It was the second consecutive week Williams’ No. 32 Chevrolet swept twin 35-lap features and the fifth straight win for the 21-year-old driver from Chuckey. It came on a night when the speedway paid tribute to Roger Neece and Tony Ward, two popular racers who have died in recent years.
Starting on the outside pole, Williams asserted himself early in race No. 1. The Chuckey driver got around pole-sitter Kres VanDyke on the opening lap of the first NASCAR Whelen All-American Series feature and went on to score a flag-to-flag victory. VanDyke, the defending track champion, finished second and Trey Bayne, Hayden Woods and Zeke Shell rounded out the top five.
Williams charged from an eighth-place starting spot to win an action-packed second feature. He had the fortune of getting through a lap-14 crash that involved five of the drivers ahead of him and made the winning pass of two-time track champion Ronnie McCarty four laps later.
"It's better to be lucky than good," Williams said. "We had a fast car, but it was going to be tough to come from eighth to first because they were all running so close. Then that wreck happened and I was lucky to get by it. I was third and then we picked them off and got the win."
It was the sixth victory in a row for David Roope, who serves as crew chief for both Williams and Woods.
THE BIG ONE
Wayne Hale started from the pole in the second race before being passed by McCarty on lap 5. Hale raced Robbie Ferguson for second place over the next few circuits before a lap 14 crash.
Hale got sideways coming off turn 4, triggering a multicar pileup. Woods' car came to rest on the hood of Hale's machine, and the cars of points leaders Shell and VanDyke suffered significant damage behind them.
Hale blamed Ferguson for the crash, saying: "Robbie Ferguson caused me to stop. Same old stuff two races in a row."
Ferguson saw the wreck differently, saying Hale's car first got loose and that caused the contact.
"I got under him going into (turn) 3 and I stayed low. It looked like when he gassed up, he spun or someone picked his rear tires up off the ground and turned him into me," Ferguson said. "I think if he will look at the video, he will realize he busted loose or somebody picked his tires up. If (track officials) thought it was intentional, they would have sent me to the rear (of the field)."
Woods recovered from the crash to finish eighth.
"They got together and we were running nose to tail and off we went,” he said. “We finished with half a race car, but honestly, it was one of the most fun races of my life, even with damage, because I was working my rear end off."
MCCARTY AND BAYNE
McCarty’s No. 5 Ford got into the back of Bayne's No. 21 Ford with six laps to go in the second race, causing the 14-year-old Knoxville driver to spin out. After the race, Bayne's father, Rocky, went to McCarty's pit and confronted the driver while he was still strapped inside the car.
McCarty's mother, Gina, then ran up and yelled for the elder Bayne to get out of their pits, leading to a heated argument on pit road.
Through all the chaos, Ferguson raced to a runner-up finish and Derek Lane of Kingsport was third, his best finish of the season.
"We had a string of top-five finishes going," Ferguson said. "We're just trying to get the best finish we can and keep the car out of trouble. It's just tough to keep up with Nik. He's running one of the new Harrington motors and his car is a rocketship. It's handling good, he's driving good and he's got everything clicking."
Lane had the most improvement between races. He finished 13th out of 15 drivers in the first race before roaring back with the third-place run.
"We finally got the car right," Lane said. "I threw everything but the kitchen sink at it between races. Outside of it being a little bit loose at the end, it was pretty good."
MACGYVER IN THE PITS
Shell entered the night with a four-point lead over VanDyke in the track championship standings but led by just a single point after the first race. Shell appeared to be in trouble in the second race when his team lost a lap while still making repairs to the car. VanDyke, however, slowed with mechanical problems on lap 20 and Shell got back on the lead lap.
Shell went on to finish sixth, seven positions ahead of VanDyke. The Johnson City driver credited the work of his crew — in particular crew chief Danny Rollins — for engineering a way to keep the radiator attached so his No. 1 Ford could get back on track and ultimately leave with the points lead.
"It came down to the crews," Shell said. "My crew chief, Danny Rollins, he took a tent leg, zip ties and a ratchet strip from inside the trailer and 'MacGyvered' that thing into the points lead. Nobody behind the wheel could have made that car finish the race, but he did."
The night featured intense racing throughout, highlighted by Rob Austin holding off Dave Strong in a Pure Street feature that saw them trade the lead four times.
Chase Dixon, a 15-year-old from Abingdon, outran defending division champion Royce Peters for his second straight Mod Street win.
Kingsport’s Keith Helton passed Brandon Sutherland with six laps to go to win in Pure 4, and Abingdon’s Kevin Canter drove the Dale Earnhardt-inspired black No. 3 to his 10th win this season in the Mod 4 class.