Chad Finchum has competed in three races this season and has won all three.
The 21-year-old from Knoxville, Tennessee continued his hot streak with a victory at Motor Mile Speedway, his first at the prestigious track, on Saturday night – one week after scoring his first career NASCAR K&N Pro Series win at Bristol Motor Speedway. Even more impressive is that he beat three-time and defending NASCAR Whelen All-American Series (NWAAS) national champion Lee Pulliam to do it.
“It’s a blessing,” Finchum said after his Motor Mile victory. “We’ve been doing really well. I just hope we can continue. We’ve hit on something from track to track. If we can continue, our season is shaking up to be really good. We beat the unbeatable, someone told me that tonight.”
Finchum started his season off with a win right out of the gate at Kingsport Speedway’s season opener last month. Now, one month later, Finchum remains undefeated on the season having scored victories at three different tracks in two different states in two different types of cars.
“I’m telling you what, we didn’t do a whole lot of racing last year,” Finchum remarked. “We’ve done a lot of behind the scenes work preparing for this year and I think, as a driver, that’s what has made this year so good for us. We ran really hard in ’13 and ’14. To sit back in 2015, we really spent our money well, did a lot of behind the scenes work.
“Going off right off the bat and winning at Kingsport, going to Bristol, getting that win and now coming to Motor Mile and beating the unbeatable, Lee Pulliam at Motor Mile, it’s just a really great start to the season.”
While the K&N win was a career highlight for Finchum, who has won NWAAS track championships at two different tracks, Saturday’s win at Motor Mile was a personal highlight. In order to score the victory, Finchum had to beat Pulliam – something that has becoming seemingly impossible at the Radford, Virginia short track.
“We’ve been going up there off and on since 2012 and, in the interview in victory lane, I told [track announcer JW Martin], I said, I remember when we were up there, had a really good car, mechanical gremlins got the best of us and I didn’t finish,” Finchum recalled. “I was on top of the trailer for the rest of the race, watched Lee win. He went through the celebration. I sat on my trailer watching that saying to myself, ‘this track and beating this guy is on the agenda, it’s on my bucket list. It’s something I want to one day accomplish’.”
His desire to beat the reigning national champion has more to do with respect than rivalry. That desire, and the mutual respect, grew when Pulliam scored a victory at Kingsport Speedway in the regular season finale last summer.
“It’s so hard to go to someone else’s playground and take their ball from them,” Finchum explained. “He went to Kingsport last year and he actually beat me. I told myself he probably isn’t going to come to Kingsport anymore and the one time he decided to, he beat us. Now it’s time to go to his track and beat him.
“Me and Lee have been friends for a long time, we have a lot of respect for each other. I told him before the race, ‘Remember beating me at Kingsport? Now I’m at your track and I’m going to beat you tonight’ and that’s what happened. It’s a great feeling and I hope I have many more.”1
After recording the fastest lap in practice, Finchum ended up qualifying in the eighth position. He didn’t let that get him down though, knowing he had a fast car. On the first lap of the race, he was able to avoid a crash that happened right in front of him when Ryan Repko made contact with Tommy Lemons, Jr., triggering a multi-car accident.
“That’s going to happen happen in racing,” Finchum remarked. “You’re gonna have incidents and we just, I hate it for those guys, everyone spends a lot of money to perform well. I’ve been on that side of the fence before. It worked out for us that we avoided it, got tack position and capitalized on what happened. That was a big role in how we won.”
Following the incident, the former Kingsport Speedway and Lonesome Pine Raceway champion focused on passing cars and getting to the front.
“I knew we had a good car, was patient, ran down Lee Pulliam, passed him and the rest was history,” Finchum commented. “Once we got the lead, nobody could get back around us. He ran me down in lapped traffic with 20 or 30 to go but once we got out of lapped traffic, I was able to open that gap back up to half a track. We missed it for qualifying but we knew what we had for the race.”
Finchum considered Saturday’s triumph at Motor Mile equally as satisfying as his K&N Series win at Bristol one week earlier.
“As far as personal satisfaction, as a local short track racer and knowing the ins and outs and who’s good and where you have to go, it was huge,” Finchum stated. “It’s not bigger than winning Bristol, that’s like comparing apples and oranges, but I would say they were equal in different ways. Beating Lee Pulliam was huge for us and it showed what our team is made of and what we’re capable of.”
Finchum says he plans to race at Motor Mile Speedway as frequently as possible. He will also continue to compete in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East tour for Martin McClure Racing.
– Photo credit: Joe Mills/Motor Mile Speedway