By Robert Walden
Kingsport Speedway Media/Public Relations
KINGSPORT, Tenn. — Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, are you ready for NASCAR Whelen All-American Series racing to crank up at Kingsport Speedway? With the official arrival of spring at first of the week, both race fans and competitors alike are looking forward to the first green flag of 2017 waving at “The Concrete Jungle” on Saturday afternoon, March 25.
The Food City 175 at the .375-mile banked concrete oval will feature exciting racing action in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model Stock Car (60 laps), Modified Street (30 laps), Pure 4 (30 laps), Mod 4 (30 laps) and Pure Street (25 laps).
To help kick the season off in style, Food City located on Clinchfield Street (downtown Kingsport next to Domtar) will host the Kingsport Speedway Tailgate Party on Friday, March 24 beginning at 4 p.m. Several drivers will be displaying their race cars, along with being available for autographs. Plus, the track will offer some free ticket giveaways to the Saturday, March 25 event. The Kingsport Speedway Little Racers Club will be registering new members on Saturday at the track, with Food City providing a limited number of prize bags for youth in the club.
With a new racing season also comes new hope – hope for winning races and also contending for a track championship.
A strong contingent of NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model Stock Car competitors will be battling throughout the 2017 racing season, headed by two-time defending track champion Ronnie McCarty of Kingsport. Among others who will be looking to dethrone McCarty include Zeke Shell of Johnson City, last season’s runner-up by the slim margin of four points behind the champion. Plus, throw into the mix Wayne Hale of Bluff City, Kres VanDyke of Abingdon, Va. (2014 track champion), Joey Trent of Gray, Robbie Ferguson of Jonesborough (2002 track champion), and several others. Two-time track champion (2011 and 2012) Nate Monteith of Blountville, along with 2013 champion Chad Finchum of Knoxville, are tentatively expected to be in action at the season-opener.
Chris Tunnell of Wise, Va., captured the Street Stock championship last season. This year the class has been renamed Modified Street, but look for Tunnell to be back hoping to defend his title. Also expected to be racing are Paul Shull, Royce Peters, Dennis Deese, Mark Christian, Sam Hurd, father and son Gary Crumbley and Bruce Crumbley, along with others.
Since the track reopened for weekly racing in 2011, it’s arguable to say the Pure 4 division has offered the most competitive racing week in and week out with close quarters, door-to-door racing action with several drivers capable of winning. Defending Pure 4 champion Billy Byington of Kingsport won’t be back to defend his title, being he’s attending Tennessee Tech University in Middle Tennessee. However, his car owner and racing partner Kenny Absher of Kingsport finished runner-up in points last year and won three races. Then you’ve got the racing Ketron family who call the Model City home, led by father John and sons Billy and Jason. Both John and Jason own multiple Pure 4 track championships, and you can rest assured that Billy wants to secure a champion’s trophy. Also expected to be racing are Kevin Darnell, Chris Neeley, Bucky Smith, Craig Phelps, Tim Abelseth and several others.
In just his first year of racing in 2016, Kevin Canter of Abingdon captured the Mod 4 championship. He will be back trying to defend his title, while Jerry Miller, Chris Amburgey, Larry Bowens, Dennis Arnold, Billy Duty and several others look to dethrone Canter.
Marty Tunnell of Wise, Va., impressively captured the Pure Street championship last season by winning four races, while also finishing in second-place on 10 occasions, with one third-place effort in 15 starts. Will anybody be able to wrestle the title away from Tunnell in 2017? Dennis Arnold, Jamie Meadows, Bobby Talbert, Jeremy Draughn and Penny Hurd hope to challenge Tunnell.
Open practices will be held Thursday, March 23 from 1-7 p.m. and on Friday, March 24 from 12-9 p.m. Free admission to watch from the grandstands and tier-parking.
The pit gate will open Saturday, March 25 at 9 a.m., with both grandstand and tier-parking gates opening at 11 a.m. for the Food City 175.
Practice will begin at 10:15 a.m. Drivers’ meeting is set for 12 p.m., with qualifying to follow at 12:30 p.m. and the season-opening green flag scheduled to wave at 2 p.m.
Adult grandstand admission Saturday $10, with kids 12-and-under admitted free. Adult tier-parking admission $10 per person (plus a $10 vehicle parking spot fee), with kids 12-and-under admitted free. Tier-parking spots are available for season-long reservation at $100 per spot. With a reserved parking spot, weekly vehicle and admission costs still apply. NASCAR license forms are available at the track office during the week, and they will also be available at pit sign-in the day of event.
Tell your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers all about the exciting, action-packed weekly racing programs at Kingsport Speedway. You don’t want to miss it!