Brandon Hutchison, who acts as race director during AMS' weekly summer racing series, Thursday Thunder, has been the man who puts each piece of the grass-roots racing puzzle together since the series' inception in 1998.
Originally an intern at AMS in March 1995, Hutchison was hired as a full-time employee in July of that year and was promoted to director of events just three years later. It was in 1998 that AMS summers would be re-written forever. With Hutchison at the helm, Thursday Thunder was born, giving racers both young and old a place to hone their skills or cut their racing teeth.
"That first evening of Thursday Thunder, we had around 1,000 fans," Hutchison said reflecting. "Now on our larger nights, we will have in upwards of 5,000 people. It is just a testament to how far the sport of Legends racing has come."
The inaugural night of Thursday Thunder racing saw current NEXTEL Cup drivers Reed Sorenson and David Ragan claim the victory in their respective divisions and Hutchison was the person responsible for the flow of the evening and making the difficult calls of what exactly happened on the track.
"It was pretty neat, looking back, to be there for the start of Reed and David's career," Hutchison said. "Joe Gibbs Racing developmental driver Joey Logano and Craftsman Truck Series driver Joey Clanton have both participated in the Thursday Thunder program as well. Watching young drivers mature and develop has been exciting."
Hutchison, a Henry County resident, recognizes his duties during Thursday Thunder and the decisions he has to make as some of the most difficult parts of his job at AMS. When cars collide on the track, it is up to him to determine what happened, who is at fault and the consequences.
"One single slip, in a fraction of a second, can change the complexion of an entire season for a driver," Hutchison said.
During the opening night of Thursday Thunder in 2006, with 20 Bandoleros on the track being wheeled by kids as young as 8-years-old, one such slip occurred with one lap to go and six drivers were sent spinning around the track.
"When a multi-car incident happens, you are the person who has to tell them who made the mistake," Hutchison explained. "Parents get involved, especially with young drivers, and it is my goal to be accurate, non-biased and fair."
Hutchison also finds himself in unique environment that many race directors don't deal with. His boss, Atlanta Motor Speedway president and general manager, Ed Clark, races in two divisions during Thursday Thunder, which turns Hutchison into the boss for a few hours each week.
"It is not easy having to make a call against your boss," Hutchison said smiling. "Ed is a tremendous competitor and he wants to be the best at everything he does. When you put him behind the wheel of a race car, he turns into a true racer and he wants to win. When he doesn't perform up to his expectations, he gets upset. Thankfully, Ed does a great job of separating business from pleasure."
Hutchison counts the people he has met and the new relationships he has been able to forge through Thursday Thunder as one of the most rewarding parts of his duties as race director.
"It is like seeing old friends for 10-weeks each year," Hutchison said. "You see fans and competitors throughout the summer, then you might lose contact, but when the next summer rolls around, they are all back, excited for another season.
"The series also brings all of us at the speedway closer as a team. It takes a crew of around 35 people to execute a successful evening of Thursday Thunder and if it weren't for them and their hard work, we would not be celebrating 10-years of Legends racing at AMS."
For more information about Thursday Thunder, contact the Atlanta Motor Speedway ticket office at (770) 946-4211 or visit http://www.atlantamotorspeedway.com/