KINGSPORT — When Chad Finchum decided to run at Kingsport Speedway this season, he did so with a few specific goals.
He wanted to win the track championship, the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model state championship and the national championship.
Those are some lofty ambitions for an 18-year-old in just his second full season behind the wheel of a Late Model stock car. But with five races remaining in the season, the rookie from Knoxville is firmly atop the points standings at Kingsport Speedway and in the state rankings.
He helped his cause on Friday night by winning his second consecutive Late Model feature and fourth of the season. But consistency has been the key for Finchum — his worst finish so far this season was a seventh-place result back on March 29. Since then, Finchum has reeled off seven consecutive top five runs.
Finchum said winning the first race of the 2013 season gave him the boost of confidence that has made the rest of his dream season possible.
“We had really high expectations, and when we won the first race, it was just a dream come true,” Finchum said. “We’ve had very good success this season and we’ve got a pretty good points lead right now. I hope we can maintain that.
“It’s not going to be given to us, but I think we’ve got a good shot.”
Finchum’s transition from the asphalt surface in Newport to the tight concrete configuration has been nearly flawless. The fact that he has been able to master such a tough track is a point of pride.
“This track has tighter corners,” he said. “You can easily overdrive it. It’s a driver’s track. Newport, you’ve got to get up on the wheel and get after it there, too, but here it’s just so easy to overshoot your corner.
“You just have to stay on top of it lap after lap.”
Despite all his success, Finchum admitted to being a little disappointed when he showed up for the season opener and didn’t see two-time defending track champion Nate Monteith’s car in the pits. Monteith stepped aside at the beginning of the season to focus on a new business venture.
“As a driver, I kind of look up to him,” Finchum said. “He wasn’t here at the beginning of the year, and that was unfortunate because I thought we were going to race with him all year long.”
Last week, Finchum got his chance, and he made the most of it. Finchum edged out Monteith to win the pole and than passed him to take the lead for good en route to his third win of the season.
“I didn’t know what to expect, but he raced me really clean,” Finchum said. “I had a ball racing with it. It was a blast. Racing Monteith, and to actually beat him, was a huge accomplishment.”
Monteith wasn’t around on Friday, but Finchum’s second consecutive win was hard-earned as well.
He had the field covered during a green flag stretch that spanned the first 50 laps of the 60 lap race. Then came the hard part — Finchum had to survive six restarts in the final 10 laps to score another win.
The youngster nailed each and every restart and pulled away from runner-up Kres VanDyke to win the race and take one more step toward crossing a couple items off of his impressive to-do list.