In racing, nicks and bangs do happen from time to time. At the NASCAR level, there is a long history of drivers racing hurt, with legendary tales involving some of the greatest drivers in the history of the sport.
Thursday Thunder drivers are no exception, and for those chasing a points championship, sometimes driving hurt has to happen to stay in the running for the title.
One driver doing just that and remaining right in the thick of things is Concord, N.C.'s Payton Ryan. Ryan, a competitor in the Fun Junction Young Lions division, broke a bone in his left metacarpal in May during the Legends All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Ryan has not been slowed by the injury. In his first race after the wreck and following surgery, Ryan piloted his Legends car to the win in the first of two double feature wins during the opening week of Thursday Thunder. He backed that up with a runner-up finish in the second of the two races. This past Thursday, Ryan again proved the early-season success was no fluke with a third-place finish last week on the quarter-mile "Thunder Ring."
"In the car, it feels pretty good," Ryan said about his arm. "We taped up my wheel so I could get a little more padding on it, so I can grip it harder. But it's mostly just my right arm that I'm using right now. I think once I get it (the cast) off, I'll definitely be better."
With podium finishes in the season's first three events, Ryan sits atop the points standings entering this week's race, three points ahead of Alex Coffey and Woodrow Mullis.
It's Never Too Early to Look at Points
After two weeks and three points events, several points races are already shaping up to feature several drivers battling down to the wire for the championship.
The Masters division features four drivers within six points of the lead. Tina Johnson currently sits atop the standings on the strength of three-straight top-five finishes, but Scott Moseley lurks two points back. Skip Nichols, a two-time winner in 2013, is five points out, followed by AMS President and General Manager Ed Clark, who is six points back.
Mentioned last week, the Bandits division features two accomplished drivers at the top of the standings. Chandler Smith, winning twice so far this season, leads Zach Leonhardi by three points. Leonhardi has went to victory lane once himself, pitting these two drivers as the top wheelmen for the title.
In other action, Ashton Winger leads the Outlaws division by nine points ahead of Joshua Hicks, and Madeline Crane trails William Plemons III by 12 points in the Pro division. Running her first year in the division, Taylor Jorgensen has impressed early on by holding a runner-up spot in the Allred Family Dentistry Semi-Pro division, 20 markers back from Riley Thornton.
Winning a feature race during Thursday Thunder earns a driver 100 points and each respective position behind the winner decreases by three points. Because of this, a couple of finishing positions can shake up the points standings when the drivers are so close. The competitiveness of Thursday Thunder ensures that each lap and each pass on the "Thunder Ring" could have championship implications.
This Week and Upcoming at Thursday Thunder
This week at Thursday Thunder will feature the return of the Kid's Candy Scramble. Kids of all ages are invited to the speedway's infield grass area during the autograph session prior to the start of feature races to compete for as much candy as one can grab. Participants will be divided into two age groups, and all kids will receive candy items. Thousands of pieces of candy will be up for grabs between hundreds of kids, giving families one huge night of fun at Thursday Thunder.
This Thursday also marks the first Thirsty Thursday of the season. For only $1 each, fans can purchase 12-ounce cans of Coca-Cola products, assorted candy, bags of chips and hot dogs. Canned beer will also be available for only $2 each.
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.
Tickets for the affordable, family-friendly racing series costs just $6 for adults, $2 for children ages 6 through 11 and is free for children ages 5 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.