KINGSPORT — Hannah Seal might be the only Rookie of the Year candidate in the history of Kingsport Speedway who has already visited the most coveted victory lane in all of short track racing, Bristol Motor Speedway.
This past May, Hawkins County’s tiny K-12 Clinch School won the Tennessee Solar Go-Kart Challenge with Hannah anchoring the driving team.
It was a big highlight in an otherwise disappointing 2017 season for Hannah, whose opportunity to drive in the Southeast Super Truck touring series evaporated, and she was able only to muster a part-time effort in the Mini-Cup division.
But as the old saying goes, when one door closes, another opens up.
The 16-year-old Clinch junior is poised to run for the Modified Street Rookie of the Year title this season at Kingsport Speedway under the tutelage of 77-year-old local racing legend Paul Shull.
Shull, who ran his first race in 1956, has more wins than he can remember, although he does recall that his highest number of victories in one season was 22.
On Friday, Hannah turned her first laps at Kingsport Speedway in a Shull-prepared Camaro that has a winning pedigree.
Aside from visiting victory lane on multiple occasions over the years with veteran Kingsport racer Royce Peters behind the wheel, that same car was driven by Rookie of the Year Rusty Clendenin last season.
Hannah described her first ride around Kingsport Speedway in Shull’s Camaro as “fast.” And she did something nearly every Kingsport Speedway rookie has done. She spun out, thanks to a flat tire caused by a stray rivet.
After she got the hang of the track, Hannah was turning laps in the 17-second range, which might be bad news for other Modified Stock drivers because she’s already posting competitive times.
“It’s a lot different than what I’m used to racing, which is the go-karts and occasionally a Super Truck,” Hannah told the Times News at the track Friday.
“After the season we had last year, we’re pretty blessed to be with Paul. I don’t think I could have found a better team to start another season with.”
Her main priority Friday was soaking up as much knowledge as possible.
“I listen to everything he says,” Hannah said. “I think I’ve got me a champion on my hands.”
Shull will be racing in the Modified Street division as well, and he had wanted Hannah to follow him around the track Friday to learn the fastest groove. But they didn’t have a spare tire, and after Hannah had her flat, Shull had to lend her his right rear tire to finish practice.
“I just hope that I can get her to where she can go around the racetrack the way we (veterans) do,” Shull said. “If I keep talking to her, maybe I can.”
Hannah’s goal for 2018 is to run full time and win Rookie of the Year. She lacks sponsorship for only two races this season.
Aside from that, she just wants to “learn as much as I can from Paul.”
Hannah’s parents are Steve and Kimberly Seal. In addition to attending Clinch School, she is a member of the Clinch Valley Volunteer Fire Department and Hawkins County Rescue Squad.
Kingsport Speedway’s season opener is March 24 at 3 p.m.