16-year-old Ben Rhodes
KINGSPORT — Ben Rhodes won the battle, but Chad Finchum may have put himself in position to win the war.
Rhodes was able to hold off Finchum on a handful of late restarts to win Friday's NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model feature at Kingsport Speedway, but Finchum held on for a runner-up finish ahead of Zeke Shell, who came home third.
Finchum entered the night with an eight-point lead over Shell and now unofficially goes into next week's season finale with a nine-point cushion, giving the Knoxville driver an inside line on the Late Model points championship. Ryan Stiltner and Hayden Woods rounded out the top five finishers.
Rhodes, a 16-year-old Louisville native who has been selected to participate in the NASCAR Next program, was able to get past Finchum to take the lead on lap 30, the midway point of the 60-lap feature. A handful of cautions over the second half of the race gave Finchum a chance to get back out front, but Rhodes' car was simply too dominant.
Unable to catch Rhodes, Finchum was forced to hold off a spirited challenge from Shell, who was racing despite being under the weather. Both Finchum and Shell took a trip to the track's care center following the race. Finchum received some oxygen while Shell fought off symptoms of his illness.
It was another tough week for Kres VanDyke, who was tied with Shell for the points lead prior to the twin 30-lap Late Model races run at Kingsport Speedway two weeks ago. VanDyke wrecking on lap 5 of the first race two weeks ago and tumbled down the points standings. On Friday, mechanical problems doomed VanDyke to a 20th-place finish.
Next Friday marks the final night of points racing at Kingsport Speedway in 2013. Champions will be crowned in all divisions.