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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- It’s been a career year for Virginia’s Kres VanDyke, and the season isn’t even close to complete.
VanDyke, the reigning NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Tennessee champion, has scored 20 victories this season across three race tracks in the Southeast. At two of those tracks - Kingsport Speedway in Tennessee and Lonesome Pine Raceway in Virginia - he is also the point leader in the late model stock car division.
Those numbers are incredible on their own, but when you take into consideration VanDyke won only 12 races all of last year and in his best year (2014) he won 19 times, it becomes clear that VanDyke has reached an entirely new level.
“It’s been a great year,” VanDyke said. “We’re leading in wins in all NASCAR divisions. Our start/win ratio is pretty good. Car counts are pretty decent up in this area as well, which has helped us in the National standings. We’ve been pretty blessed with all that.
“I expect the best and hope for the best,” VanDyke continued. “I’m not going to say, yeah, I expected that (20 wins) but I knew we could get them, or at least as many as possible.”
As VanDyke mentioned, his successful season has translated to a successful run up the NASCAR Whelen All-American National standings. In addition to his 20 victories, VanDyke has scored 27 top-fives and 30 top-10s in 30 starts. His 20 victories are also more than any other driver thus far this year in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.
Those impressive numbers have put VanDyke fourth in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National standings behind only California’s Trevor Huddleston, three-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National champion Lee Pulliam and Ontario veteran Gord Shepherd.
NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division I drivers are ranked by their best 18 NASCAR points finishes in series-sanctioned events. Drivers receive two points for every car they finish ahead of – up to 18 cars – and three points for a win, with an additional two points available if the driver starts 10th or lower.
“I’m trying to focus on every weekend as an individual and not get tied into the point mindset,” VanDyke explained. “It’s tougher to do my job when I’m worried about points than it is worrying about just getting a win.
“We keep up with it man. There is a lot of maintenance on the car. We try to keep from falling out of races. You’ve got to finish to win, period. My crew does a great job. We put in many, many hours in the car and in keeping everything going. The success rate gets better when you do that and without them I can’t do it and they can’t do it without me.”
VanDyke and his team have been traveling much more than in past years. This season in addition to racing at Kingsport and Lonesome Pine, VanDyke has ventured to Hickory Motor Speedway in North Carolina and Greenville-Pickens Speedway in South Carolina. He picked up a victory at Hickory earlier this year, a win he considers particularly impressive considering how long it had been since he last raced there.
“The deal with Hickory, it’s kind of local, it’s about three hours away,” VanDyke explained. “I hadn’t been there in 17 years. We rolled in there the first time (this year) and won against a 21-car field there.”
Once the season wraps up at Kingsport and Lonesome Pine, VanDyke said he’d like to do even more traveling around the Southeast in search of high car counts to pad his NASCAR Whelen All-American Series points total.
“We’ve been to Anderson (Motor Speedway in South Carolina) in previous years and I’d like to go back and check that out,” VanDyke said. “We’ve also got some plans to go to Myrtle Beach as soon as we get some more free weekends. We’ve got some openings coming. I’ve got to take care of the two tracks we’re set to run right now.”
In addition to leading the title races at both Kingsport and Lonesome Pine, VanDyke is also leading the Tennessee State championship race. Last year he won the Tennessee crown by just four points over Ronnie McCarty, who won the Kingsport track championship in an intense four-way battle with VanDyke, Wayne Hale and Zeke Shell.
This year VanDyke is hoping to take home much more than a state championship. The end goal is to win the track championships at Kingsport and Lonesome Pine while also collecting another Tennessee state championship.
Will VanDyke be able to make a run at the national championship? He’s certainly not ruling it out.
“My guys and I, we love to race,” VanDyke said. “If we’re off at the Pines or off at Kingsport, we’re going to find us a track to go race. When you do that, points do tie you into the National rankings. We said at the beginning of the year when the points come out and we can see where we are, we’ll make a decision then and say yeah, we’re going to run for the national title.
“When they came out we were third or fourth in the nation. It was kind of a no brainer. Now we’re going to do everything we can to keep our car at a track with some car count and test and try to win as many full car count races as we possibly can.”
Kres VanDyke has 20 victories this season and looks to continue moving up in the ranks in his No. 15 late model at Kingsport and Lonesome Pine. Randall Perry