Strong run for Blake Jones in Kingsport Speedway UARA-STARS event
There are times the end results aren’t always indicative of the strong effort put forth, and that definitely applies to running of the United Auto Racing Asssociation-Short Track Auto Racing Series Late Model touring event at Kingsport Speedway this past Friday night for Blake Jones of Sevierville.
The 15-year-old Sevier County High School student was fast from the moment his Teddy Jones Racing team unloaded the race car for pre-race practice. The smooth-running Jones with driving skill of a seasoned-veteran at such a young age, put the car at top of the speed chart to establish himself as one of the top contenders to earn pole position for the $3,000-to-win, 150 lap UARA-STARS main event at the .375-mile banked concrete oval.
Ben Rhodes of Louisville, Ky., a 15-year-old development driver for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competitor Marcos Ambrose, timed-in quickest at 15.337 seconds of the 22 cars participating in Sunoco Race Fuels qualifying to earn the pole position for the Model City 150. Jones was just barely off Rhodes’ mark with a lap time of 15.352 to nail down the outside front row starting berth.
With fans on their feet for start of the race, Jones launched into the lead at drop of the green flag over Rhodes, Ryan Stiltner, 2010 UARA-STARS champion Coleman Pressley and Devin Jones. Chauffeuring the Blake Jones Racing Center Indoor Go-Karts in Pigeon Forge No. 80 Ford Fusion, Jones was flexing muscle under the hood of his hotrod early in the race in pulling out to a 10 car-length advantage over his closest challengers just 10 circuits into the race.
The event’s first caution waved on lap 40, when Trey Marcham spun in the fourth turn, thus erasing the real estate Jones had put between himself, Rhodes and Pressley. Back up to speed under green following the double-fie restart, Jones jumped back out into the lead. Right behind him entering the first turn, Pressley made his move to get around Rhodes for the runner-up spot.
Pressley was the only car capable of running with Jones, and with the race reaching halfway on lap 75 they had pulled out to right at a full-straightaway advantage over Clayton Pyne, Ronnie Bassett Jr. and Stiltner.
The caution waved just prior to the century-mark (lap 100) when Scott Turlington and Travis Swaim tangled and spun in the fourth turn, which slowed the pace and once again tightened the pack up for double-file restart. This is where the whole complexion of the race turned sour for Jones.
Jones was ruled by UARA-STARS officials to have restarted prior to being inside the (starting) box in turn four, which resulted in the black flag being waved for Jones to bring his car down pit road for a stop-and-go, drive-through penalty. Due to miscommunications between the race team and UARA-STARS officials Jones stayed on-track until his car was stopped from being scored. Once that occurred, Jones slowly entered the pits in turn four and drove to his pit stall and parked the car for the night.
“I guess it is what it is, and there’s nothing we can do about the deal,” said a dejected Jones following the race. “Personally, I don’t feel like I started too soon. It might have looked like I started soon, but Coleman Pressley (starting alongside) didn’t take off like I did. Talking in the pits after end of the race, a lot of people said it appeared Pressley might have spun his tires or either missed a gear (shifting) on the restart. I don’t know. All I know is we were black-flagged and it ended a strong run we had going by leading every lap up to that point.
“There’s no doubt whatsoever that we had the car to beat. Even though we had led from the start until the time we got the black flag, our car was still very good. I had managed my brakes not heating them up and conserved tire-wear and we were poised to capture the victory. Who can say for certain, but it sure appears like our Teddy Jones Racing team got a raw deal by UARA-STARS officials. I guess it doesn’t reflect very well on a series when all of their regular drivers are getting outrun by one of the track’s local drivers, and that could’ve factored into why they penalized us for their judgment call of having restarted too soon. It’s just very disheartening to think that a judgment call took away your opportunity to win a race. Oh well, I guess this will be a learning experience for us. Sure, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth, but there’s nothing you can do about it. Everybody sitting in the grandstands and up in tier-parking saw we had a strong car and was on-track to outrun the touring UARA-STARS guys.”
Next race for Blake Jones and the Teddy Jones Racing team will be the weekly NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model Stock race at Kingsport Speedway on Friday, May 11. Grandstand gates will open at 5:45 p.m., with practice beginning at 6 p.m. to be followed by qualifying at 7 p.m. Green flag will fall on the five-division racing program at 8 p.m.
To learn more about Blake Jones, visit his Web site at www.BlakeJonesRacing.com … and contact Teddy Jones Racing at (865) 388-2795. You can follow Blake Jones on social media via Twitter at twitter.com/#!/80BlakeJones and on Facebook at Blake Jones Racing.