Championship Night at Atlanta Motor Speedway's Thursday Thunder concluded the 2009 season and featured the awarding of championships in eight classes, while the "Thunder Ring" also witnessed the return of Beau Slocumb after a battle with cancer.
Slocumb, a fan favorite with five-career Thursday Thunder wins, returned to Atlanta Motor Speedway after recently completing treating for Synovial Sarcoma cancer at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. In a remarkable moment, Slocumb won the Thunder Roadster heat race to claim the pole position in Ed Clark's vehicle.
Slocumb, a Juliette native, held the advantage to start the Thunder Roadsters feature race, making his return to the "Thunder Ring" following a two-year hiatus. Jeremy Kalina dove ahead momentarily after an early caution, but Slocumb soon reclaimed the lead.
Separated by just one point in the standings and fighting behind the leaders for the Championship, Chris Cable pushed ahead of Adam Gay for third. But shortly after, a hard bump from Brian Weimer spun Gay and forced a caution, eroding his Championship hopes.
After the restart, Kalina and Cable moved ahead of Slocumb. Cruising ahead of the pack, Kalina passed the finish line unchallenged for the win, while Cable finished second to take the 2009 Thunder Roadsters Championship.
Brad Shelnutt held the pole position to start the Masters division feature race, while points-leader Jeff Haynie started in the rear after being black flagged in the heat race for rough driving. Skip Nichols, sitting second in points, quickly claimed the lead after the start. Nichols maintained his lead through the first half of the race, but Haynie began knifing through the field before jumping ahead on lap 16. Surging ahead after a late caution, Haynie claimed his seventh win of the season to secure his third-straight Masters division championship.
John Holleman led the M&S Auto Bandits to the start before Clayton Weatherman dove hard into turn one from the outside position to take the lead. Clayton again surged ahead of the pack following an early caution and was soon followed by his brother Kyle who claimed the second position. After a series of cautions, the Weathermans remained in front, with Clayton taking the race win and Kyle claiming the 2009 M&S Auto Bandits division championship. Celebrating their wins together, Clayton and Kyle pulled around to the finish line together to be interviewed.
Justin Thomas held the advantage to start the Young Lions feature, but division points leader Chad Finchum immediately took the lead from his outside pole position. After an early caution, Finchum maintained his lead position with Mason Massey and Davey Matthews trailing. Superior to his competition, Finchum cruised to his sixth victory of the season en route to the 2009 Young Lions championship.
Holding the advantage to start the feature, Evan Bell led the Young Guns division to the start. Following an early pileup, Bell retained his position and quickly built an insurmountable lead. Unchallenged to the checkered flag, Bell took his seventh victory of the year and claimed the 2009 Young Guns Championship.
Garrett Smithley held the pole position and points lead by three marks entering the J.J. Morley Outlaws feature, but Luke Behnke, sitting second in points, surged ahead on the first lap. Behnke proved dominant in the year's finale, claiming the win and tying Smithley in points. Despite the tie, Behnke claimed the 2009 J.J. Morley Outlaws Championship by virtue of a tiebreaker - most wins in 2009 - with six wins to Smithley's four.
Jimmie Henderson led the Pro class to the green flag from the pole position. Henderson maintained his lead with first and second in points, Austin Hill and Zac Kittle respectively, in tow. Kittle then jumped Hill for second, who then relinquished third to Ryan Gandee. Uncatchable by the points leaders, Henderson claimed the win, but Hill claimed the 2009 Pro Championship with his fourth-place finish.
Jonathan Chandler sat on the pole for the Semi-Pro feature, while Cody Haskins started in the outside position trailing Chandler by nine points in the standings. Haskins claimed the lead on the first lap, but Chandler jumped inside on lap eight to reclaim the lead. Chandler held the lead through the finish to take his sixth win of the season and the 2009 Semi-Pro Championship.
Shannon McBride started the Bandolero Promoter's Choice race on the pole, but Payton Ryan quickly shot ahead exiting turn two. Ryan held the lead throughout the race to claim his first Thursday Thunder win.
