With a number of race cars on display at the Kingsport Speedway Show at the Mall at Johnson City, the pair of Late Model Stock track champions were just two of the racers ready to strap into the cockpit and fire up their engines at the 3/8-mile concrete oval.
The season-opening race is a little over a month away on March 21. For the former champions, they’re already anticipating a tough battle throughout the season.
Williams, driver of the No. 32 Chevrolet, won his first track championship in 2019 and since has taken part in the national banquet at Charlotte. On Tuesday, the Chuckey driver will pay a visit to the Tennessee state capitol and visit with Governor Bill Lee. It comes as a result of meeting the team’s 2019 goals.
“Ken Daffron sponsored us last season and he told us the one thing he wanted was a championship,” Williams said. “We set out to do that. We started a little rough the first of the year, but we ended up with seven wins and had a good season.
“I expect another good battle this season. I’m glad Kres is back because he’s so good there and I like racing with him.”
VanDyke, a two-time Kingsport Speedway champion from Abingdon, Va., is supposed to run a full schedule after splitting his efforts between Kingsport and Motor Mile Raceway in Virginia last season.
He has extra motivation to put his No. 15 Chevrolet in the winners’ circle at the season opener.
“Everybody wants that top spot and wants to knock us off. We’re bringing a new car ready to rock and roll,” VanDyke said. “Hopefully, it can repeat what our old “Thunder” car did with almost 100 victories.
“We’ve won the first race a couple of years now. It’s our sponsor’s race, the Food City race, and we’re looking to bring home the trophy for them.”
Chase Dixon, a former development driver for VanDyke, will be racing against him and others in the No. 07 Chevrolet. The teenager from Abingdon will be the favorite for Rookie of the Year honors, but is looking for more.
“It’s definitely a big step up,” Dixon said. “Going into this season, we’ve worked hard on these cars. I’ve worked hard in the gym and I have high expectations for myself.
“Every time we go to the track, I mean to win. The competition and the guys I’m racing against, that doesn’t change. I’m going to the race track to win.”
The Sportsman division (formerly Mod Street) is rumored to have fields as big as 30 cars this season. Even with the increased competition, Erwin racer Alex Miller in the No. 37 Chevrolet feels the experience he’s gained over the last two seasons will help him run up front.
Miller won his first-ever feature at Kingsport in June and finished ninth in the point standings. He talked about the lessons learned his first couple of seasons behind the wheel.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned is how to position yourself in the corner and set people up to pass,” Miller said. “You will catch somebody quick and think you have to pass them as soon as you catch them.
“When you look at it in the stands, that’s how you think. It’s tougher than you think and I’ve torn up a lot of stuff up not being patient. When I look back at last season, that first win meant everything. It showed me what we were doing was working.”
Tony Dockery, pilot of the orange No. 05 Camaro, was one of the drivers representing the Pure Street division. The track boasts five divisions including the Mod 4 and Pure 4 classes.
The Pure Street class provided some of the most competitive racing, although Dockery won six of the last seven races to end the 2019 season.
He looked back to the battles with rivals Doug Austin, Jay Swecker and Bruce Blessing with fondness.
“The Pure Street division is tough,” Dockery said. “Everybody is tight, running pretty much the same lap times. It’s a good class where you race hard, but they respect you and you respect them. We had some great battles last year. Doug, Jay and Bruce, they’re tough, but everybody respects one another.”