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Sports Journee

Local racers getting geared up for season | Motor Sports

Race car drivers fired up their engines for a Wednesday afternoon test session at Kingsport Speedway, leading longtime track official Ronnie Maness to reference a classic movie.

“The hills have come alive with the sound of racing music,” Maness joked.

Indeed they had and the roar of the motors was a sign of how much Kingsport Speedway officials and competitors are ready to get the 2020 racing season underway.

Whether they’re able to do that on a May 29 or June 5 target date will depend on what restrictions remain from the state of Tennessee and Sullivan County.

“The end of May or first of June is what we’re looking at, but we don’t want to start racing without fans,” Kingsport Speedway general manager Karen Tunnell said. “The owners and I have met on that and we don’t want to do anything until we can let our fans back in.”

Drivers have been testing their race cars on the 3/8-mile concrete oval for more than a month. There were tests throughout the week, culminating with the largest one on Saturday.

With each day’s testing, there have been a faithful few out to watch them.

“When the cars are testing, it gets everybody excited,” Tunnell said. “We’ve had up to 20-25 cars up at tier parking. Anytime that anybody hears a car here, they’re up there watching. Not only are we excited, the drivers and fans are looking forward to it.”

Track officials are working to get back in action first while working on a revised schedule. Tunnell has talked to Super Cup Stock Car Series and the Southeast Super Trucks about possible later dates.

Although getting off to a late start, Tunnell is optimistic about the upcoming season, especially with the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series for the weekly races.

“We’re looking forward to a great year with good car counts,” Tunnell said. “We have a lot of new cars that have been practicing and there are a lot of familiar faces coming back.”

Pure Street division drivers Jay Swecker, Jessica Spangler and Jeremy Draughn took part in a Wednesday test session. Swecker, driver of the No. 77 Chevrolet Camaro, was the 2018 Pure Street champion and finished third in the 2019 points.

He’s ready for the wheel-to-wheel competition.

“I wish we were already racing,” Swecker said. “It’s good to be on the track. It’s been tough missing the races on Friday nights, but we’ve had a little more family time.”

Spangler, a 15-year-old from Virginia, will be in her second season driving the No. 07 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Still seeking experience, the test session was valuable for her.

“It was very important to get out on the track,” Spangler said. “You have to learn your car and how it feels. We changed a lot of stuff on it over the winter. You have to learn how to handle it again to get the speed back up.”

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