Cameron Hadley held the pole position for the Legends Promoter's Choice race, but Don Chandler quickly claimed the lead. Speeding ahead of the field, Chandler claimed the checkered flag for his first-career Thursday Thunder victory.
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 10 Thursday Thunder Results:
1. Jeff Haynie (Zebulon), 2. Ed Clark (Peachtree City), 3. Rick Geddes (Newnan), 4. Larry Friddle (Greenville, S.C.), 5. Don Chandler, 6. Phillip Young, 7. Skip Nichols (Albany), 8. Jackie Ryan (Jonesville, La.), 9. John Ponzio (Tyrone), 10. Brad Shelnutt (Locust Grove), 11. Reggie Lybrand, 12. Jerry Mendenhall (Peachtree City).
M&S Auto Bandits:
1. Clayton Weatherman (Wentzville, Mo.), 2. Kyle Weatherman (Wentzville, Mo.), 3. Benjamin Rhodes (Louisville, Kent.), 4. Dalton Hill (Winston), 5. Alex Coffey (McDonough), 6. Anderson Bowen (Suwanee), 7. Payton Ryan (Jonesville, La.), 8. Tyler Moseley (McDonough), 9. Rusty Sutton (Dawsonville), 10. Jensen Jorgenson (Stockbridge), 11. Wyatt Simic (McDonough), 12. John Holleman (Winston-Salem, N.C.), 13. Madeline Crane (Meansville), 14. Josh Hicks (Senioa).
1. Chad Finchum (Knoxville, Tenn.), 2. Mason Massey (Winston), 3. Davey Matthews (Douglasville), 4. Justin Thomas (Woodstock), 5. Brady Boswell (Watkinsville), 6. Austin Garvey (McDonough), 7. Charlie Gresham (Milner), 8. Jonathan Lybrand, 9. Grayson York (Rocky Face), 10. Donald McIntosh (Dawsonville), 11. Cameron Hadley (Concord).
1. Jeremy Kalina (Williamson), 2. Chris Cable (Griffin), 3. Beau Slocumb (Juliette), 4. Max Gresham (Milner) substitute driving for Russ Sutton (Dawsonville), 5. Adam Gay (Dublin), 6. Skip Nichols (Albany), 7. Alex Roberts (Monroe), 8. Brian Weimer (Cumming), 9. Brian Meredith (Locust Grove).
1. Evan Bell (Buford), 2. Joey Padgett (Tallahassee, Fla.), 3. Riley Halverson (Concord, N.C.), 4. Christopher Rhodes (Louisville, Kent.), 5. Taylor Jorgensen (Stockbridge), 6. Dylan Reed (Winston).
J.J. Morley Outlaws:
1. Luke Behnke (Fayetteville), 2. Garrett Smithley (Peachtree City), 3. Brad Shelnutt (Locust Grove), 4. Shannon McBride.
1. Jimmie Henderson (Conyers), 2. Ryan Gandee (McDonough), 3. Austin Hill (Winston), 4. Currie Pierce (Griffin), 5. Tina Johnson (Senoia), 6. Kyle Kitchens (Hampton), 7. Alex Kempf (Vero Beach, Fla.), DQ. Zac Kittle.
1. Jonathan Chandler (Fayetteville), 2. Cody Haskins (Marietta), 3. Jacob Armstrong (Fayetteville), 4. Mike Weed (Franklin), 5. Zach Weaver (Phenix City, Ala.), 6. Bill Stevenson (Jonesboro), 7. Chris Bowie (Douglasville), 8. Mark Swan (Atlanta), 9. Mark Younginer (Locust Grove), 10. Duke Furr (Concord, N.C.), 11. Scott Hicks (Senoia).
Bandolero Promoter's Choice:
1. Payton Ryan (Jonesville, La.), 2. Shannon McBride, 3. Dylan Reed (Winston), 4. Jensen Jorgenson (Stockbridge), 5. Rusty Sutton (Dawsonville).
Legends Promoter's Choice:
1. Don Chandler (Fayetteville), 2. Charlie Gresham (Milner), 3. Mark Swan (Atlanta), 4. John Ponzio (Tyrone), 5. Mark Younginer (Locust Grove), 6. Scott Hicks, 7. Cameron Hadley (Concord).