KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series “Dalton Direct Carpets” Late Model Stock division at Kingsport Speedway is very competitive, with seven different drivers having visited victory lane in 2013. On Nickels Performance Night at the Races this past Friday, Chad Finchum of Knoxville turned in a very impressive performance in rolling to his third feature win, and in the process also padding his point advantage.
Finchum and crew chief Dinky Torbett dialed their Hedgecock racing chassis in during practice by sitting on top of the speed chart, and the 18-year-old chauffeur backed it up during qualifying by capturing his second Late Model Stock pole award on the season after laying down a fast-lap at 15.186 seconds.
Following an invert of the top four from qualifying, Paul Nogradi Jr. and Ronnie McCarty led the 19-car field to the green flag from the front row. Defending two-time track and NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Tennessee State champion Nate Monteith and Finchum started from the second row.
Nogradi and McCarty battled for the lead over the opening five circuits before McCarty moved to the point. Nogradi crashed spectacularly on lap 7 along the backstretch, when his car climbed the outside concrete wall and launched into the nighttime skies, before finally coming back down and skidding on the roof until coming to a stop between turns three and four to bring out the red flag.
Once back under green, Monteith moved into the lead over McCarty and Finchum. But Finchum wasn’t content to ride in third, as he quickly got around McCarty and closed to Monteith’s rear bumper. Running in the seventh and eighth spots, Robbie Ferguson and Derrick Lancaster tangled on lap 23 at exit of the fourth turn, with Ferguson spinning to bring out the caution.
Monteith and Finchum were on the front row for the double-file restart. With waving of the green flag, Finchum smashed the loud pedal to immediately power into a lead he would never relinquish. With 20 laps remaining in the feature, Finchum had pulled out to a comfortable half-straightaway advantage over his closest challengers.
Holding such a commanding lead, the last thing Finchum wanted to see was a late race caution. But not only did the caution wave once, during the final 10 laps of the race the yellow waved on three occasions.
Could Finchum reel off three textbook perfect restarts? Each time Finchum performed flawlessly coming back up through the gears without spinning the rear wheels to lose traction, en route to claiming his third win of the season over Zeke Shell, Lancaster, Ferguson and Daniel Pope II.
“Wow, what a great car we had tonight,” said a smiling Finchum after climbing from his car in victory lane to cheers from the crowd. “I want to thank Jay Hedegecock at Hedgecock Racing Enterprises for building such awesome race cars. Between Jay (Hedgecock) and my crew chief Dinky Torbett, they’ve really got a great setup under our car here at Kingsport Speedway. We’re getting through the corners very well, and once I pick the throttle back up we’ve got tremendous forward bite (traction) racing up off the corners.
“We unloaded for practice and then went out and laid down quick time. We backed our practice speed up by qualifying P1 in time trials to earn our second pole award this season. With the inverts here at ‘The Concrete Jungle’ you’re kind of penalized for setting fast-time in qualifying. But I knew we had a really good handling car and I just had to be patient in the early going. With the caliber of competition here weekly, though, you can’t just ride. Because once the green flag waves it’s hammer-down racing. We just picked the cars ahead of us off and once I got out front and had a clear track ahead, I was able to pull away and put some distance between myself and the other cars I was racing against.”
With Finchum’s victory, he now holds a 13-point lead over Shell in the Late Model Stock point standings heading into the Friday, July 5 racing program in the Model City, while Pope is only one-point behind Shell in third place. The standings show Finchum (378), Shell (365) and Pope (364).
“We’re just taking it one race at a time and concentrating on what we need to do and not worrying about the others close behind us in points,” said Finchum. “Really, if you get to thinking about the other drivers you’re contending with in the points chase and what they’re doing, that’ll mess you up. We’ve just got to concentrate on what we’re doing and continue finishing in the top five every Friday night and not have any DNF’s (Did Not Finish), and we’ll be just fine. With this win that’s six straight top-five finishes for us. Hopefully we’ll come back over the Fourth of July holiday and get us another win.”
Back at the race shop during the week, it’s all about preparation and the day-to-day operations at Chad Finchum Racing are coordinated by veteran motorsports figure Dinky Torbett.
“You’ve got to have a driver to get the job done behind the wheel, and Chad’s taking care of that for us,” said race team owner James Finchum. “But if your equipment isn’t well-prepared, you’re not going to get the results you’re wanting. With our crew chief Dinky Torbett, it doesn’t matter how many hours he has to put in at the shop working on the car, because he’s not going to overlook anything.
“This past week, Dinky had to go over to Charlotte, N.C., and spent many hours over there taking care of business for our race team. His dedication and hard work is paying dividends for us, because we’re running strong every week and contending for wins. We’re very fortunate to have someone of Dinky’s caliber be a partner with us at Chad Finchum Racing. Just look at the smile on his face, he gets as much joy out of seeing Chad drive the car and win than if he was actually racing it (car) himself.”
Through the first 14 events on the Kingsport Speedway schedule Finchum’s recorded three wins and nine top-five finishes, with 14 overall top-10 runs, while his lowest finish has been a seventh-place effort. In building a 13-point lead in the Late Model Stock standings, Finchum has reeled off six consecutive top-five runs.
Besides leading the Kingsport Speedway Late Model Stock points, in the latest updated (July 2) NASCAR Whelen All-American Series point standings, Finchum is ranked inside the top-10 nationally out of drivers from all across the country. Visit the NASCAR Home-Tracks website at http://hometracks.nascar.com/node/228 to see the national point standings.