A strong field of rookie competitors are racing in 2010 with the United Auto Racing Association - Southern Touring Asphalt Racing Series, and 14-year-old Clint King of Thomasville, N.C., moved to head of class with a grade of A+ Saturday night at Joe and Phyllis Loven-owned Kingsport Speedway with a dominating performance to win the Courtesy Chevrolet 150 before a very good crowd on a cool night in East Tennessee.
"We hoped to maybe get a win this year, but we never thought it would happen in just the second race of the season," said the smiling King, after climbing from his car on the front straightaway to the cheers from the crowd in victory lane. "There's a lot of tough competition here in the UARA-STARS. This is awesome, and I sure won't ever forget capturing my first-ever win here at Kingsport Speedway."
Coleman Pressley, son of former NASCAR Cup, Nationwide and Truck racer Robert Pressley, captured the Bloomingdale Car Care pole position in qualifying with King, making just his second series start and also racing at Kingsport for first time, second quickest to earn outside front row starting berth.
King grabbed the lead over Pressley, Kyle Grissom, Ronnie Bassett Jr. and Michael Rouse on opening lap, but the caution quickly waved when the cars of Royce Peters, Tyler English, Nate Monteith and Jessica Murphy tangled between turns one and two before the first lap was officially completed.
With the cars lined up single file for the restart, back green King felt pressure from the duo of Pressley and Grissom. Grissom first disposed of Pressley to take over second on lap 8, and closing to the rear bumper of King he began applying heat on race leader King. Caution waved on lap 14 when Bruce Blessing slowed high between turns one and two.
Going back green Grissom raced hard off into first turn to get inside King on lap 17, and they ran side-by-side around the 3/8-mile concrete-surfaced oval over the next four circuits before Grissom moved into the lead on lap 21.
With Grissom leading the field back up to speed, followed by Pressley, King, Lee Tissot and Bassett, Grissom's car failed to come up through the gears and he dropped back to fourth. Also dropping back positions (to fifth) was Pressley, after he slid up the banking between turns one and two as he and King went around Grissom at the flagstand battling for the lead and raced off into first turn door-to-door.
King moved into a lead he would never relinquish, and began to put real estate between himself and challengers Tissot, Rouse, Grissom and Pressley. The only thing slowing King down were caution flags, as yellow-fever appeared to be contagious during first one-third of the 150-lapper.
After getting caught up in the opening lap wreck, the night went from bad to worse for Monteith after his car slammed the inside concrete wall along the front straightaway after racing off the fourth turn with John King II. And it wasn't long before UARA rookie Robert Johnson III, son of legendary racer and team-owner Robert "Junior" Johnson, who was voted one of NASCAR's 50 All-Time Greatest Drivers and will be in the first class enshrined this spring in the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C., got into outside wall along the front straightaway and bounced along before coming to stop near exit gate in turn one. And on lap 56, Wayne Hale and Grant McGinnis tangled in turn two, both coming to stop against inside wall to bring out the caution.
During a long green-flag stretch race leader King pulled out to almost full-straightaway advantage over Tissot, Grissom, Pressley, Brennan Poole and John King. Opening eyes was Poole, who was fast during practice but suffered clutch problems and was relegated to starting at tail of the field. Poole cracked the top five, moving into fifth-place on lap 104 and continuing charge forward into third on lap 122.
John King was also having a strong run, after starting 15th and working his way into the fifth spot on lap 124. Also engaged in battle for postion were Garrett Campbell, Matt Kurzejewski, Alex Yontz, Michael McGuire and Brian Rose.
With the cruise control set King was enjoying his ride on the point, easily outdistancing his closest competitors and apparently headed to his first career UARA victory. The complexion of the race changed on lap 143 when the red flag was brought out for a four-car wreck in the fourth turn, erasing King's comfortable lead and setting the stage for a shootout to the finish.
But the "young gun" King would not be denied a trip to victory lane, as he held off the veteran Tissot en route to the checkered flag, with Poole, Campbell and Kurzejewski completing the top five.
"We ran pretty good (top 10) in practice yesterday and I was fortunate enough to lay down a good lap in qualifying to earn a front row start," King said. "That was huge, too, being able to run all night inside the top five. It's much easier on your equipment when you're running up towards the front and not having to abuse it so much racing back in the field fighting for position and beating and banging around in typical short-track racing fashion.
