With his left front tire slowly going down, the Johnson City driver would have been forced to bring his car into the pits to change it under a caution period. As long as the cars were racing under green flag conditions, enough tire pressure stayed up where he was able to keep his No. 1 Budweiser Ford up front.
With the only one caution the entire race — and it coming before Shell started experiencing his tire problem — he held off a fast-charging Kres VanDyke to win the 60-lap feature for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. It was Shell's second straight win on the 3/8-mile concrete oval.
"We had a flat left front tire for half the race," Shell said. "It was what we had to deal with, so we dealt with it and it worked out in the end. I knew some tire was going down. As long as it stayed green and it kept air in the tire, I was alright. The caution would have been detrimental.”
Earlier, Shell captured his fourth straight pole position. He started fourth after an inversion of top qualifiers, but quickly made his way to second at the start of the race. Nik Williams of Greeneville, who started on the outside pole, took the lead on the opening lap from Jeff Maupin, who started from the No. 1 position.
Shell then pressured Williams, tapping his bumper and finally shoving him from the lead on lap 24. Shell wanted to make sure he didn’t wreck Williams in the process.
“I had to move Nik. I really hated to do that, but time was running out and I had to do something,” Shell said. “I went about five laps of going a little harder and a little harder on him. He’s a good driver and a good person, so I didn’t want to wreck him. I got him up a lane and he ran me as hard as he could, but we were a little better.”
VanDyke, in the No. 15 Food City Chevrolet, had a tough time getting around the other cars to get to Shell. Once clear, he closed on Shell, down to just a couple of car lengths when the race ended. VanDyke, the defending track champion, wished he could have made the run earlier.
"I just ran out of laps," VanDyke said. "We were catching him a little every lap, but, we just got held up. That's the way short track racing is sometimes. I know our No. 15 automobile is pretty good."
SLIGHTLY OFF THE PACE
Williams finished third in the No. 32 Chevrolet. The 21-year-old from Greeneville had a fast car, although he said it's a little off the pace of the Shell and VanDyke machines.
"They obviously have the two cars to beat, but we've got a car to compete with them," Williams said. "It felt good to be out front and to lead laps. We finally showed what we can do, but we need to work on it a little more to get into victory lane."
Veteran Robbie Ferguson of Jonesborough was fourth in the No. 7 Ford. He started sixth, but was able to move into the top four before the halfway point of the race. Wayne Hale of Bluff City finished fifth in the No. 19 Ford.
"This is what we need, good top-five finishes,” Ferguson said. “We’ve not had a finish out of the top five all year and that’s what it takes to win championships. We’re clicking off top fives and we’re looking to get a win. We’re right with everybody, but the 15 and 1. But, I know where they’re beating us and I think with an adjustment, we can be right there with them.”
Kingsport driver Derek Lane finished sixth, followed by Dillon Hodge, a 15-year-old who attends Sullivan South High School, and Darin Silver, a Spruce Pine, N.C., driver who is the nephew of longtime NASCAR competitor Brad Teague.
Joey Trent of Gray and Maupin rounded out the top 10. The Late Model field had 14 cars, smaller than recent weeks with contenders like Ronnie McCarty, Derrick Lancaster and Mike Looney all missing the race, and Knoxville driver Trey Bayne not making it back after totaling his car the previous week.
Brad Ball beat Kevin Canter on a late restart to win Friday’s Mod 4 feature and Joey Sykes emerged victorious from a paint-trading battle with Dave Strong in Pure Street. Billy Byington won in Pure 4 when first-place finisher Kenny Absher’s car failed post-race inspection. Trey Lane held off Joshua Gobble for the Mod Street victory.
There will be no racing at Kingsport Speedway next Friday night as Bristol Motor Speedway hosts the Short Track U.S. Nationals. Racing is set to return to Kingsport Speedway on May 25.