A large crowd showed up to see noticeable improvements made by new track owner Landon Stallard. Immediately, there was the visual effect of new coats of paint. He addressed other concerns from fans, including more information from the track announcers — and for the racers, concessions offered in the infield. There was also a strong field of cars and drivers, particularly in the Crate Late Model division with a 25-driver lineup.
“It’s good to see Bulls Gap back,” Crate Late Model driver Bobby Mays said. “The new owner, Landon, has done a phenomenal job. I’ve been coming here since 1993 and people who haven’t been here in a while need to come back. The upgrades he’s done have been outstanding.”
With racing on the track intense, Rusty Ballenger of Sevierville emerged as the winner of the 25-lap Crate Late Model feature. He started on the front row with Tyler Arrington and was out front when Arrington pulled into the pits on lap 6.
Ballenger battled back and forth with Brandon Williams over rest of the race. Zach Sise finished third, followed by Chris Chandler and Jonesborough driver Mays in fifth.
Mays talked about the strong finish and his car making it through some three-wide racing without major damage.
“Anytime you can put it in the box the same way you took it out of the box, it’s a good thing,” Mays said. “It was a good night. We started in the top five and finished there without any bent fenders, so it was a good thing.”
Another Jonesborough racer, three-time track champion Tim Byrd, finished ninth, during what he called a survival night. Byrd was a little off the pace all evening, after his car’s tires didn’t match up with the track surface the way he wanted.
“We just got beat on tires. We bought these new and tried to run them, but the compounds have changed so much,” Byrd said. “We’re going to have to go back to what we’re used to running.”
Johnson City driver Tim Maupin finished 12th. He was running seventh heading into the final lap before a problem with his ignition coil. He posted the fastest time in practice, but had to start 16th after a disappointing qualifying lap.
“The car was fast. It wasn’t the car in qualifying, it was the driver,” Maupin said. “It was coming on in the race and it was fast. I had a good top-five car before the problem at the end, but we’ll come back another week.”
Johnson City racer Jackie Hughes survived hard racing in the middle of the pack and finished 17th. He avoided one near-disaster when the two cars got together on the front straightaway.
“I thought I was going to get into it,” Hughes said. “Somebody got into the back of me a little, but I was lucky.”
Hughes was mired in traffic most of the race, but still managed to turn some fast laps, getting a good launch off turns 1 and 2
“I got high off 1 and 2 and it would come off the turn like a rocket,” Hughes said. “It wouldn’t come off 3 and 4 like that.”
Jesse Helton of Rogersville won his first-ever Sportsman Late Model race, leading from start to finish. He was challenged closely by Adam Mitchell and Clyde Stanton.
Eric Hux of Parrottsville also got his first win in Modified Street and John Stevens of Wallins Creek, Ky., earned his third straight Classic win. Other winners were Josh Driskill of Newport (Street Stock) and Rodney Griffin of Kingston (Mini Stock).
Racing returns this Saturday with free admission for the first 30 adults who show up to watch from the grandstands.
SUPER CUP AT KINGSPORT
Kingsport Speedway is hosting the Super Car Stock Car Series on Friday night.
The series that uses the tagline “Racin’ the Way It Used To Be” will feature two 50-lap races for drivers in the former NASCAR cars.
Johnson City racing legend Mike Potter started from the pole in the first feature last year and finished sixth. He wound up fourth in the second race. As a car owner, Potter’s driver Ben Ebeling swept last year’s Kingsport races.
Potter finished third in the driver standings at the end of the 2018 season. The 69-year-old driver currently leads the Southern Division point standings. He has four top-5 and five top-10 finishes through the first six races of the season.
HOT SUMMER NIGHTS
The Hot Summer Nights Supercross Series will resume Saturday at Travelers Rest Motocross in Travelers Rest, S.C.. The motocross facility is located on the same property as the Travelers Rest Speedway dirt track. The series returns to the Tri-Cities are the following Saturday, June 29 at I-81 Motorsports Park.