Ronnie McCarty of Kingsport is the defending Kingsport Speedway NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model Stock Car champion, however, the start to the 2016 racing season hadn’t lived up to his expectations. But that all changed in a major way Friday, as he led flag-to-flag for his first win of the season and eighth career victory at the .375-mile banked concrete oval in the Model City.

McCarty set fast-time in qualifying at 15.113 seconds, with Austin Peters timing-in at 15.133 for his best qualifying effort of the season.

McCarty and Peters led the field to green and on the opening lap racing up off (turn) two, third-starting Kres VanDyke tried to get inside of Peters and the two cars momentarily became hooked together with each car getting out of shape on the backstretch, forcing all cars behind them to take evasive action to avoid a major melee. The caution waved to null the attempted start. Peters had to head into the pits to have his crew look over his ride and thus had to join in at tail of the field for the restart.

With the green flag waving once again, McCarty quickly jumped out to the lead over Derek Lane, Wayne Hale, VanDyke and Jeff Maupin. With VanDyke wrestling an ill-driving machine following his altercation with Peters, Maupin got around him for the fourth spot on lap 5 between turns three and four, which also opened the door for Zeke Shell to get past VanDyke for fifth place.

Having his strongest run of the season, second-year Late Model Stock Car racer Lane finally lost second in the running order to Hale on lap 11 racing off the fourth turn. Hale set his sights ahead on leader McCarty, Maupin was zeroed in on Lane for third. While Maupin looked inside of Lane racing off the corners on several occasions, Lane kept slamming the door and maintaining position.

Maupin got around Lane for third place on lap 28 racing down the backstretch into the third turn. With the halfway signal given from the flag stand, McCarty had Hale riding in his rearview mirror just hoping he would make the slightest bobble to allow an opportunity to drive by into the lead. But McCarty kept clicking off flawless laps and never gave Hale the opening he was looking for.

Caution waved on lap 47 when Joey Trent spun in the first turn.

The double-file restart had McCarty and Hale alongside on the front row, with Maupin and Shell behind in the second row. McCarty and Hale battled side-by-side for a couple of circuits before McCarty powered back out ahead. In the meantime, Shell was knocking on the door wanting around Hale for second.

With Hale and Shell in a battle for position, it was allowing McCarty to put some breathing distance between him and the duo. Shell pulled the pass off for second on lap 51, but Hale wasn’t about to just roll over and not fight back. He would get up on the wheel to drive past Shell into the runner-up position with four laps remaining.

But out front there would be no denying McCarty his first visit to victory lane this season as he won over Hale, Shell, Maupin and VanDyke.

Completing the top 10 finishers were Lane, Trent, Robbie Ferguson, Jamie Harrison and Steven Deskins.

1. Ronnie McCarty #5-Kingsport, TN
2. Wayne Hale #19-Bluff City, TN
3. Zeke Shell #50-Johnson City, TN
4. Jeff Maupin #51-Greeneville, TN
5. Kres VanDyke #15-Abingdon, VA
6. Derek Lane #28-Kingsport, TN
7. Joey Trent #26-Gray, TN
8. Robbie Ferguson #7-Jonesborough, TN
9. Jamie Harrison #76-Church Hill, TN
10. Steven Deskins #14-Sevierville, TN
11 Austin Peters #38-Kingsport, TN
12. Rick Pannell #33-Kingsport, TN
13. Allen Hawkins #8-Kingsport, TN
14. Danny Casteel #41-Johnson City, TN