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VanDyke, Ferguson split wins in wild Late Model features

By Robert Walden
April 15, 2017

KINGSPORT, Tenn. – The month of April focuses attention to National Autism Awareness, and Kingsport Speedway supported the Autism Society of East Tennessee for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series racing program Friday in the Model City.

With only one race in the books this season due to inclement weather forcing three of the first four scheduled events to be canceled, the National Weather Service forecast finally delivered a nice, sunny day around Northeast Tennessee with temperatures in the low 80s.

Both fans and race teams alike were ready for “The Concrete Jungle” to roar back to life, with a large crowd in attendance on Good Friday to kick off Easter weekend.

In the headlining NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model Stock Car division, twin 35-lap features were held and both races produced plenty of excitement — and also controversy. Two former track champions picked up victories with Kres VanDyke of Abingdon, Va., winning the first race while Robbie Ferguson of Jonesborough visited victory lane to finish the night of racing.

Chad Finchum, the 2013 Kingsport Speedway Late Model Stock Car champion, set fast-time at 15.065 seconds in qualifying to earn pole position, with VanDyke second quickest at 15.116.

Back at the season-opener on March 25, Finchum and VanDyke ran one-two during the feature with Finchum leading the first 40 laps before losing the lead to VanDyke following a restart which saw contact between the duo in turns one and two. Is there a rivalry between the championship-winning drivers? Indeed there is.

Finchum and VanDyke led the 19-car field to green with Finchum taking the early lead over VanDyke, Wayne Hale, Ronnie McCarty (2015 and 2016 track champion) and Nik Williams. McCarty quickly worked his way around Hale for third, while Ferguson was up-on-the-wheel to overtake Williams for the fifth spot on lap 8.

Finchum and VanDyke had pulled out to a little over a half-straightaway advantage over McCarty and Hale as the raced reached the midpoint. Caution waved on lap 26 when Billy Light spun between turns one and two.

Finchum chose to restart on the outside, putting VanDyke on the inside. Back under green they raced side-by-side for three circuits before Finchum moved ahead. His hard work in moving ahead over VanDyke was erased when the yellow waved again on lap 31 when Darin Silver spun, thus setting up a four-lap dash to the checkered flag.

Finchum took the lead over VanDyke, but VanDyke was right on the leader’s back bumper. On lap 33 racing down the backstretch, VanDyke pulled to inside of Finchum to challenge for the lead.

Some say in auto racing on the last lap, anything goes when you’re battling for the win. So you’d better have your (seat) belts cinched up tightly.

As the two drivers took the white flag Finchum led by about half-a-car length. With Finchum on the outside and VanDyke to the inside, contact between them saw Finchum spin in turn two and VanDyke go on to record the victory over McCarty, Hale, Ferguson and Adam Gray.

Completing the top 10 finishers were Joey Trent, Zeke Shell, Keith Helton, Derek Lane and Williams.

The top-eight finishers from the first race were inverted for the second twin, putting Helton and Shell on the front row. Shell powered into the lead off the start over Helton and Gray, followed by Trent and Hale, with Ferguson, McCarty and VanDyke in tow.

With hard racing among the lead pack of cars, Gray got shuffled up into the high groove and lost several spots, falling back to eighth in the running order. Caution waved on lap 8 when Joshua Gobble spun in the fourth turn.

Shell jumped back out to the lead off the restart over Trent and Helton, followed by McCarty and Hale. Starting the second twin 35-lapper from rear of the field, Finchum was on a mission as he worked his way toward the front. He passed Gray for the eighth spot on lap 9, and worked his way past Ferguson into seventh and his attention ahead was zeroed-in on VanDyke.

McCarty passed Helton for third place on lap 13, and four circuits later he got around Trent for second. But in the meantime, Finchum had cracked the top five in running order and got around both VanDyke and Hale.

The race got very interesting on lap 29. First, the caution waved for a three-car incident involving Trent, Hale and Helton between turns three and four. That set up a double-file restart with Shell and McCarty on the front row, with Finchum and VanDyke in the second row.

