Championships On The Line During Final Week of Thursday Thunder
Monday, August 2, 2004
As the 2004 Thursday Thunder season winds down, the action on track has heated up at Atlanta Motor Speedway¿s summer racing series. Seven of the eight divisions are still up for grabs during this week¿s Papa John¿s Fan Appreciation Night presented by 96 Rock.
Three divisions of racing action are separated by three points or less; a fourth division has its top two drivers separated by just nine points.
Two divisions ¿ the Outlaws and the Tanger Outlet Center Masters ¿ are separated by just one point heading into the final week of racing. In the Outlaws division, Senoia¿s Tina Johnson won her fourth race of the season last week to retake the points lead from fellow Fayette county resident Trey Maughan.
Maughan won the Young Guns title last year, then moved up to the Outlaws division this season. He led the point standings for much of the year until Johnson hit her stride.
After taking a year off from Thursday Thunder racing, Johnson started off a little rusty, finishing sixth in her first week back. But she¿s been nearly unstoppable in recent weeks, winning three of the last four races.
The championship will come down to this final week of racing, when Johnson needs only to finish ahead of Maughan to earn her first Thursday Thunder championship.
It¿s much the same scenario in the Tanger Outlet Center Masters division, where two-time Thursday Thunder champion Skip Nichols (Albany) leads Oxford¿s Randy Thornton by one point.
Nichols and Thornton have each won one race and remained consistently in the top 5; now Nichols needs to finish ahead of Thornton to clinch. A detached bumper, flat tire or simple spin could be catastrophic for either driver this week ¿ especially with Brian Weimer only 8 points back from Nichols, waiting to pounce if the top two drivers have trouble.
In the Young Guns division, Griffin¿s Daniel Moore retook the lead last week after previous leader Jason Magagna (Cumming) left the track early with car trouble, finishing 12th and probably ending his championship hopes.
Moore now leads fellow Griffin native Chase Moody by just three points heading into the final week, with Magagna 12 points back. Barring any crashes or mechanical failures, Moore will win the championship by finishing ahead of Moody, who would need to finish at least two places ahead of Moore. Both are racing for their first Thursday Thunder championships.
Defending Roadsters champion Jim Gresham, who is nine points behind rookie Jim Egloff of Griffin, is running out of time to become a two-time champion. Gresham would have to finish four places ahead of Egloff this week in order to clinch the title.
The only driver to have clinched his division is Chris Dilbeck, who will win his first Don Bell Signs Pro title. Dilbeck was in the hunt last year, finishing second to four-time champion Doug Stevens. Unbelievably, this will also be Dilbeck's first championship in six years of Thursday Thunder racing. The 18-year-old Hampton resident has been near the top of the standings each year but hasn't been able to take home the title until this season.
Don¿t miss the exciting conclusion to the 2004 season, as Atlanta Motor Speedway crowns this season¿s champions. It will be local short-track racing at its best when the gates open Thursday at 6 p.m. The first 1,500 fans will receive free goody bags provided by the night's sponsor, Papa John's, and Atlanta Motor Speedway. Tickets are just $5 for adults, $1 for ages 6-11 and children under 6 are free. Call the Atlanta Motor Speedway ticket office at 770-946-4211 for more information.