Article by: Jeff Birchfield
KINGSPORT, Tenn. (May 30, 2020) – Youth was served as the “Concrete Jungle” took a bite out of some of its veteran racers Friday night.
Chase Dixon, a 16-year-old rookie from Abingdon, Va., won the 60-lap Late Model Stock feature after defending track champion Nik Williams blew a tire with six laps to go and other leaders Kres VanDyke and Hayden Woods made contact on the ensuing restart.
It was only Dixon’s second Late Model start at the 3/8-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.”
It was also a milestone win 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, N.C., driving the No. 9 Ford, finished second to Dixon. Higgins has wins at Kingsport in the Southeast Super Trucks Series and Limited Late Models. He 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, the defending Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway champion 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 of the race before a blown right front tire sent him into the turn-4 wall. He recovered from the crash to finish fifth in his No. 32 Chevrolet.
VanDyke then battled side-by-side with Woods for the lead on the restart. VanDyke took the lead coming off turn 2, but was hit by Woods in turn 3 and sent spinning. Each driver had a different perspective 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.”