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Williams sweeps Kingsport races; Shell takes over points lead

Jeff Birchfield • Updated Jul 28, 2018 at 5:24 PM

KINGSPORT — Over the past couple of weeks, Nik Williams has gone from chasing his first win to the driver everyone else is chasing at Kingsport Speedway.

The 21-year-old Chuckey driver won both of Friday night's 35-lap Late Model Stock features for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. It was his third straight victory on the 3/8-mile concrete oval after he won for the first time ever the previous Friday.

Williams set fast time in qualifying at 15.109 seconds and started side-by-side with Knoxville driver Trey Bayne on the front row for the first 35-lap feature.

Bayne's No. 21 Ford beat Williams' No. 32 Chevrolet to the line on the opening lap. But, Williams fought back to grab the lead on the second lap and held off Bayne the rest of the way for the win.

The racing behind them was intense with two-time Kingsport Speedway champion Ronnie McCarty charging for a third-place finish. Jonesborough driver Robbie Ferguson was fourth and defending track champion Kres VanDyke finished fifth.

Williams had more work to do in the second feature after the top-eight finishers from race No. 1 were inverted.

That put Gray driver Joey Trent and Dillon Hodge, a 15-year-old who attends Sullivan South High School, on the front row, and Williams back on the outside of the fourth row.

Trent and Hodge raced side-by-side over the first four laps before Hodge emerged with the lead. After a caution for VanDyke's car slowing on the backstretch, Trent grabbed the lead on the next restart.

McCarty got around Hodge and put the pressure on Trent, while Williams was making his run to the front as well. McCarty passed Trent for the lead on lap 19, and Williams cleared Trent for the runner-up spot six laps later. Williams made the winning pass on lap 29 as McCarty's No. 5 Ford got loose coming off turn 2.

"I had to get up on the wheel in that second race," Williams said. "That was some tough competition. Joey gave me a heckuva race, as we raced side-by-side for five laps. Once I got around him, McCarty slipped up and I was able to pull away so that was good."

McCarty, who has raced occasionally this season due to his full-time job, could feel the moment when the race slipped away.

"I knew there were some faster cars out there," McCarty said. "About six laps to go, the right rear tire gave up and it gave him a wide-open door. We were real loose the first race and that kind of ate the tire up. The second race, we got the car better, but ….. We will go put another motor in the car and see what we can do next week."

Behind the top two, Trent and Bayne traded the third position multiple times before Trent finally took the spot. Bayne finished fourth and Johnson City driver Zeke Shell rounded out the top five.

"Trey was a handful at the end," Trent said. "He would get me by about five feet (at the line) and then I would get him by about five feet. It was lap after lap after lap. Finally, I backed up the corner just a little bit and it gave me enough bite to clear him. I think we could have raced like that another 50 laps."

Bayne, the 14-year-old brother of NASCAR Cup Series driver Trevor Bayne, talked about his solid night with finishes of second and fourth.

"It would have been good to have gotten a win, but was an awesome night," Bayne said. "A year ago to the day was when we started testing to run a full-size car. In the beginning, I was just figuring things out since I had never been in a car before. But through this learning process, I feel like we're getting better every week."

SHELL TAKES OVER LEAD

Shell and VanDyke had a hard crash the previous week which caused severe damage to both their cars. VanDyke came to the race with a backup car, while Shell received help through the week from McCarty, Ferguson, Trent and others, to get his No. 1 Ford repaired and ready to race.

His car was far from perfect, but he managed a sixth-place finish in the first feature and then followed it up with the fifth-place run in the nightcap. VanDyke, who came into the night with a five-point lead over Shell, lost the championship lead after his mechanical problems resulted in a 16th place finish in the second race.

"We had an ill-handling car, but it was a huge accomplishment just to be back here," Shell said. "None of this wouldn't happened if it wasn't for the people at the shop. They put their hearts, souls, wallets, everything they had into it and got it back on the track. No, the car wasn't perfect, but we had a piece that could stay up front. This was big."

ACTION-PACKED SUPPORT RACES

Chase Dixon, a 15-year-old Abingdon, Va., driver, held off Kevin Wolfe on a late restart to win the Mod Street race, which saw Dennis Deese take a hard crash in his No. 24 Chevrolet, but emerge without serious injury.

Keith Helton captured his fifth Pure 4 win of the season. The Kingsport driver started 13th, but worked his way to the front and finished ahead of John Ketron in what was mad scramble among the top-five cars the second half of the race.

Kevin Canter of Abingdon in the black No. 3 rolled to his division-leading ninth Mod 4 feature win, which puts him in strong position to take his third straight track championship.

Rob Austin of Castlewood, Va., earned the Pure Street victory, and Jeremy Mullins of Clintwood, Va., recorded his third Vintage win.

Another weekly program headlined by twin Late Model Stock features are scheduled for this Friday night.

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