Brian Snider missed all of Atlanta Motor Speedway¿s Thursday Thunder last year, but he has a good excuse. He was piloting a C130 aircraft, fighting for our freedom in the Middle East. ¿I was deployed all last year and came off active duty in April, which freed me up to race this season,¿ Snider said. ¿I¿m thankful for that. This is a long way from where I was last year.¿ Last year Snider and his West Virginia National Guard platoon were in a desert country in the Persian Gulf called Qatar, where temperatures regularly reach 110 degrees, with 95 percent humidity, in the summer. Snider, a part-time West Virginia resident, remains with that state¿s national guard and commutes each week. Formerly a commercial airline pilot, Snider originally moved to Georgia for a job with a local airline. His platoon was called to active duty at the beginning of 2003¿s War on Iraq and spent 12 months based in Qatar and flying missions into Iraq. Snider flew a C130 Hercules, a transport jet that can perform many roles, including airlift support, aeromedical missions, aerial spray missions and disaster or humanitarian relief. ¿It was very rewarding,¿ Snider said. ¿I¿ve been in the military 12 years, and I¿ve been in Kosovo and Bosnia and a lot of other places, but nowhere that was actually considered a war. In Iraq, we spent a year doing what we had trained so long for.¿ Although Snider said he was not on the front lines, he saw plenty of action. ¿From a distance, we saw the fighting,¿ Snider said. ¿Anytime we went into Iraq, we assumed we were getting shot at. But we were lucky.¿ Snider still has plenty of friends, as well as one cousin, left in Iraq. He said the hardest part for them, as for most soldiers, is the amount of time away from home, from the comforts of life in a democratic nation. And now Snider is happy to be back in the United States, back to life as normal, and especially back to Thursday Thunder, a welcome diversion. ¿It¿s great to be back here in the garage, working on the car, having some fun,¿ Snider said. ¿It¿s such a relief.¿ Now racing in the Chargers division at Thursday Thunder, Snider posted a career-best second-place finish in the third week of Thursday Thunder, a huge feat for a one-man operation. ¿I¿m the driver, crew chief, mechanic, cleaner ¿ I¿ve been everything myself,¿ Snider said. ¿I didn¿t start out with much knowledge, just what I¿ve picked up from the others who were nice enough to lend a hand. I¿m pretty proud to be running that close to the front now, especially after the year off.¿ And we¿re pretty proud to count him among the many competitors at Thursday Thunder.