By James Jackson
Since he was just 6 years old, Chad Finchum has been climbing the ranks of racing from go-karts, to late models, and now stock cars.
Included on Finchum’s racing résumé are starts at Kingsport Speedway in his native Tennessee to all over the country in the NASCAR XFINITY Series.
Winning over 30 races at Kingsport Speedway and Lonesome Pine Raceway, Finchum told The Racing Experts he learned a lot from his time in the Whelen All-American Series.
“In 2013, I made my debut in the NASCAR Whelen Series at Kingsport Speedway.” Finchum said. “Just getting a feel for a full size stock car. All my racing previous to that was done in go-karts, legend cars, bandoleros.
“So getting used to sitting all the way over on the left side of the car, having all that space on the right side that you have to account for. How big the car is, how heavy the car is. That was a big factor and another big thing that helped me a tremendous amount in my opinion was the Kingsport track is concrete.
“The way concrete reacts, compared to asphalt is so much different. It’s self cleaning, so any time a caution comes out, all the rubber that gets built up on the track gets cleaned right off. So every restart you’re starting on a green racetrack. The track temperature, the split between day and night is 30-to-40 degrees to where asphalt can be 100 degrees. The ways the cars react, the grip level, all that taken into account really helped me a lot when I got my shot to run for MMR in the K&N Series at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2016 whenever we won that race.”
Finchum holds Bristol Motor Speedway close to his heart. Growing up in East Tennessee, Finchum says it’s his ideal track.
“It’s special,” he said. “It’s close to home. Being in the XFINITY Series, you do a lot of traveling.
“I always thought when we were running legend cars, that driving four to four-and-a-half hours to Charlotte Motor Speedway every week, I was like ‘man this is a lot of driving.’ It’s nothing compared to going to Pocono or Michigan and you’re 10 plus hours away.”
Finchum says his racing background is primarily on short tracks.
Bristol Motor Speedway was the site of Finchum’s first and only K&N Series victory in 2016. That victory helped Finchum’s career in more ways than one.
“I had a number of top tens and top-five finishes there, but just never could seem to capture the win.” said Finchum, who won in his fourth start in the series at the track. “Winning that race for me and for (Eric McClure and Hal Martin), it was just a local effort. We won—we won in our hometown.
“…Going forward, what that helped me with was it put my name out there. I had won a handful of big late model races and legend car races in the past, but when you win on that scale at a NASCAR-sanctioned track, I just think it really puts drivers names on the radar that much stronger.”
The win lended the opportunity to meet Carl Long, whom Finchum is racing for full-time in the XFINITY Series this season. Racing in NASCAR’s second-tier series is on a level Finchum is both humbled and challenged to compete at.
“It’s a lot to take in,” Finchum said reflecting back on his season so far. “As far as the driving part of it and racing the cars, you’re going at considerably higher speed, you’re on bigger race tracks, you’re competing against Cup-affiliated race teams.
“It’s very challenging to keep up with those guys and run with those guys with the technology they have in those cars. The length of the races is considerably longer than what I’m used to doing. At Kingsport on an average Friday night, we would run a 60-lap race. These XFINITY races are 200 laps. At Bristol, it’s 300 laps.”
Finchum wants the best for his team, always pushing himself to get the most of out of the car he’s been given. Although he’s faced several challenges this season he still manages to fight for every position.
“When I first came into the XFINITY Series, I was used to competing for wins every single week in the K&N Series or the late model Whelen Series, winning races and championships,” he said. “My expectations coming into the XFINITY Series was to finish well and it took me awhile to adapt to saying ‘hey, 25th is a win for us, that’s a great day for the MBM Motorsports team.’”
Finchum said at times, the tires the team uses are not sticker tires, utilizing the ones other teams would otherwise throw away to help bring down costs.
It’s just one of the strategies his team uses.
“It’s just very challenging in this sport, at this level to place any higher than that with the budget we’re operating on,” he said. “On a typical weekend, me or my teammate Timmy Hill, neither one has sponsors. So we operate our race team off of the race winnings we get.”
Finchum is currently 37th in the XFINITY Series points standings. His next race is Sunday, June 17 at Iowa Speedway where he will look to best his career-high finish of 25th in the series.
The 23-year-old driver has started in all but one race this season.
Additionally, Finchum was tapped to make his Cup Series debut for Carl Long’s operation at Bristol in April earlier this year.
Finchum was caught an on-track incident on the fourth lap and ultimately finished 33rd.
“I hope I get the opportunity to do it again, maybe this fall at the (Bristol) night race,” he said. “That would be very cool to pull double-duty there at my home track.
“The end goal for me as a driver is to make it to the Monster Energy Cup Series and run full-time. That is the end goal, so it’s just one step closer when Carl gives the opportunity.”
The Third Turn