Shell's talk, hard racing causes stir

Jeff Birchfield • Jul 1, 2014 at 11:01 PM

Zeke Shell has given the local racing community plenty to talk about this week.

The Johnson City driver stirred up debate with his hard racing with defending Kingsport Speedway track champion Chad Finchum as well as his opinions about recent rules changes about cars using Ford crate engines.

Kres VanDyke, who won for a fourth time at Kingsport last Friday night, is nearly a forgotten man although he holds a 48-point lead over Finchum in the track standings.

On the track, Shell and Finchum were battling for the lead on lap 46 of the 60-lap Late Model Stock feature when Finchum moved ahead. Coming off turn four on the next lap, the drivers tangled sending Finchum’s No. 19 Ford hard into the inside retaining wall. Finchum was done for the night with a severely damaged car, while Shell was also finished. His No. 97 Ford was parked for the rest of the race for aggressive driving by track officials.

The Shell team doesn’t dispute it was rough driving. However, they claim the wreck wasn’t intentional. It was more a case of the cars getting hooked together and Finchum’s car slamming the wall was an unfortunate result.

Earlier that night, Shell blasted recent decisions of speedway officials. The track changed the rules package with the intent of those cars running custom-built motors being able to keep up with the cars of Shell and Finchum and others which are using the Ford crate engines.

“It’s not that the rules have changed, it’s that the rules have changed without people having time to fix their cars accurately,” Shell told Dave Ongie of the NET News Service before Friday’s race. “It’s always spur of the moment and it constantly happens. It’s running people off. This track is going to shut down if someone doesn’t take control and say we’re going to follow the rulebook and go with the rulebook.”

The Ford crate engines produce a lot of power and are low-maintenance compared to the custom-built motors. Those are primary reason why Shell and others have switched to motors built at the Ford factory instead of using powerplants crafted in local engine shops.

“I’m running the Ford crate because I know that they win,” Shell said. “I ran the Chevy built, but it doesn’t matter what you’ve got, you won’t beat them. A smaller carburetor will take away all of the top-end advantage. But understand, these crates are cheaper to maintain so it’s better in the long run.”

As for the points, Shell’s championship hopes took a hit after being parked. He is tied with Ryan Stiltner for third-place, but they are 52 points behind VanDyke.

While Shell had troubles, some other local racers celebrated top finishes.

Tyler Goodwin, a 2013 Daniel Boone graduate, finished a career-best third in the Late Model feature. Joey Trent of Gray also posted a career-best with a fifth-place finish. In addition, Phil Harris of Johnson City was seventh and former track champion Robbie Ferguson of Jonesborough finished 10th.

In the support classes, Nick Cole of Bristol won the Street Stock race, while Kingsport’s Jason Ketron beat his brother Billy and his father John to the line in the Pure 4 feature. Brandon Chumbley of Kingsport won the Rookie Pure 4 feature, while Virginia driver Duke Bare was tops in Pure Street.

Kingsport Speedway has a special night of racing scheduled this Friday for the Fourth of July holiday.

There is a 125-lap feature for the Late Model Stock class with the Street Stock, Pure 4, Rookie Pure 4 and Mod 4 classes also in action.


Tony Stewart will try to tie a record at Daytona this Saturday night.

While the three-time NASCAR champion has yet to win the Daytona 500, he will be going for a fifth victory in the Coke Zero 400 which would tie him with David Pearson for most wins ever in the July race.

Overall, Stewart has 18 NASCAR wins at Daytona, second behind the late Dale Earnhardt on the track’s all-time win list.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will also look to add his name to a list of legendary drivers. He will try to become just the sixth driver to win both the Daytona 500 and the former Firecracker 400 in the same year. Fireball Roberts was the first to accomplish the feat in 1962. Others who have swept the Daytona races are Cale Yarborough (1968), LeeRoy Yarbrough (1969), Bobby Allison (1982) and Jimmie Johnson last season.


The “Knights of Destruction” Thrill Show is scheduled for Volunteer Speedway also on Saturday night.

It includes school buses racing around the high banks, a fire-breathing jet truck, along with a boat-trailer race, flag-pole race, chain race, and a demolition derby for front-wheel drive cars. There will also be stunts and a huge fireworks show.

The grandstand gates open at 6 p.m., with “Destruction on Dirt” beginning at 7:30 p.m.


For a second straight year, a huge crowd filled the areas around Muddy Creek Raceway Saturday for the AMA Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Tennessee National. In addition to the professional racing, there was a day of amateur racing Sunday with riders from all over the country.

Despite the tough competition, Logan McConnell of Kingsport managed to win three different divisions.

Daniel Tweed of Greeneville added a win in the 250C class as did Morgan Payne of Butler in the ATV Intermediate division.

Peyton Wells paced the Johnson City contingent with a runner-up finish on his Kawasaki in 250B and a fourth-place in 450B. Tyler Orfield of Johnson City was third on Honda in the 250B race.

Jacob Austin of Jonesborough had three top-five finishes including a second in the 250 Extra, while Alex Dorton rode his Yamaha to a runner-up in the two-stroke class.

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