Atlanta Motor Speedway's 2004 Thursday Thunder Rumbles To A Close
Tuesday, August 10, 2004
In a record season for Thursday Thunder, one that was full of side-by-side action, lots of thrills and spills, and even a William Hung performance, Atlanta Motor Speedway¿s 10-week summer racing series ran full-throttle to the end last week.
Near-record crowds delighted in the close battles, which came down to the wire, with all eight divisions deciding champions on the final night
Five drivers were first-time champions, while three racing veterans added to their collection of championship trophies. In all, 2004 saw 33 different winners, including 18 first-time winners.
Off the track, families were treated to a bonanza of games, eating contests, giveaways and goody bags. Along the way, the rest of Atlanta came to understand what Thursday Thunder regulars already know: Thursday Thunder is one of the most fun and affordable family activities around.
Atlanta Motor Speedway would like to thank all the fans, competitors, volunteers and sponsors for making 2004 the best Thursday Thunder season yet. Our congratulations go out to the following racers.
ATLANTA DENTAL TEAM BANDITS
Atlanta Dental Team Bandits division champion Casey Roderick (Lawrenceville) continued his domination in the division for 8- to 11-year-olds, winning eight races en route to his second Thursday Thunder championship.
Roderick, who turned 12 just days after his final race, topped the competition by 30 points. His closest competitor was Smyrna¿s Kyle Fowler, the only other Bandits racer this year to win a race (he was victorious in the two that Roderick didn¿t win).
Roderick hopes to move into a Legends car next year.
In one of the closest battles all season long, Griffin¿s Daniel Moore earned his first Thursday Thunder championship by a mere nine points over co-runners up, Jason Magagna (Commerce) and Chase Moody (Griffin) in this division for Bandolero drivers aged 12-16.
Moore, who had just one win this season, earned the championship with consistent finishes in the final weeks of competition. His average finish this season was third, the highest of any driver in his class.
If the Young Guns race was close, the Outlaws contest was a nail-biter. Senoia¿s Tina Johnson led Fayetteville¿s Trey Maughan by one point heading into the final week of competition in this adult novice Bandolero car division.
In the final race, Johnson led the first 16 laps, then found herself being challenged for the lead with four laps to go by Ryan Jernigan of Hickory, N.C. With Maughan right behind the pair, knowing the title was on the line, Johnson tried to stand her ground.
Instead, Johnson and Jernigan hooked bumpers going through turn 1, and Johnson jerked her wheel to get free. As she did, her car went spinning up the track, and Jernigan and Maughan drove by, ending her title hopes.
Maughan later passed Jernigan to claim his third win of the season and second championship in a row. Maughan earned the Young Guns title last year before moving up this season.
Johnson managed a third-place finish in the race, leaving her five points behind Maughan.
Jim Egloff (Griffin) started the season as a rookie, but he ended as a champion. This former Canadian took Thursday Thunder by storm, winning five races en route to his first championship in these Champ-style race cars.
Egloff did all of this despite the medical problems he battled throughout the season. He had a laser kidney stone procedure after week 7, leaving him in excruciating pain. Even so, Egloff raced, managing to finish third that week.
Last year¿s Roadster champion, Jim Gresham, won one race this season and finished just six points behind Egloff.
TANGER OUTLET CENTER MASTERS
Last fall, Albany¿s Skip Nichols sold his two Legends cars. At 56, he had decided that he was too old, and the drive each week from South Georgia was just too long to make.
But when Thursday Thunder rolled back around in June, Nichols just couldn¿t say goodbye to the series he had raced in since its inception in 1998. So Nichols bought another car and decided to go back racing.
He said at the beginning of the season that the car wasn¿t that fast and he didn¿t expect to be competitive. And then he proceeded to win his third Thursday Thunder championship, edging Randy Thornton (Oxford) by seven points in this Legends car division, which features drivers over 40.
Despite a successful racing career in the Thursday Thunder series for the past six years, it wasn¿t until last Thursday that Chris Dilbeck (Hampton) was able to call himself ¿champion¿.
Dilbeck earned his first title by winning four races this season and never finishing worse than fourth in the most advanced Legends car division. He won the championship by 52 points, the largest margin in any of the eight divisions this summer, having only to start last week¿s race to clinch.
ESTES HEATING & AIR SEMI-PRO
Another longtime Thursday Thunder competitor, Griffin¿s Chris Cable also earned his first outright title this summer by a large margin, besting runner-up Jess Mattox (Waycross) by 37 points. Cable was the co-champion of the Bandits division in 1999, his first season, but has not scored a division trophy since then.
Cable won four races this season to clinch the title in this mid-level Legends racing class and should move into the advanced division next summer.
Although this beginning Legends car division doesn¿t officially award a championship, Griffin¿s Todd Gulledge earned the distinction of earning more points this season than any other Chargers competitor.
Gulledge, who was an over-the-wall pit crew member for Phoenix Racing when the team won the 1999 Daytona/NAPA 300 with Randy LaJoie, won three races this season.