Thursday Thunder's Thunder Roadster division will have a special guest this week. Former NASCAR driver and Brooks native Joey Clanton will take the wheel of a Thunder Roadster and challenge division top dogs Skip Nichols of Albany and Peachtree City's Ed Clark.
Clanton is a former competitor in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the NASCAR Nationwide Series. He also won the 2002 American Speed Association championship. A former competitor on the quarter-mile oval at AMS, Clanton is excited to race there once again.
"I haven't been in a car in three years, so it'll be fun," says Clanton. "It's going to be fun to get out there and have a little fun and see if I can run with Skip and Ed."
Clanton speaks highly of the Thunder Ring at AMS, and how fun and challenging racing there is.
"Having raced there for a year, I tell people that the Legends cars and the Thunder Roadsters, for that size of track and that type of car, is the most fun you'll have racing. The bigger tracks, it's not fun. The quarter-mile is just the best short track racing. You learn a lot as you go through. You don't realize it, but you are. To me, when I came from Late Models, I was having fun with it. It's a blast of a car to run, and it's a lot of fun on the short tracks. I've won races on big tracks with the Legends cars, and they are almost wide open, and it's not that fun. At Atlanta, you have to get in deep, get sideways, get up off the corner, and that's fun.
"With the Thunder Roadster, the biggest challenge is that it is almost a car that's got so much grip and the wheelbase with the less tire, that you've really got to learn to go past what you think is the edge. It's like when you graduate from one car to another, you have to learn the limit. But with the Thunder Roadster, you have to drive over your edge and over what you think the car can do. It's a different type of car."
Clanton has been busy helping his son, Christopher, get up to speed with his racing career. The younger Clanton is in his first full season of Thursday Thunder competition, racing in the Morley Company Outlaws division. Earlier this week, he claimed his first trophy up at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Joey has used his racing experience to impart lessons on his son.
"The biggest thing has been him learning sportsmanship," says the elder Clanton. "I'm harder on him than anyone will be. I won't tell him he's doing well when he's not. But I will tell him that he is doing well when he is. It's about learning the right way with no expectations. He's having fun. He's never driven anything, so he's just having fun at what he loves to do.
"The biggest thing is just the sportsmanship, and the seriousness when he's out there running, and what he learns from it, what the sport means. If he wants to do this further, he needs to learn how much dedication it takes. Everything we've done, from playing baseball up, it's always about having fun first. I don't want to put pressure on him. When you get to a certain level, it's an everyday job and you have no time off. But when you are climbing the ladder, it's more about him having fun and spending time with him, and having that family time with my wife and daughter there."
Championship Night at AMS
As the Thursday Thunder series heads into its 10th and final week on the Thunder Ring, a couple of championship point races are still in doubt.
In the Masters division, Cumming's Terry Mathis leads Bill Plemons, Jr. of Forsyth by two points. Mathis was able to catapult himself from third to the points lead with his third win of the season last week. Skip Nichols, who entered week nine with the points lead, fell to third in the point standings, only five markers back. With these three drivers combining for seven wins this season, and sweeping the top three spots last week, this points race will go down to the checkered flag.
The Semi-Pro division features another tight race for the championship crown. Fayetteville's Luke Behnke currently sits atop the standings, but William Plemons III of Locust Grove lurks in second, only four points out. Plemons won his fifth race of 2011 last week, with Behnke chasing him to the finish line. Behnke, with his three wins this season, will be fast with the title up for grabs. Plemons went into week eight with the lead in the standings, but a 10-point penalty dropped him behind Behnke. Plemons will now have to play catch-up this week.
Strong Rock Christian School Race Challenge is This Week's Featured Intermission Entertainment
This week's intermission entertainment will feature the Strong Rock Christian School Race Challenge. Six administrators from the SRCS will compete against each other on the Thunder Ring in a 10-lap shootout. When the dust settles, one administrator will be able to claim that they are the fastest of their co-workers.
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 $6 for adults and $2 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 .
For more information on Buzz Cars racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway, contact the Atlanta Motor Speedway Events Department at (770) 946-3954.
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.