Kingsport Speedway set for season opener

Jeff Birchfield • Updated Mar 30, 2018 at 8:53 PM

Rain washed away last week's plans at Kingsport Speedway, but it couldn't dampen the enthusiasm for the season opening Food City 175.

Five divisions in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series are scheduled to be in action with the featured Late Model Stocks, Pure Street, Mod Street, Pure 4 and Mod 4 classes.

Grandstands open at noon with practice, qualifying and then racing, which will start at 3 p.m.

The 3/8-mile concrete oval is known for its intense competition. Defending track champion Kres VanDyke feels it will be tougher than ever this season.

"With some tracks shutting down, I think we're going to pick up some cars," said VanDyke, driver of the No. 15 Chevrolet. "We love the extra competition. The competition doesn't scare us. It encourages us to have a better program. We've been working hard to make this car better and we've set the standard high to back up what we did last year."

Last season, the Abingdon driver won five races at the 3/8-mile oval and swept championships at both Kingsport Speedway and Lonesome Pine Raceway in Coeburn, Va.

"It was surreal," VanDyke said. "It played out to our favor. We kept our heads clear, our noses clean and accumulated the points we needed to."

This season, even without the extra cars, there are plenty of formidable foes from Kingsport's regulars.

Ronnie McCarty won the two previous track championships at his hometown track and is putting forth a huge effort to regain the top spot. The driver of the No. 5 Ford had to run on a more limited basis last year with a huge workload at his family's home moving company.

"We're running the full season again," McCarty said. "We're going to get after it and see what happens."

McCarty lives just a couple of minutes from the track, but said his reason for racing at Kingsport is more than just the location.

"I like the track a lot," he said. "It's one of the most fun tracks I've ever been on, so that's why it keeps bringing me back."

Also making his return is Johnson City's Zeke Shell, who will debut a new look, a black No. 1 Ford with Budweiser sponsorship.

Last season's runner-up, Wayne Hale of Bluff City, will return in the familiar No. 19 Ford as a teammate to rookie Alex Miller from Erwin.

Other favorites include former track champion Robbie Ferguson of Jonesborough, Nik Williams of Greeneville, Joey Trent of Gray and Kingsport driver Derek Lane, who won last year's track championship at Newport Speedway.

Other Kingsport Speedway track champions in 2017 were Royce Peters (Modified Street), Jay Swecker (Pure Street), Kevin Canter (Mod 4) and Kenny Absher (Pure 4).

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