pass for the lead in the Pure 4 feature and went on to record his second win in three races, while Kirby Gobble of Abingdon, Va., powered past Rocky Yates to capture the Mod 4 feature.


There is a full schedule of racing at Bristol Motor Speedway and Dragway this week.

An autocross course will be set up in the parking lots of BMS for the East Tennessee Region Sports Car Club of America event this Sunday.

The competitor entry fee is $35 with spectators admitted for $5 per family. Competitors may register online at www.etrscca.org. On-site registration starts at 8:30 a.m. with the first run scheduled for 11 a.m. A portion of the proceeds benefit the Bristol Chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities.

The Roadrunner Street Fights are scheduled for Bristol Dragway Thursday night and the DER Bracket Series has a test-and-tune session on Friday night. Bracket series racing is scheduled for both Saturday and Sunday.

There is no racing at Kingsport Speedway or Volunteer Speedway this weekend. Lonesome Pine Raceway in nearby Coeburn, Va., hosts the Southeast Super Trucks Series. In addition to that 75-lap feature, a 60-lap feature for the NASCAR Late Model Stocks is scheduled. Grandstands open at 4 p.m. with driver autograph sessions at 6:30 p.m. Racing is slated to begin around 7 p.m.

For those itching for some dirt track racing, Tazewell Speedway has a $1,500-to-win Late Model feature headlining its schedule for this Saturday night. Action is also on tap for Wythe Raceway in Rural Retreat, Va., with the Fuel Late Models as its featured division.


It’s quiet on the local motocross scene this week before the Hot Summer Nights Series fires back up at the Appalachian Fairgrounds on Saturday, May 10. The series runs through October with races at the fairgrounds and I-81 Raceway off Exit 44.


Greeneville driver Allen Johnson moved up to second in the NHRA Pro Stock point standings following his runner-up finish to Erica Enders-Stevens at Sunday’s SpringNationals in Houston.

After making his 48th final-round appearance, Johnson now trails Enders-Stevens by 77 points. Johnson also earned the No. 1 qualifier for the 32nd time in his career by posting a 6.555-second run at 211.63 mph in his Dodge Dart.

“We can’t be too disappointed with our weekend,” Johnson said. “I think we’ve got a better handle on the Dart. We have something really good to work with on both cars and we actually made some good progress today with Jeg (Coughlin Jr.) car. Jeg really made improvements today and had a chance to be in the finals with me. Between the tune-up and the motors and the humidity and these new cars we made a lot of positive progress this weekend.

“Erica was fast all weekend and we were right there with her. I feel like we’ll be fighting it out all year long.”

Her victory wa the 99th NHRA national event win for a female driver. Enders-Stevens will be battling others including Courtney Force, Brittany Force and Alexis DeJoria for a milestone 100th win at the Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway.

Over the years, the most successful female racers have been three-time Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Angelle Sampey with 41 NHRA wins and three-time Top Fuel champion Shirley Muldowney with 18 wins. Muldowney, nicknamed the First Lady of Drag Racing, was also a World Champion for the rival AHRA and a three-time winner on the IHRA circuit.

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