Ray Cook’s Tri-County Race Track staged its signature event on Friday night in front of a near capacity filled grandstand and offered up one of the more thrilling races of the 2017 season. Murphy , NC drivers Shawn Chastain and David Payne swapped the lead twice on the final lap before Chastain crossed under the checkered flag first to earn the $4,053 payout.
Three-time event winner Casey Roberts set fast time in qualifying among the 18 cars signed in for competition when he toured the quarter-mile clay oval in 12.593 seconds. Donald McIntosh, Shawn Chastain, David Payne, Brent Dixon and Kenny Collins completed the first three rows on the starting grid for the main event.
Roberts took the early lead at the start of the 51-lap feature with McIntosh, Chastain, Payne and Collins trailing. Chastain began to pressure McIntosh right away but a caution just after the completion of the first circuit briefly quieted his challenge.
However, Chastain would take the runner-up position just after the ensuing restart from that caution period while Dixon battled Collins for fifth at the same time. That contest would end when Collins spun on lap 6, collecting Johnny Chastain and Blake Spencer in the process. Collins would continue on following the mishap.
Chastain then began to work on Roberts for the lead after the race went back to green flag conditions. Eventually, Chastain’s efforts would pay off on lap 18 when the No. x15 car wrested the lead away from the No. 101 machine as the two fought in heavy traffic. Roberts made contact with one of those lapped cars as he passed by on lap 19.
Successive cautions on laps 20, 21 and 22 would play key roles in the race. The fifth running Dixon spun and ultimately retired from the race on lap 21 while the second running Roberts would be forced to the pit area with a flat right rear tire on lap 22. Roberts would return to the action, having to restart in the tenth position following his tire change.
With Payne assuming the second spot following Roberts’ misfortune, the race seemingly settled in for a few laps wit Chastain maintaining a relatively comfortable margin over Payne with McIntosh, Kurt English, Shane Tankersley and the recovering Collins engaged in the most significant battle as they fought over positions 3-6.
Late in the going, however, some cars began to move to the high side of the track and make up ground. Payne did exactly that and began to close on the race leader. As the two cars roared under the white flag, Payne closed right to the rear spoiler of Chastain’s ride. Going down the backstretch, Payne moved to the inside and swept by Chastain as the cars went through turn three. However, Payne’s No. 8 could not hold the bottom groove and slid up the track. That opened the door for Chastain to reassert himself as he shot to the low side and eventually won what amounted to a drag race to the checkered flag.
Feature Finish: 1. Shawn Chastain, 2. David Payne, 3. Donald McIntosh, 4. Kenny Collins, 5. Kurt English, 6. Casey Roberts, 7. Jamie Oliver, 8. Blake Spencer, 9. Shane Tankersley, 10. Clayton Turner, 11. Casey Turman, 12. Jeff Neubert, 13. Craig Greer, 14. Joey Standridge, 15. Brent Dixon, 16. Anthony Sanders, 17. Johnny Chastain, 18. Tim Rucker