Kres VanDyke may have appeared to be cruising to the checkered flag in Friday night’s Late Model Stock feature, but it was all he could do to stay in control of his red No. 15 Chevrolet.
The car suffered damage in a multicar crash on the opening lap that broke loose the exhaust. It left VanDyke about to pass out from all the heat and carbon monoxide pouring into the cockpit. Barely hanging for the final 20 laps around the three-eighths-mile concrete oval, he had to be given oxygen by emergency personnel after the race.
“All the heat coming in the car and all the exhaust, it was a mess,” said VanDyke, still soaked in sweat minutes after the race. “About 20 to go, I could barely see the wall. I was counting the laps and I was like, ‘I don’t know if I can handle this.’
“They were telling me on the radio, ‘You’re fading off.’ I was like, ‘If you only knew what it’s like in this car right now.’ ”
Few in the grandstands could have guessed his struggles.
The Abingdon driver passed defending track champion Nik Williams on the second lap of the 60-lap feature and led the rest of the way. Williams was closing with 10 laps to go, but his car suddenly stalled a couple of laps later after a wire from the alternator to the battery broke.
His closest rival out of the picture, VanDyke finished 2.35 seconds ahead of runner-up Hayden Woods.
“It feels great to get back to this track and put it in victory lane again,” VanDyke said. “It seems like we have 100 wins here, but every time you win, it’s like the first one over again.”
Woods, who had to start the race at the back of the 13-car field after missing qualifying, moved up to second in his No. 6 Chevrolet. The Piney Flats driver managed to navigate traffic, getting by his teammate Bryson Dennis for third on lap 18.
“We dropped the clutch before qualifying and had to start shotgun on the field,” Woods said. “I had to be patient. I had some good people in the sky (his spotters) guiding me through the traffic. Once I got to third behind Williams, I had to start conserving. I knew even if I was a tenth (of a second) or so faster, there was no way to catch them. I hate it for Williams, but I’m thankful for the P2 we brought home.”
Dennis, a Greeneville racer, was frustrated with himself after the race. He ran into the back of pole-sitter Wayne Hale’s car on the opening lap, triggering the multicar accident. The wreck damaged Dennis’ Chevy as well, bowing up the hood and changing the handling of the car.
“I hate it for Wayne. I took him out on that start,” Dennis said. “I got a good start and drove it in there trying to follow him. He checked up a little bit and I was right on his bumper. When I smashed the hood, it made the car real tight in the corner and I couldn’t see good or gauge things. The car has more in it if the driver keeps his head on next time.”
North Carolina teenager Ashton Higgins wound up fourth and Kingsport driver Brad Housewright finished fifth.
Derek Lane and Kyle Barnes traded the lead four times over five laps near the end of the 30-lap Sportsman feature.
Lane powered his No. 28 Chevrolet ahead of Barnes’ No. 00 Chevy for the winning pass on lap 27 to earn his second win in two races this season.
After Kevin Wolfe’s car was disqualified for weighing light, Alex Miller was third, followed by Colby Higgins and Austin Brooks.
Ben Barker took the early lead from Lance Pratt in the Pure 4 feature and bested the 20-car field.
Bucky Smith charged to a second-place finish, staying on Barker’s heels. Kenny Absher battled past Craig Phelps to take third place, and Pratt rounded out the top five.
Tony Dockery emerged from a three-driver battle with Jay Swecker and Rob Austin to win the Pure Street feature.
All three racing Camaros, Dockery pulled his No. 05 to the inside of Swecker’s No. 77 machine to take the lead on lap 7. He led the rest of the 25-lap feature, and Austin got around Swecker for the runner-up spot.
Jeremy Draughn and Ricky Payne finished fourth and fifth.
Four-time defending Mod 4 champion Kevin Canter picked up where he left off by taking his second win of the season. Driving the black No. 3 Ford, Canter had to overcome the fast cars of early leaders Dennis Arnold and Kirby Gobble to collect the checkered flag.
Arnold finished second in a Chevrolet, followed by Josh Gobble, Kirby Gobble and Canter’s grandfather Herschell Robinette.