Johnson City Press Wednesday, September 17, 2014

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Sports Sports Columns Jeff Birchfield NASCAR/Racing

Tempers already running hot at local tracks

April 8th, 2014 7:35 pm by Jeff Birchfield

Tempers  already running hot at local tracks

The local racing season has barely started, but several of those involved are already riled up.

As of Tuesday afternoon, no penalties or fines had been handed out to defending Kingsport Speedway champion Chad Finchum and rival Blake Jones for their altercation in Saturday’s Late Model Stock feature.

To recap, the teen-age drivers rubbed fenders on the backstretch of the third lap, which allowed Finchum to get by Jones and move into second place. Jones took exception to the move and retaliated by running into the back of Finchum’s car coming around to the start-finish line. Jones continued to push Finchum’s car into turn one and even drove over the hood of the car, causing significant damage to both of their Fords.

Next, it was Finchum’s turn to retaliate, and he pulled out of the pits and stopped in front of Jones’ car. The Knoxville driver then slammed his No. 19 Ford in reverse and proceeded to further damage both his and Jones’ No. 80 Ford.

It sparked a wild melee in the pits, with track officials and police officers forced to intervene.

Johnson City driver Zeke Shell, who finished second to race winner Kres Van Dyke, explained the pro wrestling-like atmosphere is a big reason why Kingsport Speedway has become the hot ticket among local racing fans.

“It was a good show and everybody got to see what they paid for,” Shell said. “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.”

Earlier in the day, Alan Rich shoved Nick Cole out of the way on the final lap to win the Street Stock division race. The two argued as track officials tried to conduct victory lane ceremonies. Rich was unapologetic for a bump-and-run, which was actually more like a push-and-shove.

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

Down the road at Bulls Gap, Volunteer Speedway track owner Joe Loven was crying foul about three other East Tennessee dirt tracks — Tazewell Speedway, 411 Speedway in Seymour and Smoky Mountain Speedway in Maryville — scheduling races this past Saturday. It was the same night when Volunteer opened its regular season.

Loven said their actions violated a gentleman’s agreement not to encroach on each other’s schedules.

Intent on getting even, Loven has announced a $10,000-to-win Super Late Model feature this Saturday night named the “Mad Dog 60.” The race is scheduled to go head-to-head with a World of Outlaws special event at Tazewell Speedway.

In a speedway press release, Loven said he doesn’t expect to make any money off the race, but he doesn’t expect Tazewell will either.

“About three-fourths of those late model drivers cherry-pick (races they enter), so we’ve got all of our locals and we’ll get the World of Outlaws people who aren’t running for points,” Loven said. “Last year, the World of Outlaws only brought nine cars with them. The rest were local cars. These local cars will go where they think they’ll come the closest to winning.”

The Saturday lineup at Volunteer includes features for the Steel Head Late Model, Crate Late Model and Modified Hobby Divisions. 

Loven is also adding three other $10,000-to-win events to the Volunteer schedule to go head-to-head with races at Tazewell and Smoky Mountain Raceway in Maryville later this season.

“We didn’t put out a schedule until everyone — Tazewell, Smoky Mountain, 411 — had published theirs,” Loven said. “(Southern Nationals promoter) Ray Cook and ‘Fat Boy’ (Blount Motorsports manager David Bryant) threw me under the bus (with the race at Smoky Mountain), as well as Tazewell for (scheduling a) double-point Steel Heads (race). They knew what they were doing. They knew they were taking cars from us. We picked out a schedule that wouldn’t step on anybody this year. I was wanting to run a light schedule this year, but this has changed my whole perspective. To (heck) with them, and I’ll just bust up their races.”

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On the track, Tim Maupin of Johnson City battled his way through pesky traffic to win the 30-lap Crate Late Model feature last Saturday night at Volunteer Speedway. 

After moving from fourth to second on the opening lap, Maupin pressured leader Warren McMahan before passing him at the midway point of the race.

In other races, Jason Whelshan of Maryville made a late pass of Jason Manley to win a 35-lap feature for the Steel Head Late Model division. Virginia driver Jamie Whitt took advantage of broken wheel on leader Eddie Morris’ car to win the 25-lapper for the Modified Hobby class. 

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Three Elizabethton racers made it to the finals at the DER Bracket Series season opener at Bristol Dragway.

Carl Widener of Elizabethton was runner-up to Jason Nelson of Bluff City in the Sportsman division. Chris Proffitt finished second to Jordan Nelson of Bristol in the Trophy division, and Jim Trent of Kingsport beat Elizabethton’s Chris Johnson in the Motorcycle final.

Other winners included Matt Sanders of Pikeville, Ky., who beat Mike Laws of Newland, N.C.,  in the Super Pro final. Landon Stahl of Boone, N.C., won Junior Division 2 and Kaden Haynes of Mount Carmel won Junior Division 1. Brandon Bailey of Abingdon, Va., was the Pro class winner.

Round three of the Roadrunner Street Fights are scheduled for Thursday at Bristol Dragway, while the DER Bracket Series returns for two days of racing on Saturday and Sunday.

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Two-time defending national champion Chad Wienen of Galena, Ill., won Saturday’s Mountain Dew ATV Nationals at Muddy Creek Raceway.

Wienen finished second in the first moto and he won the second moto to take the overall title. Pennsylvania rider John Natalie won the first moto and finished second overall.

Overall, there were over 600 riders who competed in 40 different divisions at the Blountville track over the weekend.

The ATVs will be just a small part of the action at Muddy Creek this weekend. The Blountville track will host a variety of local motocross riders in Round 4 of the Thor Mega Series.

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