With over 25 cars displayed from the speedway’s different divisions, drivers and officials all said they’re eager for the start of the new season at the NASCAR-sanctioned, three-eighths-mile concrete oval track.
“This is our third year doing it at the Johnson City Mall and it is well represented of each division,” track publicist Will Bellamy said. “This is a great way to kick off our season. We’re ready to drop the green flag on March 23.
“We can’t stress enough how great this is at the Johnson City Mall. We’re excited for 2019. It’s going to be a huge year, hopefully our best yet.”
THE CHAMPS ARE HERE
Johnson City driver Zeke Shell had the best year of his career in 2018 when he picked up his first Kingsport Speedway championship. While he didn’t have his No. 1 Ford on display, Shell was hand after an offseason celebrating both the track and Tennessee state championships.
“After the last race last year, we immediately started tearing down the car and started fixing parts and researching them,” Shell said. “Going to the (NASCAR national) banquet in Charlotte, that was a new experience, but it was fun. I hope we get to do it again soon.
“When I think about the memorable moments, the driver didn’t do it. The crew was the reason we won. They wouldn’t let the car not finish a race. The crew won it.”
Three-time Kingsport Speedway champion Kres VanDyke had his No. 15 Chevrolet displayed on the ground floor level of the mall. The 38-year-old Abingdon driver won six races last season but finished seven points behind Shell after experiencing his share of problems.
“It’s always good to have good people to race against and such good competition,” VanDyke said. “We had a pretty rotten year with the tear-ups, the breakdowns, the motor issues and the big crashes. Hopefully we can get things turned around, get more trophies and come back with another championship.”
Two-time defending Pure Street champion Jay Swecker of Kingsport also is ready to get his No. 77 Chevrolet Camaro on track. Swecker won the division title by 28 points over runner-up David Strong. Racing is a family affair for Swecker, a second-
generation driver whose wife, son, daughter and son-in-law are all involved in the sport.
“I just try to get the good finishes,” Swecker said. “I have a good crew that helps me at the shop and I feel these races are won at the shop. I try to stay out of trouble. My son spots for me and he does a good job helping keep my head on my shoulders.”
Nik Williams of Chuckey was the hottest Late Model Stock driver at the end of last season. He finished with six wins, tying VanDyke for the most last season, in the No. 32 Chevrolet. Williams will switch to the No. 7 Ford that veteran Robbie Ferguson drove last season, although running the No. 32 remains an option.
“I’m very excited and hope we can pick up where we left off and stay up front,” said Williams, who finished third in the points. “Dave Roope, my crew chief, had the setup on the car about perfect every race.”
Bryson Dennis of Greeneville is ready for a second season after switching from racing a Crate Late Model at the Volunteer Speedway dirt track to running on the concrete at Kingsport. The 22-year-old found his rookie season racing on pavement to be quite challenging.
“It was a learning experience, giving me seat time and trying to learn as much as I could,” Dennis said. “It was a big adjustment with the way they drive a lot different than a dirt car. The more the season went, the more comfortable I got. But the pavement isn’t as forgiving if you get out of shape and try to get the car settled down.”
Billy Duty debuted his new No. 21 Mod 4 car featuring a special paint scheme that pays tribute to the Wood Brothers Racing team.
“That’s something we put together since it’s been such a rough year for the Wood Brothers, losing Glen Wood and David Pearson,” Duty said. “It’s just something to show a little respect for them.”
Duty also has a black No. 45 painted as a tribute to Adam Petty. The No. 45 is a basic paint scheme; the No. 21 isn’t wrapped but painted instead. The No. 21 is a former NASCAR Goody’s Dash car Duty picked up in Lexington, North Carolina.
“We’ve only had it about a month,” Duty said. “We just tried to get everything ready. We want to shake it down and learn a little more about it.”
The East Tennessee Legends of Racing also had a display as part of the show.
Johnson City’s Brownie King, who raced on the beach at Daytona and in the first Daytona 500; Travis Tiller, a veteran of 51 starts on the NASCAR Cup Series; and Larry Utsman of the famed Bluff City racing family were signing autographs in the afternoon.