Kres VanDyke celebrates his season opening win at Kingsport Speedway on March 31, 2018. Jaden Austin Photo

The start of the 2018 racing season at Kingsport Speedway was delayed one week due to inclement weather in Northeast Tennessee. But the wait for the Food City 175 was well worth it, as a beautiful, sunny Saturday brought out one of the biggest crowds at “The Concrete Jungle” since reopening for weekly racing in 2011.

In the headlining NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model Stock Car feature, defending track champion Kres VanDyke of Abingdon, Virginia, held off a hard-charging Zeke Shell to capture the victory.

VanDyke set a new track record in qualifying with a fast-lap at 14.869 seconds (90.793 mph), followed by Shell at 14.879 (90.732). … Both lowered Chad Finchum’s previous record of 14.880 seconds (90.726 mph), set at the 2015 season-opener.

VanDyke and Shell battled side-by-side over the opening four circuits of the 60-lap feature before Shell moved ahead, with Wayne Hale, Mike Looney and Robbie Ferguson in tow. Shell and VanDyke were setting a blistering pace out front, and at lap 10 the duo had pulled out to an eight car-length advantage over those in pursuit.

While Shell was trying to keep VanDyke in his rearview mirror, the racing action behind them was heated involving Hale, Looney, Ferguson, Nik Williams, Joey Trent, Derrick Lancaster, Ronnie McCarty, Dillon Hodge, Bryson Dennis and Derek Lane.

VanDyke was finally able to pull the trigger and shoot past Shell to take a lead he would never relinquish on lap 18, but the road ahead to victory lane wasn’t a leisurely cruise. Dale Cline spun at end of the front straightaway entering the first turn on lap 23 to bring out the caution.

Additional caution periods over the final half of the race set up double-file restarts, but on each occasion, VanDyke was able to power back out ahead of Shell. Looney worked his way past Hale for the third spot, and behind them, Ferguson had his hands full with Lancaster.

Even though Shell was up on the wheel driving his machine hard as possible, it just wasn’t enough to be able to overtake VanDyke as he captured the win over Shell. Finishing third through fifth, respectively, were Looney, Hale, and Ferguson.

Completing the top 10 finishers were Lancaster, Williams, Lane, McCarty, and Trent.

The Modified Street feature produced enough action to last a season, with hard racing leading to some upset feelings among drivers, along with grinding crashes also badly damaging equipment. Royce Peters of Kingsport, the division’s defending track champion, ultimately parked in victory lane. But he did it the hard way.

Peters jumped out into the lead on the start over Trey Lane and Nick Cole, with Joshua Gobble, Chase Dixon, Rusty Clendenin, Kevin Wolfe and Chris Tunnell in pursuit. There’s a saying in racing that cautions breed cautions, and that definitely was the case in the 30-lap feature.

Peters and Cole made contact early with Peters spinning, which resulted in both going to the rear of the field for the restart. Tunnell briefly flirted with the lead before getting loose and spinning between turns one and two.

Off following attempts getting back under green flag racing, Lane went for a wild ride spinning down the front straightaway after getting lifted (rear wheels) from behind. … Dennis Deese was in the wrong place at the wrong time, because he got run over from behind and slammed hard against the inside concrete retaining wall along the front straightaway.

Eventually, Peters and Cole worked their way right back up to the front and both with battered race cars battled for the win. Peters recorded the victory over Cole, Wolfe, Tunnell, and Clendenin.

1. Kres VanDyke #15-Abingdon, VA
2. Zeke Shell #1-Johnson City, TN
3. Mike Looney #87-Catawba, VA
4. Wayne Hale #19-Bluff City, TN
5. Robbie Ferguson #7-Jonesborough, TN
6. Derrick Lancaster #25-Christiansburg, VA
7. Nik Williams #32-Greeneville, TN
8. Derek Lane #28-Kingsport, TN
9. Ronnie McCarty #5-Kingsport, TN
10. Joey Trent #26-Gray, TN
11. Bryson Dennis #15-Greeneville, TN
12. Dillon Hodge #5-Kingsport, TN
13. Trey Bayne #21-Knoxville, TN
14. Brett Baer #24-Greenback, TN
15. Rick Pannell #33-Kingsport, TN
16. Dale Cline #99-Wytheville, VA
17. Mardy Roberts #55-Kingsport, TN

1. Royce Peters #42
2. Nick Cole #63
3. Kevin Wolfe #17
4. Chris Tunnell #6
5. Rusty Clendenin #27
6. Joey Sykes #22
7. Steven Roark #27
8. Hannah Seal #55
9. Joshua Gobble #88
10. Chase Dixon #07
11. Trey Lane #9
12. Paul Shull #48
13. Dennis Deese #24
14. Alex Miller #37
15. Sam Hurd #11
16. Gary Crumbley #59