KINGSPORT — Trouble wasn’t hard to find at Kingsport Speedway on Saturday afternoon.
In fact, it seemed to be lurking around every corner during the early stages of the 60-lap Late Model feature.
The caution flag flew seven times in the first 23 laps as an offseason of waiting for opening day led to an abundance of fender-bending exuberance once the green flag finally fell.
But Knoxville’s Chad Finchum somehow was able to skate through the chaos unfolding around him before making a pass on race leader Hayden Woods with five laps to go. Finchum held off a couple charges by Woods down the stretch to secure his first Late Model victory.
Finchum said patience was the key to getting out front. But once he was there, nerves of steel were required to maintain his lead while Woods worked over the back bumper of his No. 19 machine.
“One thing you’ve got to learn is that you can’t break under pressure,” Finchum said. “I spun a tire coming off of (turn) two (on lap 57), and he gave me a shot going into three.
“I wouldn’t expect nothing less from him. That’s just good short-track racing.”
Zeke Shell jumped to the front at the outset of the race and stayed ahead of the trouble that kept popping up in his rearview mirror during the early portion of the race.
But as the cars came out of turn four preparing to restart after a caution on lap 23, something appeared to break under the front of Shell’s car, sending the No. 97 wobbling slowly into the pits.
That put Blake Jones in the lead despite the fact that he’d already shed two large pieces of sheet metal off his No. 80 machine and his rear fender was hanging on for dear life as the field got back up to speed.
Jones managed to stay out front until lap 31 when Woods finally got around him. It was a tough day all around for Jones, who was running his first race for car owner Nate Monteith.
Jones was using a second-hand motor and his front brakes didn’t work. He also developed radio problems that prevented him from talking to his crew, and all the body damage his machine suffered early in the race allowed some carbon monoxide to seep into the cockpit.
“We were hoping to win with no tire marks on our car,” Jones said after finishing third. “It just wasn’t the weekend we were looking for.”
Woods stayed out front until Finchum finally made his move and took the lead for good. He said the runner-up finish came only after he took his best shot at earning the win.
“Finchum had a great car. I was right there behind him, following him, and he could just get down right in the center of the corner,” Woods said. “We had a strong car, too. I think if we would have had two more laps, we would have had him back. It would have been a great race.”
In other action, Kingsport’s Jason Ketron and John Ketron dueled for the win in an action-packed Pure 4 race before Jason Ketron finally came out on top. Keith Helton finished third.
John Herrell outran Rob Austin in the 30-lap Street Stock race, and Zack Walton beat out Jacob Owens for the Legends win. Chris Steadman was the Rookie Pure 4 winner.
Racing returns to Kingsport Speedway next Friday night. Gates open at 6:30 p.m. with racing set to start around 8.