Williams makes it five in a row as tempers flare on pit road

Jeff Birchfield • Updated Aug 4, 2018 at 10:03 PM

KINGSPORT — Nik Williams continued his recent domination of Kingsport Speedway on Friday night by sweeping twin Late Model Stock features as rival drivers feuded behind him.

It was the second consecutive week Williams’ No. 32 Chevrolet swept twin 35-lap features and the fifth straight win for the 21-year-old driver from Chuckey. It came on a night when the speedway paid tribute to Roger Neece and Tony Ward, two popular racers who have died in recent years.

Starting on the outside pole, Williams asserted himself early in race No. 1.

The Chuckey driver got around pole sitter Kres VanDyke on the opening lap of the first NASCAR Whelen All-American Series feature and went on to score a flag-to-flag victory. VanDyke, the defending track champion, finished second as Trey Bayne, Hayden Woods and Zeke Shell rounded out the top five.

Williams charged from an eighth-place starting spot to win an action-packed second feature. He had the fortune of getting through a lap-14 crash that involved five of the drivers ahead of him — and made the winning pass of two-time track champion Ronnie McCarty four laps later.

"It's better to be lucky than good," Williams said. "We had a fast car, but it was going to be tough to come from eighth to first because they were all running so close. Then, that wreck happened and I was lucky to get by it. I was third and then we picked them off and got the win."

It was the sixth victory in a row for David Roope, who serves as crew chief for both Williams and Woods.


Wayne Hale started the second race on the pole before being passed by McCarty on lap 5. Over the next few laps, Hale was racing Robbie Ferguson for second place, when the two had differing opinions of what caused the lap 14 crash.

Hale got sideways coming off turn four, triggering a multi-car pileup. Woods' car came to rest on the hood of Hale's machine, and the cars of points leaders Shell and VanDyke suffered significant damage behind them.

Hale blamed Ferguson for the crash: "Robbie Ferguson caused me to stop. Same old stuff, two races in a row."

Ferguson saw the wreck differently, believing that Hale's car first got loose, causing them to have contact.

"I got under him going into (turn) three and I stayed low. It looked like when he gassed up, he spun or someone picked his rear tires up off the ground and turned him into me," Ferguson said. "I think if he will look at the video, he will realize he busted loose or somebody picked his tires up. If they (track officials) thought it was intentional, they would have sent me to the rear (of the field)."

Woods, who recovered from the crash to finish eighth, said: "They got together and we were running nose-to-tail and off we went. We finished with half a race car, but honestly, it was one of the most fun races of my life, even with damage, because I was working my rear end off."


McCarty’s No. 5 Ford got into the back of Bayne's No. 21 Ford with six laps to go in the second race, causing the 14-year-old Knoxville driver to spin out. After the race, Bayne's father, Rocky, went to McCarty's pit and confronted the driver who was still strapped inside the car.

McCarty's mother, Gina, then ran up and yelled for the elder Bayne to get out of their pits, leading to a heated argument on pit road.

Through all the chaos, Ferguson raced to a runner-up finish and Derek Lane of Kingsport finished third, his best finish of the season.

"We had a string of top-five finishes going," Ferguson said. "We're just trying to get the best finish we can and keep the car out of trouble. It's just tough to keep up with Nik. He's running one of the new Harrington motors and his car is a rocket ship. It's handling good, he's driving good and he's got everything clicking."

Lane had the most improvement between races. He finished 13th out of 15 drivers in the first race before roaring back with the third-place run.

"We finally got the car right," Lane said. "I threw everything but the kitchen sink at it between races. Outside of it being a little bit loose at the end, it was pretty good."


Shell came into the night with a four-point lead over VanDyke in the track championship standings, but led by just a single point after the first race. Shell appeared to be in trouble in the second race, as his team lost a lap while still making repairs to the car. VanDyke, however, slowed with mechanical problems on lap 20 and Shell got back on the lead lap.

Shell went on to finish sixth, seven positions ahead of VanDyke. The Johnson City driver credited the work of his crew — in particular, crew chief Danny Rollins — for engineering a way to keep the radiator attached so his No. 1 Ford could get back on track and ultimately leave with the points lead.

"It came down to the crews," Shell said. "My crew chief, Danny Rollins, he took a tent leg, zip ties and a ratchet strip from inside the trailer and 'MacGyvered' that thing into the points lead. Nobody behind the wheel could have made that car finish the race, but he did."


There was intense racing throughout the night highlighted by Rob Austin holding off Dave Strong in a Pure Street feature — in which they traded the lead four times.

Chase Dixon, a 15-year-old from Abingdon, outran defending division champion Royce Peters, for his second straight Mod Street win.

Keith Helton of Kingsport passed Brandon Sutherland with six laps to go to win in Pure 4, and Kevin Canter from Abingdon drove the Dale Earnhardt-inspired black No. 3 to his 10th win this season in the Mod 4 class.

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