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16-year-old Dixon survives chaos to win opener at Kingsport Speedway

Jeff Birchfield • May 30, 2020 at 4:32 AM

KINGSPORT — Youth was served Friday night when the “Concrete Jungle” took a bite out of some of its veteran racers.

Chase Dixon, a 16-year-old rookie from Abingdon, won the 60-lap Late Model Stock feature after defending track champion Nik Williams blew a tire with six laps to go and Kres VanDyke and Hayden Woods made contact on the ensuing restart.

It was only Dixon’s second Late Model start at the three-eighths-mile concrete oval. With the NASCAR Weekly Series still on a COVID-19 hiatus, the races were part of a track-sanctioned non-points program.

“We didn’t have the best car, but you have to survive at Kingsport,” said Dixon, driver of the No. 07 Chevrolet. “I feel like we played a smart game and it played into our hands. It is a definitely cool deal. I ran a couple of Late Model races here last year and it didn’t go as I wanted. This one, we didn’t have the best car, but as the season goes on I feel we will be a contender for more wins.”

The win was a milestone one for crew chief Chris Carrier. Although Carrier has been a crew chief at the highest levels of NASCAR including for famed car owner Roger Penske and now in the truck series for Henderson Motorsports, it was his first win as a Late Model Stock crew chief.

“It’s pretty cool to have my first win with a Late Model Stock car and to do it with a kid I love a lot,” Carrier said. “They’re literally right up the street from our shop. Tiger Woods could probably hit their place with a tee shot. Chase did a great job to come out here and win his second time out in a Late Model.”

Ashton Higgins, a 17-year-old from Weaverville, North Carolina, driving the No. 9 Ford, finished second. Higgins, who has wins at Kingsport in the Southeast Super Trucks Series and Limited Late Models, made a late charge to score a trifecta with the Late Model Stock cars.

“It was real tight racing. We really should have been better than what we were,” Higgins said. “We got in a good-luck situation where the two leaders wrecked. Congrats to Chase. That was all we had. I tried my hardest to get to him.”

Thomas Beane, a Hudson, North Carolina, driver in the No. 31 Ford, finished third. He started alongside Dixon on the final restart before Dixon scooted away.

Williams led the first 54 laps before a blown right front tire sent him into the turn 4 wall. He recovered to finish fifth in his No. 32 Chevrolet.

VanDyke and Woods battled side by side for the lead on the restart. VanDyke took the lead coming off turn 2 but was hit by Woods in turn 3, sending him spinning. The drivers had different perspectives of the contact.

“Typical hard short-track racing, I guess,” VanDyke said. “We had a great car and I felt I was on track to run Nik down. Then the caution came out and Nik was in the wall. When we went back green, I got by Hayden. We went into (turns) 3 and 4, and I guess he wanted the spot a little more than I did. He tried to take it. It’s short-track racing and there will be another day. We will see what happens next time.”

Woods wound up sixth in the final rundown. After the race, he said he was still processing what happened.

“I was there. He came there. I’m not going to put blame on me or him,” Woods said. “I might have gotten in a little hot, but from my perspective, he might have cut across my nose and not given me enough room in the center of 3 and 4. That’s racing and it’s fine. I’m just happy to be back out there after this coronavirus stuff. It was a good night until then.”

FAST LANE IN SPORTSMAN

Derek Lane and Kyle Barnes swapped the lead four times over the first five laps of the 30-lap Sportsman feature before Lane took the lead for good.

Barnes challenged him over the next 15 laps before Lane’s No. 28 Chevrolet pulled away for a 2.215-second margin of victory. Barnes finished second, and Kirby Gobble, Rusty Clendenin and Alex Miller rounded out the top five.

The biggest action came in a battle for position when Carter Davison tapped the car of Jenna Wagner, sending her for a spin. A lap later, the two were involved in a multicar accident that included Kevin Wolfe and Luke Fox.

Davison’s No. 57 sustained major damage, and the car was on fire as it was towed by the wrecker to the pits.

ALL HAIL, MR. HALE

William Hale scored his first-ever victory in the Pure 4 ranks, driving his No. 47 Chevrolet to the win over Chad Jeffers in the No. 38 Toyota. Lance Pratt drove to a third-place finish in the 21-car field.

It came after Billy Byington made contact with Craig Phelps in turn 2, sending Phelps for a spin with six laps to go as the two were battling for the lead.

Defending class champion Keith Helton started on the pole but fell out of the race with a faulty wheel bearing.

BACK IN THE WINNING GROOVE

Defending Mod 4 champion Kevin Canter picked up where he left off last season, driving the black No. 3 with the Dale Earnhardt-inspired paint scheme to victory. Kirby Gobble finished second and Dennis Arnold was third.

Doug Austin passed Tony Dockery for the lead with seven laps to go to win the 25-lap Pure Street race. Jay Swecker was runner-up to Austin with Kevin Darnell racing to a third-place finish.