Short-track racing returns to Atlanta Motor Speedway for week eight of the Thursday Thunder season as many local competitors return to their home track following success in the Legends Million race.
Coming on the heels of a scheduled off week to allow Georgia-based competitors to travel for the Legends Million race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the action is back on Atlanta's "Thunder Ring" as Sean Rayhall, race winner of the Legends Million Semi-Pro/Young Lions A-Main, and the other local Legends Million competitors resume their quest for a 2010 Thursday Thunder championship.
Week eight of Thursday Thunder will also feature the annual Faster Pastor race, pitting racing pulpit leaders against one another in an intermission bomber car race, in addition to grandstand games, concourse activities and seven classes of Legends, Bandolero and Thunder Roadster racing on Atlanta Motor Speedway's "Thunder Ring," a quarter-mile oval located on the frontstretch of Atlanta's 1.54-mile quad oval track.
Legends Million Success for Georgia Drivers
Georgia-based Legends competitors nearly swept the show at the Legends Million race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, with local drivers winning the Semi-Pro/Young Lions A-Main feature and finishing second in the Legends Million A-Feature and Masters A-Main race.
Sean Rayhall (Winston), the current Young Lions points leader, won the Semi-Pro/Young Lions A-Main feature at the Legends Million event. Rayhall dominated the majority of the race, but spun his tires on a late-caution restart and relinquished the lead to fellow Thursday Thunder competitor Kason Plott (Marietta). However, Plott would soon be slowed by lapped traffic, allowing Rayhall to move ahead for the lead with just four laps remaining. Rayhall will return to Atlanta Motor Speedway coming off a $25,000 pay day for his win.
In addition to Rayhall's winning performance, part-time Thursday Thunder competitors Brian Weimer (Cumming) and Doug Stevens (McDonough) posted second-place finishes in the Legends Million A-Feature and Masters A-Main race respectively.
Stevens, better known now for his Legends car-setup wizardry than his five-career Thursday Thunder championships, led from the pole for 89-of-100 laps before eventual winner Daniel Hemric (Kannapolis, N.C.) pulled inside Stevens with just 11 laps remaining. By finishing second, Stevens claimed a $100,000 prize and held off NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver David Ragan who finished fourth.
Weimer, the 2008 Thursday Thunder champion in the Thunder Roadster division, battled to claim second with Jason Rochelle, trading places for 17 laps before last-lap contact in Turn 4 sent Rochelle ricocheting into the infield grass. Weimer quickly recovered to finish second and claim $25,000 for his effort.
In addition to the three top-three finishes, other noteworthy results by Thursday Thunder competitors included: Kyle Plott finishing ninth in the Legends Million A-Feature; part-time competitor Brady Bowell (Watkinsville) taking third in the Semi-Pro/Young Lions A-Main; and Mason Massey (Winston) claiming 10th in the Semi-Pro/Young Lions A-Main.
Three Points Races Remain, Yet Championships Far From Settled
While the Legends Million Semi-Pro/Young Lions A-Main win may be an early, career-defining moment for 15-year old Sean Rayhall, the Young Lions points leader still remains embroiled in a tense points race for a 2010 Thursday Thunder championship in Atlanta.
Rayhall leads fellow Winston resident Mason Massey by just 23 points in Thursday Thunders' Young Lions division. Massey has just two 2010 wins to Rayhall's five, but has used a series of consistent results to remain in the chase for the Young Lions championship; Massey has finished worse than third just once in 2010.
Meanwhile, the series' closest points races are in the Dixie Home Crafters Semi-Pro and Thunder Roadsters divisions, where just one and eight points respectively separate the classes' top competitors.
Mike Weed (Franklin), who finished 20th in the Legends Million Semi-Pro/Young Lions A-Main, has just a one-point advantage in the Dixie Home Crafters Semi-Pro division. Like Massey, Weed has used consistency to remain in contention, posting six top-10 finishes in seven races while taking just one win. However, two-time winner Jacob Armstrong (Fayetteville) trails by just one mark and Garrett Smithley (Peachtree City) is only six-points back.
Brain Meredith (Locust Grove) holds an eight-point lead over Skip Nichols (Albany) in the Thunder Roadsters division. Meredith, the 2000 Chargers division champion, has used one win and seven top-five finishes to rest in first, but Nichols posted his second-Roadster win of 2010 to close Meredith's lead to just eight.
Nichols, who finished 25th in the Legends Million Masters A-Main, is competing for championships in Thursday Thunder's Masters and Thunder Roadsters divisions. If the Albany native can claim both titles, he would hold the record for most championships in Thursday Thunder history with six. Nichols potential mark of six championships would surpass Doug Stevens record of five, who earlier this season saw Nichols surpass his all-time wins mark of 27; with six wins in 2010, Nichols now holds the record with 29.
Pulpit Pit Pandemonium for Annual Faster Pastor Event
The annual Faster Pastor race will return for 2010 during Thursday Thunder's eighth week as local church leaders compete in a stock bomber car race during intermission on Thursday, July 22.
The 2010 Faster Pastor race will feature local leaders competing in equally-equipped stock cars for the bragging rights to be called the Faster Pastor. Participants in the 2010 edition of the race include: Stan Berrong, co-pastor at Glen Haven Baptist Church in McDonough; Brooks Everett, pastor of counseling ministry and seniors at Community Bible Church in Stockbridge; and Barry Saunders, director of children's ministries at Bethany Baptist Church in McDonough.
The Faster Pastor race will also serve as a food drive for Helping in His Name Food Ministries and fans of each church are encouraged to bring canned goods to donate. Collection bins will be located near Gate 13. The church with the most donations will receive the pole position for the Faster Pastor race.
Featuring a full slate of short-track racing, Thursday Thunder is an affordably-priced activity that offers something for spectators of all ages.Tickets are just $5 for adults and $1 for children 6-11 (ages 5 and under are free) for each evening of family fun and grass-roots racing. Gates open at 6 p.m., heat races start at 6:15 p.m. and feature races start at approximately 7:50 p.m. For more information about Thursday Thunder, contact the Atlanta Motor Speedway ticket office at (770) 946-4211 or visit www.atlantamotorspeedway.com