Bumble Bee Foods Night at Atlanta Motor Speedway's Thursday Thunder featured a NASCAR Sprint Cup star competing in the Pro division, competitors from 14 states and the annual Faster Pastor race for intermission entertainment.
Holding the advantage for the first feature of the night, Bayley Currey held the pole position in the Pro division that included NASCAR Sprint Cup star David Ragan. Jimmie Henderson soon passed Currey, but an early caution forced the field together and Zach Kittle and Chris Dilbeck surged to the front at the restart. Despite fighting among each other for the lead, Kittle and Dilbeck pushed ahead of the pack.
Chasing the leaders from the middle of the Pro pack, NASCAR's Ragan slowly passed Pro cars amid traffic before a second caution brought the field together. Following the restart, Austin Hill shot to the front as Ragan, a former Thursday Thunder champion, continued to play chase. Closing on the checkered flag and racing side-by-side, Hill and Kittle were contacted by Henderson, creating congestion in turn three. Benefiting from the final-lap mayhem, Kyle Lowry shot past the traffic to cross the finish line first with Ragan in tow for second.
"Our car was a little bit off and I was kind of content with just riding, because I knew things probably wouldn't end under green," said Ragan after the race. "I just rode on the bottom and we were going to finish about fourth or fifth and they all started wrecking in front of me. I'm glad I didn't tear anything up, but being so close to the win, it would have been really cool to win.
"These guys are racing every week; they're fast and they're good," added Ragan, the 2000 Semi-Pro champion. "It's tough to show up to a local track and unseat the local guys, but we came in and had a little fun and didn't finish dead last."
The Masters feature started with Buddy Goudy in front, but Skip Nichols scooted to the lead exiting turn four. Following an early restart, Nichols maintained his lead, but points leader Jeff Haynie quickly closed on his bumper before a second caution brought the field together again. Nichols and Haynie again shot to the front, before Haynie took Nichols' lead. Following the pass, Haynie proved to have the quickest car, leaving the field behind before cruising past the finish laps later.
The M&S Auto Bandits feature began with Madeline Crane in front, but Clayton Weatherman jumped from the outside position to take the lead. With a lap-two caution tightening the field, Weatherman moved to the front on the restart chased by Dalton Hill. Passing lap traffic with ease, Weatherman maintained control with Hill staying close behind, but two late cautions kept the field together. Remaining unchallenged to the finish, Weatherman took the win for his second of the year.
Chris Rhodes started the combined classes of J.J. Morley Outlaws and Young Guns, but Garrett Smithley shot ahead on the first lap. Smithley initially seemed unchallenged, but Evan Bell closed the gap by the race's midpoint. After Smithley slid exiting turn two, Bell passed to the inside to claim the lead. Adding to his Young Guns points lead, Bell held on for the win.
Intermission featured the annual Faster Pastor Race, but the 2008 edition featured COT racing - not NASCAR's Car of Tomorrow, but actually on cots. Carrying one team member on a cot with upwards of four teammates carrying the cot, the teams sprinted across the Atlanta Motor Speedway "ball field" to the finish line. Repeating his win from the 2008 Faster Pastor Championship, Solid Stone Ministries' senior pastor Keith Strickland maintained the title of Faster Pastor.
Zach Weaver led the Semi-Pros to the green flag, but a first-lap wreck resulted in a double-file restart. Weaver kept the advantage on the restart, but Jonathan Chandler made quick work of the leader and moved to the front. Cruising past the checkered flag, Chandler claimed the win to tie Cody Haskins for the points lead, giving Chandler first place among Semi-Pros by virtue of wins with five.
Justin Thomas sat on the pole for the Young Lions feature, blazing ahead of the field off the start with Evan Swilling close behind. Making the pass one lap after the start, Swilling jumped ahead and seemed uncatchable before consecutive cautions bunched the field together. Using a bump in turn three, Donald McIntosh passed Swilling for the lead before a third caution interrupted the race. After the restart, McIntosh was challenged three-wide coming out of turn two by Chad Finchum and Swilling, before Finchum nosed ahead and held on for the win.
Dwight Pilgrim held the pole to start the Thunder Roadsters feature race, but Max Gresham pushed ahead on the second lap. Unchallenged in his first Roadster race, Gresham dominated the field for an easy win.
Jackie Ryan led the Bandolero Promoter's Choice race to the start, but early contact allowed Anderson Bowen to jump to the front. Bowen held his position to win in his first night in a Bandolero at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Bill Stevens held the pole for the Legend's Promoters Choice race and jumped ahead of the pack of the start. Leaving the field in his wake, Stevens cruised to Victory Lane.
Atlanta Motor Speedway's Thursday Thunder will return on July 23 for the eighth of 10 weeks of Legends, Bandolero and Thunder Roadster racing. Week eight is Disco Night and any fan dressed ready for the disco gets free admission. For more information on Thursday Thunder or Atlanta Motor Speedway, visit www.atlantamotorspeedway.com.