Shell chose to restart on the outside, thus placing McCarty to the inside. With the race back under green and the field racing into the first turn, contact between Shell and McCarty saw both cars spin and all other competitors forced to take evasive action to avoid a major pileup. Race-long leader Shell up to that point was done for the night, while McCarty had to go to rear of the field.

There was a buzz among the crowd as the cars slowly circled the track under caution, because remember the outcome of the first race between VanDyke and Finchum? Well, the pair once again was alongside one another on the front row and poised for a shootout to the finish.

Just like VanDyke and Finchum had done on restarts during both races, VanDyke started inside and Finchum outside. As the green flag waved they raced off into the first turn door-to-door. Racing up off (turn) two onto the backstretch, contact was made and Finchum slammed into the outside wall in a shower of sparks. Finchum’s race was done, while VanDyke was sent to the rear for his involvement.

You had both old and young on the front row for the restart, experience versus youth with 56-year-old Ferguson and 20-year-old Gray. Could the veteran Ferguson school East Tennessee State University Dean’s List student Gray?

Ferguson shot out into the lead and hoped while others behind him got to battling for position he would be able to put enough real estate between his car and those in pursuit to score the victory. With McCarty, Hale, Trent and VanDyke all having been involved in previous incidents during the race which sent them to tail of the field of restarts, Gray had a bull’s-eye on his back as that quartet of drivers came charging forward, each overtaking him.

Ferguson captured a crowd-pleasing victory over VanDyke, Trent, Hale and McCarty.

Completing the top 10 finishers were Gray, Williams, Silver, Rick Pannell and Light.

Jared Broadbent jumped out into the lead at start of the 30-lap Modified Street feature over Sam Hurd and Mark Christian, before Christian got around Hurd for second on lap 3. Behind the front-running trio of Broadbent, Christian and Hurd, Royce Peters, Jason Leatherwood, Chris Tunnell, Duke Bare and Kevin Wolfe were battling for position.

With the race running caution-free from start-to-finish, the racing action was exciting between Broadbent and Christian as they raced side-by-side for the lead over eight circuits before Christian grabbed the lead racing off the fourth turn on lap 20. Christian went on to capture the win over Broadbent, Hurd, Leatherwood and Bare.

Week in and week out the caliber of competitive racing in the Pure 4 division is worth the price of admission itself at Kingsport Speedway. If you enjoy watching cars jockeying for position two- and three-wide, even sometimes making it four-wide, that’s what you’re going to see.

A stellar 27-car field took the green flag and immediately battles for real estate were taking place back through the pack, with Billy Ketron leading his brother Jason Ketron up front, followed by Billy Byington. Also in the mix were John Ketron, Kenny Absher, Ben Barker, William Hale, Kevin Darnell, Bucky Smith, Jimmy Thomas and Chad Jeffers.

Once the faster cars up front caught rear of the field to begin lapping process, drivers were required to make precise moves in overtaking the slower cars, which in turn ratcheted-up the action several levels. Byington, the defending Pure 4 track champion, got around the Ketron brothers to take the lead on lap 8, while John Ketron and Absher each passed Billy and Jason Ketron to advance in the running order.

Absher made his move to pass John Ketron for second place, and closed to rear of his teammate Byington. Just before the race reached halfway, disaster struck Byington and Absher as they spun between turns three and four after encountering difficulties negotiating their way past lapped traffic to bring out the caution.

Following the double-file restart it was a Ketron family battle over the top three positions, with John Ketron moving ahead of sons Billy and Jason. Even though the racing action was interesting in the front of the field, many fans in the grandstands had their attention focused on Byington and Absher as they were rocketing back toward the front following their incident that forced them to restart from tail of the field.

But the racing Ketron family would be taking another winner’s trophy back home as John Ketron, from Kingsport, captured his first win on the season over Billy Ketron, Jason Ketron, Byington and Barker.

Kevin Canter of Abingdon, Va., battled for the lead with Kirby Gobble throughout the 30-lap Mod 4 feature. But Canter, the defending divisional track champion, would not be denied his second straight victory to start the season as he won over Gobble, Jerry Miller, Chris Amburgey and Billy Duty.

