KINGSPORT, Tenn. (Oct. 31, 2015) — It was all treat and no trick for Chad Finchum of Knoxville, Tenn., on Halloween at Kingsport Speedway as he spooked the competition for the biggest win of his career in capturing the $6,000 victory in the inaugural running of the Fright Night 300.
The stellar starting lineup featured former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (five wins) driver Jeremy Mayfield, and 2006 NASCAR Xfinity Series Rookie-of-the-Year Danny O’Quinn Jr. Also taking the green flag were four past Kingsport Speedway champions in Ronnie McCarty (2015), Kres VanDyke (2014), Finchum (2013), and Robbie Ferguson (2002), plus 2015 Lonesome Pine Raceway champion Wayne Hale, along with 2015 Southeast Super Truck Series champion Lee Tissot.
The 21-year-old Finchum established a new Late Model Stock Car track qualifying record of 14.880 seconds (90.726 mph) back in March at the season opener. He came close to lowering his record during time trials Saturday with a fast-time at 14.881 seconds, and for his efforts he pocketed the $500 qualifying bonus. Finchum is the only LMSC driver to ever get down into the 14.80s in qualifying at Kingsport Speedway.
“Man, what a race – getting this big $6,000 victory – it’s just awesome to be parked here in victory lane after outrunning a really strong field of cars,” said Finchum with a smile on his face after climbing from his winning Ford Fusion to cheers from the huge fan turnout in the Model City. “There was definitely nothing easy about what we accomplished today. I believe this was about the wildest race I’ve ever been a part of.
“That was some hard racing between (Kres) VanDyke, (Ronnie) McCarty and me, and let me tell you, there was nothing easy about what we accomplished today. My guys told me over the radio early on when VanDyke got to racing us so hard that this was a 125 lap race, and to not abuse my stuff (tires and chassis setup). I let him go on around us because I just wanted to follow him to see what he had.”
Finchum grabbed the lead on the start over McCarty, VanDyke, Jeff Maupin and Zeke Shell. Shell passed Maupin to move into fourth just a couple of laps in as they racing up off (turn) two, and just ahead of them racing down the backstretch into the third turn, VanDyke got to the inside of McCarty to take over the second spot.
VanDyke wasted no time in closing to Finchum’s rear bumper to begin pressuring him for the lead, and after the duo raced side-by-side for four circuits VanDyke moved to the point on lap 9 racing off the fourth turn. The first of 12 cautions during the race waved on lap 14, when Rick Pannell spun exiting the fourth turn on the front straightaway.
Following the double-file restart with VanDyke and Finchum alongside one another on the front row, VanDyke pulled back out front over Finchum and McCarty.
However, all eyes were focused on Tissot, who had started from the back row after making some changes on his car before the main event. He was quickly on the move, rocketing his way up through the field into seventh in the running order by lap 18. Caution waved on lap 25 when Greg Bohanon Jr. suddenly slowed just off turn two on the backstretch when his car experienced ignition issues and shut off.
Once again VanDyke would take the lead over Finchum and McCarty, but behind the front-running trio the racing action was intense. This would ultimately lead to “the big one” shortly after the race got back under green flag racing conditions.
A six-car wreck between turns three and four on lap 27 involved Maupin, Tissot, Hale, Joey Trent, Mayfield and Ferguson. Each sustained significant damage and were eliminated from contention, except for Maupin who managed to somehow escape basically unscathed in the incident.
With five key players sidelined due to the wreck, the battle continued to see who would be the last man standing. Back under green flag racing conditions, VanDyke, Finchum, McCarty, Shell and now Derrick Lancaster were fighting for real estate around the .375-mile banked concrete oval.
Nearing the halfway distance and with a light drizzle beginning to fall from the skies, Finchum began pressuring VanDyke for the lead – pulling right up to the leader’s back bumper and sneaking peeks underneath him racing off the corners. While VanDyke and Finchum battled for the lead, McCarty had a ringside seat to the action and was waiting to join in.
