(Photo by Randall Perry)
KINGSPORT — Chad Finchum gave his championship hopes a big boost last week.
Finchum was the class of the field on Friday at Kingsport Speedway, winning the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model Stock race one week after fellow driver Tony Ward passed away.
The race marked the first event since Ward died unexpectedly at the age of 49 last Saturday, a day after competing in the Street Stock division.
On Friday, Finchum turned in a 15.085-second lap to earn the top spot in qualifying, but started from the second row after the top four were inverted.
After a caution on lap 12, it took just a few revolutions for Finchum to get around leaders Daniel Pope II and Zeke Shell. Once out front, the 18-year-old from Knoxville cruised to his second Late Model win of the season, beating Pope, Lee Tissot, Kres VanDyke and Derrick Lancaster.
“Man, it’s hard to put into words just how special this win is to me,” said Finchum, who earned his other victory this season on opening weekend at Kingsport Speedway. “With this being Father’s Day weekend, what better present could I give my dad than to give him a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series victory? Racing is a passion both Dad and I share together, and just to see the smile on his face once I got out of the car is what it’s all about.
“I’m so thankful to both my dad and mother for the opportunities they give me to be competitive in racing. I’m truly blessed, and so very appreciative for all my parents do to allow me to race.”
With the victory, Finchum secured a 10-point lead over VanDyke in the championship standings.
“Back during the winter, we decided to solely concentrate our racing efforts in 2013 on running the full season at Kingsport Speedway to hopefully win a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series championship,” Finchum said. “We knew the weekly competition would be very tough, with several cars capable of winning on any given race night. But we felt very confident as a team that we would be very competitive, and that’s important right there.
“When you’re points racing, you can tend to at times be extra careful to try and not get yourself into trouble, because you definitely can’t afford to have a DNF,” he added. “... Hey, we got ourselves back into Victory Lane for the second time this season and we’ll go over the car really good next week and hopefully come back and be able to back tonight’s win up.”
Winners in the support divisions included John Harrell in Street Stock, Jason Ketron in Pure 4 and Brandon Byington in Rookie Pure 4.