Joey Sykes of Dante, Va., took the lead on lap 5 in the Pure Street feature and once out front never looked back en route to recording his second straight win to begin the season over Jamie Meadows, Stacey Castle, Jay Swecker and Peter Alley.



1. Kres VanDyke #15-Abingdon, VA
2. Ronnie McCarty #5-Kingsport, TN
3. Wayne Hale #19-Bluff City, TN
4. Robbie Ferguson #40-Jonesborough, TN
5. Adam Gray #37-Kingsport, TN
6. Joey Trent #26-Gray, TN
7. Zeke Shell #50-Johnson City, TN
8. Keith Helton #29-Kingsport, TN
9. Derek Lane #28-Kingsport, TN
10. Nik Williams #32-Greeneville, TN
11. Joshua Gobble #97-Abingdon, VA
12. Chad Finchum #19-Knoxville, TN
13. Billy Light #8-Bluff City, TN
14. Rick Pannell #33-Kingsport, TN
15. Darin Silver #12-Spruce Pine, NC
16. Allen Hawkins #14-Kingsport, TN
17. Jerry Williams Jr. #21-Greeneville, TN
18. Danny Casteel #41-Johnson City, TN
19. David Strong #53-Weber City, VA


1. Robbie Ferguson #40-Jonesborough, TN
2. Kres VanDyke #15-Abingdon, VA
3. Joey Trent #26-Gray, TN
4. Wayne Hale #19-Bluff City, TN
5. Ronnie McCarty #5-Kingsport, TN
6. Adam Gray #37-Kingsport, TN
7. Nik Williams #32-Greeneville, TN
8. Darin Silver #12-Spruce Pine, NC
9. Rick Pannell #33-Kingsport, TN
10. Billy Light #8-Bluff City, TN
11. Zeke Shell #50-Johnson City, TN
12. Chad Finchum #19-Knoxville, TN
13. Keith Helton #29-Kingsport, TN
14. David Strong #53-Weber City, VA
15. Joshua Gobble #97-Abingdon, VA
16. Allen Hawkins #14-Kingsport, TN
17. Danny Casteel #41-Johnson City, TN

Did Not Start: Derek Lane #28-Kingsport, TN; Jerry Williams Jr. #21-Greeneville, TN


1. Mark Christian #43
2. Jared Broadbent #74
3. Sam Hurd #11
4. Jason Leatherwood #29
5. Duke Bare #52
6. Royce Peters #42
7. Chris Tunnell #6
8. Kevin Wolfe #17
9. Paul Shull #40
10. Rusty Clendenin #40
11. Dennis Deese #24
12. Bruce Crumbley #33
13. Dustin Dowell #89
14. Keith McMurray #2

PURE 4 (30 laps)

1. John Ketron #27
2. Billy Ketron #26
3. Jason Ketron #28
4. Billy Byington #11
5. Ben Barker #54
6. Kenny Absher #11
7. William Hale #47
8. Kevin Darnell #4
9. Bucky Smith #99
10. Jimmy Thomas #14
11. Chad Jeffers #38
12. Levin Cox #18
13. Trey Lane #7
14. Paul Stanley #40
15. Scott Palmer #7
16. Robert Young #59
17. Josh Collins #77
18. Craig Phelps #00
19. Jonathan Sullivan #3
20. Michael Blair #84
21. Todd Cross #41
22. Tim Young #13
23. Larry Stapleton #15
24. Cody Curtis #18
25. Shawn Ratliff #59
26. Alexcia Ray #99
27. Robert Smith #1

MOD 4 (30 laps)

1. Kevin Canter #3
2. Kirby Gobble #88
3. Jerry Miller #01
4. Chris Amburgey #17
5. Billy Duty #1
6. Hershell Robinette #9
7. Larry Bowens #18
8. Jessie Amburgey #7
9. Dennis Arnold #7

PURE STREET (25 laps)

1. Joey Sykes #23
2. Jamie Meadows #11
3. Stacey Castle #11
4. Jay Swecker #77
5. Peter Alley #7
6. Doug Austin #18
7. Bobby Talbert #67
8. Jeremy Draughn #7
9. Dustin Smith #5
10. Jay Myers #5