With the calendar turning to June and the summer temperatures rising, it's a signal that Atlanta Motor Speedway's Thursday Thunder racing series is back for another season of short-track racing on the quarter-mile "Thunder Ring."
Cheaper than a matinee movie, the weekly summer racing series will once again combine intense racing among the hopeful future stars of NASCAR with the excitement of interactive games and promotions for fans in a family-friendly atmosphere.
A variety of theme and promotion nights highlight the 2013 slate, including the fan-favorite Papa John's Pizza Fireworks Extravaganza on July 4.
New Challenge for Female Racer Jorgensen
Already a record-setting driver in her own rite, Taylor Jorgensen looks towards a new challenge in 2013 with a move from the Bandolero Outlaws division to the Semi-Pro division, where she will wheel a Legends car around the quarter-mile.
Using the off-season Winter Flurry races to gain experience, Jorgensen notes the differences between the two machines as the tallest challenge to this point.
"The biggest adjustment so far is the car," Jorgensen said recently at the speedway's Media Day for Thursday Thunder. "Learning the car, learning how to drive it; learning how to drive it smooth, fast and safely."
Among the challenges includes a step-up in the caliber of competitors that pilots the heavier and faster Legends cars.
"They're a little more experienced drivers," Jorgensen said. "They're smarter. It's not racing kids anymore; it's racing race car drivers at this point. And that's a little bit of an adjustment."
Jorgensen set records last season during her championship campaign in the Outlaws division. Her and brother Jensen combined to sweep all 10 events during the summer season, with her tying the record for most consecutive wins in that division at seven. Taylor also broke the all-time record of wins for a female, with her nine checkered flags bypassing the previous mark set by current Masters driver Tina Johnson.
Even with the new challenge, the goal remains the same: be the first to the finish line at the end of the 20-lap feature race each Thursday night.
"I hope to get a win this year, maybe two if I'm lucky," said Jorgensen. "Other than that, I think everything is the same. You've still got to drive it like a race car."
New Competition Changes for 2013
Last season saw the introduction of double-file restarts with the "choose your lane" rule prior to restarts. This rule gave drivers further back in the pack the opportunity to gain track position and challenge for the win. All divisions, with the exception of the Bandits, will choose the high or low lane prior to the restart.
This season Thursday Thunder will bring back the invert prior to all feature races. As the cars roll off the grid, a die will be rolled and the number that the die lands on will be the number of cars from the front of the pack that are inverted.
2013 also features a couple of changes for drivers on the starts and restarts. The "starting box" between turns three and four, used in previous seasons, has gone away. Now all Legends cars will start on the frontstretch, while Bandoleros will start in turn four.
Another new wrinkle to competition will be the Checkered Flag Challenge. This special race will be run each event night in addition to the regularly-scheduled feature races. It will be open to all drivers without a previous Thursday Thunder feature victory. There will be one race for Legends cars and one race for Bandolero cars, and a trophy will be awarded to the winner of each respective race. Once a driver wins the event twice, they will be ineligible to compete for the remainder of the season.
This Season at Thursday Thunder
Each week, Thursday Thunder will present an interactive experience for families, with concourse activities such as face painting, woodworks, a petting zoo from Noah's Ark and more. Every Thursday Thunder event will feature an autograph session with competitors. Plus there will be contests and games for spectators to participate in while in the grandstands, like a Root Beer Chugging contest, trivia, dance contests and more.
Special theme nights and promotions include:
Thursday, June 6
Thursday, June 13
Lucky 13 & Superstition Night
USCS Sprint Car Showcase
Thursday, June 20
Kid's Candy Scramble
Thursday, June 27
Summer Splash - Belly Flop Contest, Water Balloon Toss and more
Thursday, July 4
Papa John's Pizza Fireworks Extravaganza
All-Class Driver Autograph Session
Thursday, July 11
Scout Night at the Races - Boy and Girl Scouts in uniform get in free
Kids' Bike, Trike and Power Wheel Night
Thursday, July 18
Christmas in July - Santa Claus appearance, Christmas Gift Giveaways in the Grandstand
Thursday, July 25
Kid's Candy Scramble
Tickets for the affordable, family-friendly racing series costs just $6 for adults, $2 for children ages six through 11 and is free for children ages five and younger. For more information, contact the Atlanta Motor Speedway Ticket Office at (770) 946-4211, (877) 9-AMS-TIX or visit www.atlantamotorspeedway.com.
To test drive your own Legends machine, or for more information about Legends racing, call Legends of Georgia director Dwight Pilgram at (770) 707-2977 or visit www.legendsofga.com.