Zeke Shell finally led the lap that mattered.
The 24-year-old Johnson City driver, who has led more laps than anyone at Kingsport Speedway this season, won Friday night’s 60-lap race for the featured Late Model Stock division.
Shell started the NASCAR All-American Weekly Series race from the pole, but lost the lead to rival Lee Tissot on the second lap. However, Shell stayed persistent and regained the top spot after Tissot got tangled up with Brad Fluke’s lapped car on lap 21. Shell went on to score his first win of the season.
“He got caught up in lapped traffic and I was able to get around him,” Shell said. “From there, I led the rest of the race.”
While Shell and Tissot have their share of issues, including a wreck three weeks ago, the two drivers talked before the race and agreed to move on. It worked out well for Shell, as his No. 97 Ford came through the race unscathed.
“We’ve had our ups and downs,” Shell said. “We talked before the race to let our bygones be bygones. We gave each other room, and did pretty good together.”
It was his second win overall at the 3/8-mile concrete oval, a place where Shell has a following as one of the track’s most popular drivers. He moved into third place in the point standings after the win.
“It’s amazing what (track promoter) Robert Pressley has done with the place,” Shell said. “We had people lined up all the way around the outside of the track. They even had a bonfire in the corner.”
On the track, it was Shell who was firing on all cylinders.
He pulled out to a nice lead over the rest of the 23-car field, but had to hold off defending track champion Nate Montieith after a spin by Fluke on lap 48. Shell had a clean restart and quickly pulled away from Monteith again.
It was the opposite of the season-opening race when Shell had the dominant car, but lost to Monteith who did a better job of saving his tires.
This time around, Shell had plenty left at the end of the race.
He stretched the lead to 10 car lengths as Virginia driver Adam Long passed Monteith for second place. While Long closed the margin to two car lengths, Shell held on for the victory.
“I’ve been training on maintaining the car over the duration of a race,” he said. “I think this win showed those abilities. We’ve had a winning car all year. I’ve just had to work on myself. I would lead all the laps, but the last one, because I wouldn’t save my equipment.”
Long, driving a white No. 3 Chevrolet, finished second ahead of Monteith. The rest of the top five were 16-year-old Hayden Woods of Piney Flats and Daniel Pope of Smyrna.
In the preliminary races, Roger Neece beat Duke Bare in a battle of Virginia drivers to win the Street Stock feature. Chris Neeley of Kingsport won the Pure 4 division race, Pie Short of Abingdon, Va., won the Rookie Pure 4 race, and Daniel Boone High School student Tyler Goodwin won his fourth consecutive race in the Legends division.
Shell will have an extra week to celebrate his win. The Late Model Stocks have the weekend off as the Super Trucks will be the featured division for next Friday’s program at Kingsport Speedway.