KINGSPORT — For just the second time in the past eight years, the hills around Kingsport Speedway will echo with horsepower Saturday as the track hosts the “Courtesy Chevrolet 150” UARA-Stars Late Model Touring Series.
That’s the same series known for an interesting mix of second-generation drivers, veteran Late Model aces and up-and-coming drivers that brought Kingsport Speedway out of a seven-year hibernation in November.
A capacity crowd wasn’t disappointed as Brandon McReynolds, son of former NASCAR crew chief and current TV commentator Larry McReynolds, beat veteran Jamie Caudill to the finish line by inches in a photo finish.
Another second-generation racer, Coleman Pressley, heads to Kingsport’s three-eighths-mile concrete oval Saturday fresh off a good performance with a bad finish last Saturday on another nearby fast concrete oval.
Pressley, the son of former NASCAR Sprint Cup star Robert Pressley, competed in the Nationwide race last Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway. Despite driving a car that normally brings up the rear, Pressley was fighting for a top-15 much of the race before contact with Mike Bliss with 75 laps to go ended his day.
Still, it was a good learning experience for the 21-year-old Asheville, N.C., driver, who hopes some of that concrete experience from the Bristol race will pay off this Saturday in Kingsport’s tight hairpin turns.
“The Bristol race was a great opportunity, and it gives me a lot more opportunity heading into Kingsport,” Pressley said. “We stayed on the lead lap and ran with the Cup guys all race, and all in all I’d rate it a good day. I got better every lap, and up until the crash we had a top-15 finish going.
“I think coming off of the concrete at Bristol right back to another concrete track ... a week later is going to give me an advantage. If nothing else, I’m already used to the Tennessee air.”
It’s been a busy March for Pressley. The week before his Bristol debut, he opened the UARA series at Hickory Motor Speedway with a second-place finish behind winner Shane Huffman, who formerly drove in the Nationwide Series for car owner Dale Earnhardt Jr.
It was an interesting cast of characters for the UARA season opener’s 30-car starting lineup.
The series brings together some of the most celebrated names in local short-track racing, competing against pedigreed drivers like Richard Childress’ grandson Ty Dillon, who finished third; Junior Johnson’s son Robert Johnson, who finished eighth; and Steve Grissom’s son Kyle Grissom, who sat on the pole.
On Saturday, they’ll add to the mix some of the best local drivers around including back-to-back defending Lonesome Pine Raceway champion Nate Monteith, who is looking forward to a seven-race deal in the NASCAR Camping World Truck series. Other local drivers expected to compete include Kingsport racer John King Jr., past champions Wayne Hale and Keith Stiltner, and Southwest Virginia drivers Caleb Holman of Abingdon, Jeff Woodward of Cedar Bluff, and Brian Blevins of Coeburn.
But Pressley said he believes he has the machine this time at Kingsport to take home a trophy instead of a bent race car.
“I’m hoping I’ll be so far ahead I won’t be fighting for real estate like you have to back in the pack, because that’s where all the trouble happens,” Pressley said. “I’m excited about coming back to Kingsport. The first time around in November, I had a couple of incidents that cost me track position, but we still came back at the end for a seventh-place finish.
“This time around I feel like we’ve got a better idea for the setup, and I’m a better driver, so I’m looking for a better result. I ruffled a few feathers last year, but we’re going for the win this time.”
Open practice for the UARA series will be today from noon to 6 p.m., and admission is free.
Also on the menu Saturday at Kingsport Speedway is a 30-lap Street Stock race and 25-lap Pure 4 race.
Gates open Saturday at 4 p.m., with qualifying at 5 p.m. and racing at 7 p.m.
Grandstand admission Saturday is $15 for adults and $10 for students. Children 12 and under are admitted free.