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Ferguson leaves full-time competition as a winner

Jeff Birchfield • Sep 4, 2018 at 4:33 PM

Robbie Ferguson went out a winner and a championship contender in his final season as a full-time driver at Kingsport Speedway.

Back in June, the 57-year-old Jonesborough driver held off two-time track champion Kres VanDyke to be a winner in his final season. After a strong finish to the season, Ferguson wound up fourth in the track championship standings. Still, he wondered what could have been if a couple of things had worked out differently.

Ferguson was disqualified for a carburetor infraction the second race of the season, which took away 28 points from him. If that hadn't happened, he would have potentially owned a one-point lead in the championship standings going into the final race of the season.

But in the end, Ferguson, the 2002 track champion, finished on a high note. He posted a third-place finish in the final race, and left the track with the respect of his fellow competitors.

"If there is anyone you want to finish second to, it's Robbie Ferguson," VanDyke said after finishing runner-up to Ferguson in June. "He's a great veteran. I lost the points championship to him by one point in 2002, but we've always been great friends and congratulations to him."

Ferguson, who was a state runner-up as a wrestler at Daniel Boone High School, is part of the 2018 class of inductees to the school's athletic hall of fame. In fact, he turned down an opportunity to wrestle for Columbia University in New York to pursue his racing dreams.

As a driver, he raced at Kingsport when the track was dirt, but had the greatest success on pavement, including winning the track's Super Stock rookie of the year in 1978, his first year behind the wheel.

He had success at other local tracks, notably winning 10 of 11 races at Newport Speedway in 1992. He also made one start in the NASCAR Truck Series at Indianapolis Raceway Park, six starts in the NASCAR Southeast Series and two starts in the old Pro Cup Series, where he won a pole at Motor Mile Speedway.

Ferguson isn't calling it a retirement, although he does plan to take all of next season off. He has mentioned the possibility of a limited schedule in the future. Whatever he decides, the Jonesborough driver has made a huge impact on the local racing scene and will be remembered as a winner and champion.

CHAMPIONSHIP BY A FOOT

While Zeke Shell's margin of victory in the final Kingsport Speedway track championship standings was seven points over VanDyke, he literally won the Tennessee state championship by a foot.

The Johnson City driver passed Hayden Woods for fourth place coming off turn four of the final lap to edge Wood by just a foot at the line. It gave him a two-point win over Nik Williams of Chuckey. If Shell hadn't gotten the position, he would have been tied with Williams in the points. Williams had the tie breaker with more wins on the season.

Back in his familiar red No. 15 Chevrolet on championship night, VanDyke won the pole and dominated the race for his fourth win of the season.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Trey Bayne, the 14-year-old younger brother of NASCAR Cup Series driver Trevor Bayne, won Tennessee state Rookie of the Year title with his 11th-place finish last Friday night.

In his first season driving a full-size stock car, Bayne won a race on June 8 and he finished seventh in the track point standings. Bryson Dennis of Greeneville finished second in the rookie standings, while Dillon Hodge, a 15-year-old Sullivan South student, finished third.

Bayne and VanDyke both plan to race the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 late model race at Martinsville on Sept. 29. Bayne also plans to run the Snowball Derby in Florida in December.

TRANSFORMATION UNDERWAY

Lonesome Pine Raceway has been rebranded Clay Valley Speedway after dirt was put down over the asphalt at the Coeburn, Va., track last Wednesday.

The track has been closed for the 2018 season, but new owner Bobby Hill is excited to reopen it as a dirt-racing facility. The moderate banking at Lonesome Pine should provide a great racing surface for dirt cars, and hopefully entice many major series to come to the new Clay Valley Speedway.

VOLUNTEER CHANGES

Heavy rain forced the cancelation of last Saturday night's Schaeffer's Oil Late Model Series "Labor Day Classic" at Volunteer Speedway.

Fans who purchased armbands for pits or tier parking can use those for a race through the end of the season at either Volunteer Speedway or 411 Speedway with the difference in admission to be refunded at that time. Grandstand tickets can be used at either track as well.

Another night of track championship points racing at the 4/10-mile dirt track is scheduled for Sept. 22.

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