To test drive your own Legends car, or for more information about Legends racing, call Legends of Georgia director Peter Horne III at (770) 707-2977 or visit www.legendsofga.com.
Week Seven Thursday Thunder Results:
1. Kyle Lowry (Covington), 2. David Ragan (Unadilla), 3. Chris Dilbeck (Hampton), 4. Bayley Currey (Driftwood, Texas), 5. Dustin Ash (Las Vegas), 6. Kyle Kitchens (Hampton), 7. Ryan Gandee (McDonough), 8. Justin Swilling (Cohutta), 9. Austin Hill (Winston), 10. Brecken Snow (St. George, Utah), 11. Tina Johnson (Senoia), 12. Zach Kittle (Watkinsville), 13. Jimmy Henderson (Conyers), 14. Baiden Heskett (Alvarado, Texas), 15. Currie Pierce (Griffin).
1. Jeff Haynie (Zebulon), 2. Skip Nichols (Albany), 3. Ed Clark (Peachtree City), 4. Brad Shelnutt (Locust Grove), 5. Randy Thornton (Oxford), 6. Larry Friddle (Greenville, S.C.), 7. Buddy Goudy (Benbrook, Texas), 8. Jackie Ryan (Jonesville, La.), 9. Phillip Young, 10. Mike Abercrombie (Jackson), 11. John Ponzio (Tyrone), 12. Jerry Mendenhall (Peachtree City).
M&S Auto Bandits:
1. Clayton Weatherman (Wentzville, Mo.), 2. Dalton Hill (Winston), 3. Kyle Weatherman (Wentzville, Mo.), 4. John Holleman (Winston-Salem, N.C.), 5. Alex Coffey (McDonough), 6. Madeline Crane (Meansville), 7. Benjamin Rhodes (Louisville, Kent.), 8. Anderson Bowen (Sugar Hill), 9. Payton Ryan (Jonesville, La.), 10. Michael Bell (Atlanta), 11. Tyler Moseley (McDonough), 12. Jensen Jorgenson (Stockbridge), 13. Josh Hicks (Senioa), 14. Rusty Sutton (Dawsonville).
1. Evan Bell (Buford), 2. Taylor Jorgensen (Stockbridge), 3. Joey Padgett (Tallahassee, Fla.), 4. Davey Matthews (Douglasville), 5. Christopher Rhodes (Louisville, Kent.).
J.J. Morley Outlaws:
1. Garrett Smithley (Peachtree City), 2. Luke Behnke (Fayetteville), 3. Shannon McBride (Hampton).
1. Jonathan Chandler (Fayetteville), 2. Cody Haskins (Marietta), 3. Zach Weaver (Phenix City, Ala.), 4. Jake Armstrong (Fayetteville), 5. Chris Bowie (Douglasville), 6. Brandon Davis, 7. Mark Swan (Atlanta), 8. Jerry Silvers (Calhoun), 9. Jacob Bowie (Douglasville), 10. Melina Rolo (Cumming), 11. Mark Younginer (Stockbridge), 12. Kenzie Ruston (El Reno, Okla.), 13. Mike Weed (Franklin), DQ. Bill Stevens (Locust Grove).
1. Chad Finchum (Knoxville, Tenn.), 2. Evan Swilling (Cohutta), 3. Donald McIntosh (Dawsonville), 4. Mason Massey (Winston), 5. Will Martin (Douglasville), 6. Judson Kittle (Watkinsville), 7. Tyler Edwards (Acworth), 8. Joey Herques (Hourma, La.), 9. Justin Thomas (Woodstock), 10. Austin Garvey (McDonough), 11. Charlie Gresham (Milner), 12. Brady Boswell (Watkinsville), 13. Jonathan Lybrand (Newnan), 14. Cameron Hadley (Concord), 15. Dillon Bassett (Winston Salem, N.C.),16. Grayson York (Rocky Face), 17. A.J. Carlisi (Dalton), 18. Evan Brown (Southlake, Texas), 19. Davey Matthews (Douglasville).
1. Max Gresham (Griffin), 2. Brian Meredith (Locust Grove), 3. Chris Cable (Griffin), 4. Adam Gay (Dublin), 5. Skip Nichols (Albany), 6. Dwight Pilgrim substitute driving for Ed Clark (Peachtree City), 7. Buddy Goudy (Benbrook, Texas).
Bandolero Promoter's Choice:
1. Anderson Bowen (Sugar Hill), 2. Christopher Rhodes (Louisville, Kent.), 3. Jensen Jorgenson (Stockbridge), 4. Payton Ryan (Jonesville, La.), 5. Rusty Sutton (Dawsonville), 6. Tyler Moseley (McDonough)
Legends Promoter's Choice:
1. Bill Stevens (Locust Grove), 2. Charlie Gresham (Milner), 3. Cameron Hadley (Concord), 4. Jerry Mendenhall (Peachtree City), 5. John Ponzio (Tyrone).