Ford, driving the No. 83 Chevrolet, set fast time in qualifying and led all 30 laps of Saturday’s Crate Late Model feature on the four-tenths-mile dirt track. The 31-year-old Johnson City driver, racing for the Elizabethton-based Whitehead Construction team, easily stayed ahead of the fray in what was an action-filled night.
“The car was on a rail tonight,” Ford said. “I’ve been lucky with my crew chief, Wesley Laws, through the week and my father-in-law, Stacy Calfee, where we all work real good together.”
The team has been out front a lot this season — when not plagued by mechanical issues.
“We went to Smoky Mountain last night, sat on the pole, led the first 10 laps and then had a radiator problem,” Ford said. “That’s been the case all year. We’ve been fast, but we’ve had some DNFs. Right now, either we don’t finish or we win. Hopefully, we’ve gotten the gremlins out in Elizabethton and can win some races like we need to.”
UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT
Stallard, a 42-year-old construction company owner from Kingsport, purchased the facility from longtime track owners Joe and Phyllis Loven.
Stallard, whose 13-year-old son Kyle is an aspiring racer, will begin work on the facility Monday with a number of upgrades planned. That means a change in the schedule and no racing this week. The next race is scheduled for June 8.
“I appreciate the opportunity which Joe and Phyllis have given me,” said Stallard, who said he has been attending races at the track since he was 10 years old.
“They really wanted me to have the track because they see the passion I have for it and everything fell into place. We’re going to give it 200 percent. I went to the racers individually and told them I’m not coming in here acting like I’m the boss.
“Without the racers and fans we don’t have this place, so I want to respect their opinions. They can call me seven days a week. If something makes sense and we can fix it, we’re going to do it. This is as much their track as it is mine.”
BACK TO RACING
Because of several weather-related cancellations this season, cars raced at Volunteer for just the second time this year — resulting in more contact than usual.
Such was the case for Jonesborough’s Tim Byrd, who qualified second and was behind Ford before his car was hit and turned sideways on a restart. Byrd tried to straighten his No. 24 machine but was hit again by another car, sending him into Taylor Coffman. Byrd slammed into the backstretch inside wall and Coffman went head-on into the turn 3 outside wall. Neither driver was seriously hurt, although they wound up the last two finishers in the 15-car rundown.
“Plumb down the back straightaway, I was trying to get it straightened out and I don’t know who it was, but he hit me in the left front and my day was done,” Byrd said. “I wasn’t hurt other than I jammed my fingers a little bit. Other than that, everything is good. It’s racing.”
Seymour’s Rusty Ballenger was second and Maryville’s Jason Welshan third.
Tim Maupin of Johnson City finished fourth. Running third before the final restart, he took issue with Welshan pulling to the outside of him before the starting line.
“They should have started it over. He jumped us and was on the outside of me,” Maupin said. “I could have made that play out a lot different and could have been justified, but I was being nice. He wouldn’t have gotten me if he hadn’t jumped me.”
Gary Crittenden of Mohawk rounded out the top five.
Bradley Lewelling of Knoxville took the lead from Clyde Stanton on lap 19 of the Sportsman Late Model feature and led the rest of the 30-lap race.
Kentucky racer John Stevens held off a late charge from Lee Merrit to win in the Classic division.
David Clark of Tazewell took home the Modified Street trophy.
Jeff Hamby of Knoxville led flag to flag in taking the win in the Open Wheel Modified race, as did Tommy Newton of Seymour in his Mini-Stock victory.