Saturday’s win in the Crate Late Model feature at Volunteer Speedway had been a long time coming. The Johnson City driver of the black No. 3 Chevrolet led all 30 laps around the four-tenths-mile Bulls Gap dirt track on a night when the word “wild” hardly does the action justice.
Maupin first faced off against Jonesborough’s Tim Byrd, who held a one-point lead over Maupin in the championship standings heading into Saturday. From there, Jason Cardwell emerged as a threat and his black No. 07 lifted Maupin’s back tires off the ground on one restart.
It didn’t matter to 2014 track champion Maupin, who stayed in the throttle and pulled away from Cardwell for his first win of the season.
“Everything was good. The car was fast; it was on a rail,” he said. “It was the perfect night.”
Maupin fought a little of a tight condition early, but his car was fast coming off the turns. Cardwell finished second ahead of Bradley Lewelling, Austin Atkins and Taylor Coffman.
Byrd took a big hit in the points after a 15th-place finish caused by ignition problems with his No. 24 machine.
“It was popping and cracking and wasn’t right the whole race,” he said. “It was a tough night in the points, but we’ll bounce back hopefully.”
Johnson City’s Jackie Hughes finished eighth out of the 21 drivers entered in the Crate Late Model feature. He was able to weave his way through the wreckage, particularly one big pileup on the backstretch.
“I guess the Lord was with me tonight and kept me out of all those wrecks,” Hughes said. “I don’t know if it’s where it’s getting to the end of the season, but they acted like they were trying to win it on the first lap. We had a good night with our old car. For an 11-year-old car, it did good.”
Maupin was happy to emerge with a double-digit points lead, but his plans are to stay aggressive over the final weeks of the season.
“I think about points, but we’re not points racing by no means,” he said. “I didn’t realize I was that close in points until tonight. Maybe we’ve turned our luck around and will stay up front even more.”
Another Washington County racer, Charles Bates of Jonesborough, won the 20-lap Classic feature at The Gap. Mitchell Millsap and Josh Chesney also had podium finishes.
Knoxville’s Adam Mitchell won an action-packed Sportsman Late Model race that featured six multicar crashes and a red flag for Aaron Jones’ car getting turned upside down in turn 1. Vic Chandler, Chris Coffey, Rex Coffey and Travis Fultz, the early leader, rounded out the top five.
Bean Station’s Tony Trent edged Austin Atkins for the Street Stock win. Morristown’s Logan Hickey won in Modified Street and Knoxville’s John Byers scored his second win of the year in Mini Stock.
Another night of racing is scheduled for Saturday night.
NO BIG ORANGE
One noticeable absence from Kingsport Speedway last Friday night was the orange No. 26 Chevrolet driven by Joey Trent.
The veteran racer from Gray ran second in the Late Model Stock point standings much of the season and was fourth heading into last Friday’s races. But after disputes with track officials and grievances that aired on social media, Trent was told he was no longer welcome to race at the track.
This is a big loss as his cars have always been some of the most visually appealing in the field — and Trent has done a good job promoting local short-track racing and the track itself. He has a well-earned reputation as a good, clean racer. Furthermore, the battles between Trent, Derek Lane and Wayne Hale have made for some of the best Late Model racing this season.
From my previous position as the public relations director for a drag racing organization, I understand how much racers complaining on the internet is hated — whether on social media, message boards or through other comments. Disputes between racers and promoters have happened throughout the sport’s history. It’s just now that many are aired in a public forum.
If you look at it from each side, the promoter and track feel they’re getting bashed, while the racers often feel using social media is a last resort after complaints have fallen on deaf ears.
Trent’s plans for the rest of the season are to race at Hickory (N.C.) Speedway and Motor Mile Speedway in Radford. While both are great tracks, it’s a tough loss for Kingsport with only a nine-car field for Friday’s Late Model feature.
It’s not the first time a driver has complained about a track over what’s felt to be unfair treatment and it won’t be the last. As someone who thoroughly enjoys the racing at Kingsport, I hope both sides can resolve some of the issues and the No. 26 car is back on track again.
Another five-division program of racing at the three-eighths-mile concrete oval is scheduled for Friday night.
Contact Jeff Birchfield via email at [email protected]