Billy Stevenson has become somewhat of a two-sport star at Atlanta Motor Speedway's summer racing series. Pulling double duty on Thursday and Friday nights, Stevenson's Legends car has seemingly bridged the gap between Thursday Thunder short track racing and the straight-line speed of Friday Night Drags.
Throughout the summer, Stevenson has competed in both Atlanta Motor Speedway's Thursday Thunder and Friday Night Drags. One night after turning short-track laps on Atlanta Motor Speedway's "Thunder Ring," Stevenson places his Legends car on Atlanta Motor Speedway's pit lane drag strip.
While his 5/8-scale replica of a 1932 Ford is a common sight on Thursdays, Stevenson's Legends car has been known to turn heads come Friday when paired against Mustang GTs and modified Civics. Sitting at half the size of the more than 230 modern drag cars competing, Stevenson's black Legends car stands out.
"It definitely makes people stop and look," said Stevenson, who began racing Legends cars on the "Thunder Ring" in 2008. "Everybody knows what a Viper is, but when they walk past the Legends car they stop and ask, ‘What is that? That's pretty cool.'"
After competing in Thursday Thunder in 2008 and attending Friday Night Drags on the following nights, Stevenson knew there was some crossover appeal to his Legends car. Unsatisfied after watching two Legends cars exhibition drag race as a promotion in 2008, Stevenson was set on preparing a full-time Legends car to drag in 2009.
Over the winter, Stevenson contacted Ted Austad at Atlanta Motor Speedway to inquire about drag racing a Legends car. With the approval of the Speedway, Stevenson spent the coming months preparing a car made for left turns to stay straight.
In preparation, Stevenson made two primary adjustments to his Legends ride - he eliminated the camber needed for continued left-hand turns and replaced the engine with a water-cooled Yamaha R1000 to alleviate over-heating between drag rounds.
"The only difference between the motors would be about 40 horsepower, but it doesn't even feel like it," explained Stevenson. "The Legends car is fast on the drag strip."
But Stevenson's side project was intended for more than fun; the Locust Grove's resident's goal was to bring attention, and more fans, to Thursday Thunder.
"We knew it would be unique out there and thought it would be a great way to bring some notoriety to Thursday Thunder," said Stevenson with a chuckle. "I wanted to show people these cars are fast and aren't just toys and I think I've proved that by outrunning Mustang GTs and tuner cars.
"I think we're also giving Legends cars a good name," Stevenson explained. "When you're drag racing, you see cars break all the time. But you notice, the Legends cars are staying in good shape and aren't breaking down."
And Stevenson has seemingly started a Legends drag racing revolution in only half of the 2009 Friday Night Drags season. In addition to Stevenson, Friday Night Drags has featured three additional Legends competitors on the drag strip - Dennis Harry, Melina Rolo and Mark Younginer, Jr.
"We're having a blast and having a good time," said Harry. "We're trying to promote Legends racing, so I brought my car out from Thursday nights. I had such a blast, I'm already building a Legends car strictly for drag racing. I've been involved in Thursday Thunder for nine years and the drag racing was just about as fun as anything I've ever done."
With the aid of his fellow Legends drag racers, Stevenson has started to bring attention to both Thursday Thunder, but also the act of drag racing Legends cars.
"People are definitely talking about it," said Stevenson. "The drag racing Legends cars are in peoples minds; I've even heard people talk about it in Marietta and Jackson. Even when I put the car in the Show-N-Shine car show, I probably had as a big a crowd around the car as any show car."