Behind them Lancaster got around Shell for the fourth spot, but Shell wasn’t about to go down easy without putting up a fight. The pair tangled in the fourth turn on lap 70, with Shell’s car climbing up over the left-rear quarter panel of Lancaster and taking flight to register on the FAA radar at nearby Tri-Cities Regional Airport, before coming back down to Earth in a crash landing and spinning to bring the caution flag out.
While the field slowly circled the track under yellow and with both Shell and Lancaster in the pits receiving attention from their crews, a brief skirmish broke out between the teams when items were thrown. Track officials quickly stepped in to restore order.
With yet another double-file restart, VanDyke and Finchum started beside one another on the front row. Still a few raindrops were falling and Finchum wanted to get out front, just in case the rain intensified and the race might be considered complete since it had reached past the halfway point.
VanDyke and Finchum were racing side-by-side, and with some contact being made in the corners. Many will say that’s just good, hard short-track racing at its best, and fans were loving what they were seeing.
Racing down the backstretch into the third turn with each other, VanDyke and Finchum opened the door ever so slightly to allow McCarty to put a foot inside. When opportunity presents itself, it’s best to capitalize because you might not get another chance. To the delight of the crowd, McCarty drove past VanDyke and Finchum to take the lead racing off the fourth turn.
Racing three-wide around “The Concrete Jungle” trading paint in close quarters, well, that’s probably going to lead to some bent sheet-metal. The left-front fender and part of the nosepiece was flopping in the wind on VanDyke’s car, but he was still up-on-the-wheel racing hard.
McCarty was riding in the lead over Finchum and VanDyke, followed by Maupin and O’Quinn. Fighting to hold his position, VanDyke ultimately lost third place to Maupin. But he refused to just lay over without trying to reclaim the spot and racing down the backstretch into the third turn on lap 92, VanDyke rolled in hard on the inside to send Maupin spinning. Both drivers had to restart from the back, Maupin for bringing the caution out and VanDyke for spinning him.
McCarty and Finchum were positioned on the front row for double-file restart with 10 cars still on the track, and they raced door-to-door into the first turn. But racing off the second corner, Finchum powered into the lead.
While Finchum would manage to stay out front ahead of McCarty, both VanDyke and Maupin would work their way back inside the top-five, when they overtook O’Quinn.
Finchum recorded the victory over McCarty, VanDyke, Maupin and O’Quinn. There were a total of 10 lead changes during the race.
Completing the top 10 finishers were Bohanon, Adam Boatman, Pannell, Jamie Harrison and Shell.
“We had a great championship season in 2013 and won several races here at Kingsport Speedway, plus we won the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series title last year over at Lonesome Pine Raceway, but this is by far the biggest victory I’ve had in my racing career,” Finchum said. “It’s really good to see such a large crowd here today on Halloween, and they definitely saw some great racing. I know they got their money’s worth for the race ticket they purchased.
“We’re just very fortunate to have won, because I know there when you had McCarty, VanDyke and myself battling three-wide racing off the fourth turn for the lead, man, you’re just hanging on because anything can happen. It’s really intense racing, let me tell you. There are so many people I want to thank, and they include my dad and mom (James and Linda Finchum), crew members J.E. Blankenship, Tony Cordell, Tyler Reed, Bobby Hall and Charli Brown. Plus, NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Eric McClure was in the pits with us, and I’ve been fortunate enough to drive for the team he co-owns, Martin-McClure Motorsports, a few times this season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series.”
Supporters for Chad Finchum Racing on the No. 19 Ford Fusion include: A-1 Finchum Heating & Cooling, Texas Roadhouse, Finchum Paint & Body, Loveland Baptist Church, RW Race Engines, Five Star Race Car Bodies, CARS Etc., and Hedgecock (Race Cars) Racing Enterprises.
To learn more about possible sponsor opportunities with Chad Finchum Racing, contact James Finchum at (865) 740-3535. To keep up with Chad Finchum’s racing throughout the season visit his website at www.ChadFinchum19.com or follow him on Twitter @ChadFinchum.