Chad Finchum has dreamed about racing in a NASCAR National Touring Series event his entire life and, on Saturday, that dream will come true when the Tennessee driver makes his NASCAR XFINITY Series debut.
The 22-year-old from Knoxville, Tennessee is a former NASCAR Whelen All-American Series champion at Tennessee’s Kingsport Speedway and a past winner in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. Now, he has finally reached the upper echelon of NASCAR racing as he heads East to compete in Saturday’s One Main Financial 200 at Dover International Speedway, driving for Carl Long and MBM Motorsports.
“It’s nuts,” Finchum told POPULAR SPEED. “It’s something I’ve waited on for a long, long time. It’s been a journey. Racing Late Models and trying to run for track championships and state championships and going from grassroots-style racing, being the backbone of the sport, into where ultimately everybody tries to get to, I just, I’m blessed to have the opportunity. I’m going to try to make the best of it.
“XFINITY takes a lot of money obviously, and we’ve only got one sponsor with us. They’re going to be on the hood of the car. (A) new company, Overstock Mercantile, they’ve been with us in Late Models this year, and we’ve grown with them. They’re taking me to XFINITY. It’s honestly an underfunded team, Carl Long is a great guy, and he’s got pretty good cars. When you’re running against Gibbs, RCR, it’s going to be tough.”
Finchum is not looking to set the world on fire at Dover. He just hopes to log laps, gain experience and come away with a decent result.
“I think the goal this weekend is just to get out there and finish the race and learn,” Finchum said. “This is going to be my first time doing live pit stops and being on a radial tire. It’s going to be my first time in one of these XFINITY cars, and it’s 300 pounds heavier than what I’m used to in a K&N or Late Model. They’ve got more power.”
Along with learning about the car, Finchum will also have to adapt to a different style of racing.
“Got knockout qualifying and stage racing, there’s a lot of things coming up that’s new to me,” Finchum remarked. “The main goal is to get out there and not tear anything up, qualify good, run good, learn, be safe and bring the car home in one piece and see if we can go further.”
Last season, Chad Finchum picked up a K&N Series victory at Bristol Motor Speedway. That win has given him confidence heading into Saturday’s race at the similar, albeit larger, Dover racetrack – a venue where he has two career starts in K&N Series competition.
“It’s kind of funny because this track was handpicked for a reason,” Finchum commented. “One, NASCAR’s approval process, Dover was the next thing on my list before I’m approved for mile and a half tracks. And, another reason, which is a good reason, I’ve been there twice in the K&N Series, both times for Martin McClure Racing. Dover is basically a times two Bristol. It’s just a bigger, faster Bristol. The feel that it gives you as a driver, the way you drive the track is almost identical to Bristol; it’s just bigger and faster. I’ve raced at Bristol many times, Dover twice, they’re similar, concrete, high-banked.”
Generally speaking, concrete breeds confidence for Finchum. In 2013, he won a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track championship in a Late Model Stock Car at Kingsport Speedway in Tennessee – a 3/8-mile concrete track.
“Running at Kingsport, it being concrete, I’ve got a lot of concrete experience, and I think that’s going to help tremendously,” Finchum stated. “I’ve given a lot of that success up when we won the Bristol race; I contributed quite a bit of that to running at Kingsport and knowing the simple things really. That’s all racing is. You just don’t want to go out there, practice in the heat of the day and race at night and dial your car in for something you won’t be doing. I think that’s why we’ve done so well at Bristol in the K&N Series.”
Even though Saturday’s race will be run in daylight, Finchum’s experience at Kingsport, and at Bristol, has given him some knowledge of what to expect as the temperature changes throughout the weekend at Dover.
“Having that concrete experience under my belt, I knew what a concrete track would do with heat, rubber or whatever Mother Nature threw our way,” Finchum explained. “We’ve used what we learned at Kingsport over there, and that’s what we’re going to do at XFINITY at Dover. We practice and qualifying in the morning when it’s cool outside, (and) then you race in the afternoon when it’s hotter so I think there’s a couple (of) things that could play to our favor having the concrete experience that could work in our favor for the end of the race.”
Having excelled in both Late Models and K&N, Finchum now hopes to excel in NASCAR’s major leagues and fulfill a lifelong dream as he hopes to one day race in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Despite that recent success, he has not forgotten where he started. Last weekend, Finchum won a Late Model Stock Car event at Kingsport Speedway, besting a field of 21 cars.
The One Main Financial 200 will commence at 1 pm EST on Saturday and can be seen live on Fox Sports 1 (FS1).
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