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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It’s an old adage, but the phrase ‘getting better with age’ has never been more appropriate for 47-year-old Wayne Hale.
This season at Lonesome Pine Raceway in Coeburn, Virginia, the Tennessee driver earned his second straight NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track championship at the three-eighths-mile asphalt oval. He did so in commanding style, capturing nine victories and never finishing outside the top-five in 17 starts at Lonesome Pine Raceway.
“We had a really good season,” said Hale. “The worst finish we had was a third-place finish, so we had a really good season. We had some good luck with us this year.”
This is Hale’s third career track championship at Lonesome Pine. His first came in 1992 in the limited late model division, but now the Bluff City, Tennessee, native has a pair of NASCAR track championships he can put on his mantle.
“We’ve got a really good setup there,” Hale said when asked why he is so successful at Lonesome Pine. “My first asphalt race I ran was in 1990 and there is where I ran in the limited division. I’ve got quite a bit of experience there.
“It means a lot to me and it means a lot to win there.”
While the track championship at Lonesome Pine is great, Hale says that he’d love to add a track championship at his home track Kingsport Speedway to his resume. He’s been close the last two years, winning the combined Lonesome Pine/Kingsport championship that the two tracks sanction, but he hasn’t been able to put everything together in order to win the Kingsport track championship.
This year Hale finished third in the Kingsport track standings, losing out on the championship by just 14 points to Ronnie McCarty.
“I’d love to win the one at Kingsport. It's home for me. I travel like an hour and 45 minutes to Lonesome Pine. Kingsport, we ran there on Friday nights every week, and it’s just 30 minutes from home,” Hale explained. “We had the consistency. I think the worst finish we had was a sixth-place finish three times. Everything else was top-five finishes.
“We’ve gained, but the competition at Kingsport is just really tough. There are about seven or eight cars that can win every night down there.”
Between his starts at Lonesome Pine, Kingsport and Virginia’s South Boston Speedway, Hale scored a combined 32 top-five and 36 top-10 finishes. That was enough for him to finish the season ranked 43rd overall in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National standings.
In addition, he ranked inside the top-15 in two different states, fishing the season fourth in the Tennessee rankings and 14th in the Virginia rankings.
He credited the support of his sponsors, including E A Miller Trucking, Miller’s Automotive, A-1 Transmission and Performance Racing Warehouse, for helping him achieve so much success this season.
“It meant a whole lot doing that,” Hale said about finishing inside the top-15 in state points in two different states. “Last year we didn’t do that, but this year we did. I’d love, living in Tennessee, to win this Tennessee one. That’s another goal I have, to win the Tennessee championship.”
Hale, who along with all the other NASCAR state and track champions will be honored during the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards on Dec. 9 inside the Charlotte Convention Center, said he hoped to cross a few more items off his wish list before calling it a career.
“I’d like to, before I retire, get the track championship at both tracks (Kingsport and Lonesome Pine) and get the Tennessee state championship. I think that would be really nice for me,” Hale said.
Hale nine victories and never finished outside the top-five in 17 starts at the three-eigths-mile oval. Courtesy of Randall Perry Photography.