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Former Kingsport Speedway champ excited about Daytona 500 opportunity

Jeff Birchfield • Updated Jan 24, 2020 at 11:38 AM

It is the opportunity that Chad Finchum has always dreamed of.

The former Kingsport Speedway track champion recently announced he will be driving the No. 49 MBM Motorsports Toyota in an attempt to qualify for the upcoming Daytona 500. The 25-year-old Knoxville driver explained how it all came together.

“I’ve been driving for Carl (Long) and MBM Motorsports since 2017,” Finchum said. “I made my Cup debut at the Bristol spring race in 2018 and we thought we were going to do more Cup races that year. Nothing ever materialized so I ran the Xfinity Series in 2019.

“During the offseason, Carl and I were talking about what he wanted to do this year. He had some plans for some growth with his team. The goal is to run Timmy Hill full-time in the Cup Series and whenever to see fit to run me in a second Cup car. They wanted to start at Daytona.”

With no owner points or charter, Finchum will have to race his way into the 500 through the Thursday qualifying races. Finchum feels optimistic about his chances to make the race.

While Finchum’s car doesn’t have the history of that car and won’t likely have the overall speed of the top cars, Daytona is one of two restrictor-plate tracks where the draft comes into effect to provide a great equalizer.

“Those tracks give the smaller teams a chance,” Finchum said. “My best finish in the Xfinity Series was 14th at the Daytona July race. We’ve always run well at the speedways, although running well and finishing well are two different things because everyone knows the ‘Big One’ is coming.”

Finchum finished 33rd in his only Cup Series race at the 2018 Food City 500. He has 70 starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with the aforementioned best finish at Daytona. Competing in 31 of 33 races, he finished 26th in last season’s Xfinity Series point standings.

He has built a reputation for getting the most out of his equipment. He expects to do the same at Daytona as long as he can avoid the big wreck associated with the plate tracks.

“I’ve been running inside the top 10 and even the top five in those races (at Daytona and Talladega). When it gets to 15-20 laps to go, it has seemed like the ‘Big One’ finds us,” he said. “That’s the nature of those tracks. But I like how making the race isn’t just about cutting a fast lap.

“With the duals, it leaves more of the chances in my and the spotter’s hands. Hopefully, with a little luck, we get the job done.”

Finchum was the 2008 Bandolero Young Guns national champion before moving up to the full-size Late Model cars. There, he found plenty of success. He was the Kingsport Speedway and NASCAR Tennessee State champion in 2013 and the Lonesome Pine Raceway track champion in 2014.

Moving to the NASCAR K&N Series, he won a 2016 race at Bristol and was making a charge through the field again in 2017 when the race was shortened for weather. After bouncing around in the Xfinity Series over the next couple of season, he has the chance to live out a dream of racing in the Daytona 500.

While he would love duplicate what another Knoxville racer, Trevor Bayne, did in 2011 when he won the “Great American Race,” just participating in the week is an accomplishment he’s not taking for granted.

“To win it, I can’t imagine what those guys, including Trevor, felt when they won that race,” Finchum said. “Our goal is to make the race and we will set a new goal from there.

“I’ve been racing since I was six years old, racing dirt, asphalt, the whole nine yards. It’s everybody’s dream if you’re a racer to make the 500 and to win it. Just to participate and to attempt to make it is special. I’ve been able to talk to my mom and dad over the past couple of weeks. It’s been a goal since day one to be in a position like I am now. I’ve got to cross a lot of things off my list. To participate in something like this, it tops them all.”

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