"With the layout of this track, you race off real hard into the turns and use quite a bit of brake pedal. You've got to be sure and not get your brakes hot and lose them. There when we dropped back to third there in the early part of the race, the car still felt really good. With it being kind of cool here tonight, during the long green flag run in the middle of the race, getting good heat in the tires our car was really good and we just pulled away from (Lee) Tissot, (Kyle) Grissom and (Coleman) Pressley. I was kind of worried there at the end, because on a short run I thought Tissot might be a little better than us. But I ran good laps, and Tissot raced me clean and we got the win."
Pressley and John King, running in fourth and fifth on the late-race restart, each got out of shape between turns one and two and slid up the track to open door for Campbell and Kurzejewski to record top-five runs.
John King nosed out Pressley for sixth, with Grissom, Dennis Queen and Bassett rounding out the top 10 finishers.
Poole's third-place finish puts last year's UARA Rookie of the Year in the points lead following the second race of the season.
Donnie Buckner of Asheville, N.C., led flag-to-flag to win the 30-lap Street Stock race. Behind Buckner, Southwest Virginia hard-chargers Roger Neece and Rob Austin battled the entire distance for the runner-up position, with Austin finally claiming the spot and Neece settling for third. Finishing fourth and fifth, respectively, were Jon Cook and Jesse Wilder.
Keith Helton of Kingsport jumped into the lead at drop of green in the 25-lap Pure 4 feature and quickly opened up a comfortable advantage, but on the restart following event's first caution his car failed to go into gear and he slid back six positions. But Helton was determined to work his way back to the front, though he faced great adversity along the way as he was the victim of being collected in two wrecks as he picked off cars ahead of him. If you ask fans sitting in the grandstands, the majority would probably say Helton was "deliberately wrecked" in both instances.
With a late-race caution bunching the field up for a three-lap sprint to the checkers, Helton thrilled the crowd with a dazzling display of driving to take the lead on white-flag lap and hold off Danny Hall, Gene Estep, Stacey Castle and Tracy Head for the well-earned victory.
KINGSPORT (TN) SPEEDWAY
UARA-STARS "COURTESY CHEVROLET 150"
MARCH 27, 2010
1. Clint King #07-Thomasville, NC
2. Lee Tissot #44-Asheville, NC
3. Brennan Poole #5-The Woodlands, TX
4. Garrett Campbell #12-Asheboro, NC
5. Matt Kurzejewski #10-Concord, NC
6. John King II #21-Kingsport, TN
7. Coleman Pressley #59-Asheville, NC
8. Kyle Grissom #32-Concord, NC
9. Dennis Queen #92-Waynesville, NC
10. Ronnie Bassett Jr. #04-Winston-Salem, NC
11. Brian Rose #42-Bowling Green, KY
12. Julia Dawson #1-Highland Village, TX
13. Alex Yontz #98-Walnut Cove, NC
14. Michael McGuire #22-Vinton, VA
15. Jeff Woodward #94-Cedar Bluff, VA
16. Scott Turlington #48-Richmond, VA
17. Michael Rouse #23-Wilson, NC
18. Wayne Hale #19-Piney Flats, TN
19. Grant McGinnis #41-Boiling Springs, NC
20. Robert Johnson III #11-Hamptonville, NC
21. Nate Monteith #14-Bristol, TN
22. Bruce Blessing #55-Yuma, VA
23. Royce Peters #38-Kingsport, TN
24. Tyler English #18-Wallace, SC
STREET STOCK (30 laps)
1) Donnie Buckner #11; 2) Rob Austin #25; 3) Roger Neece #22; 4) Jon Cook #13; 5) Jesse Wilder #79; 6) Patrick Flannery #38; 7) Bobby Helton #03; 8) Jamie Linkous #99 - Did Not Start: Joey Mull #3
PURE 4 (25 laps)
1) Keith Helton #9; 2) Danny Hall #88; 3) Gene Estep #71; 4) Stacey Castle #11; 5) Tracy Head #5; 6) Casey Head #33; 7) Stacy Head #3; 8) Bill Coleman #15; 9) Steve Skeen #17; 10) Tony Casteel #4; 11) Charlie Bates #23; 12) Tony Perry #7; 13) Brent Gillie #2