For the young drivers that do battle in the Atlanta Motor Speedway’s weekly summer Thursday Thunder racing series, often the dream is to one day return to the speedway in the NASCAR ranks and battle on the full 1.54-mile speedway.This weekend, two more graduates of the Legends racing series will return to AMS to compete in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Griffin native Max Gresham, a past Thursday Thunder champion, will make his debut with new team Eddie Sharp Racing in the Jeff Foxworthy’s Grit Chips 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Friday night.

“I’m ready to go back home to Atlanta Motor Speedway with a new team, Eddie Sharp Racing,” said Gresham. “It’s a place where I have my biggest fan base because they’ve been there in the stands from the very beginning. Now they get to see my newest step into the future.

“Atlanta is so special to me. I have a lot of great memories there. Hopefully I’ll be making even better memories there with Eddie Sharp Racing.”

Meanwhile Smyrna native Kyle Fowler, also a past Thursday Thunder champion, will compete in Saturday night’s NRA American Warrior 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race for Randy Hill Racing.

For many drivers, Thursday Thunder racing serves as the high school equivalent of a stick-and-ball sport, giving drivers the chance to learn and grow in competition before moving onto higher levels of motorsports, often at the professional ranks.

Close Points Battles On Display All Weekend at AMS

While much has been made about the intense battle going on in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points standings, whether in the top-10 or for the wild-card, there are close points battles shaping up across all three of the NASCAR racing series that will be on display this weekend at Atlanta.

The NASCAR Nationwide Series continues to put on great racing and a close battle for the series championship between four drivers, all with contrasting styles. This weekend’s NRA American Warrior 300 will serve as a last opportunity for drivers to gain positive momentum as the series heads into the last 10 races of the year.

The calculating veteran Elliott Sadler continues to lead the standings, powered by four wins, and is 19 points ahead of the young gun-slinger Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Stenhouse is looking to defend his points champion from last season, and has recorded three wins so far in 2012. Meanwhile Sam Hornish Jr., who continues to impress with good runs each week, is 28 points out and rookie Austin Dillon trails by 35 points.

The Jeff Foxworthy’s Grit Chips 200 will also serve as a major milestone in determining the champion for 2012. This Friday’s race will mark nine remaining events in the season, and another close points battle awaits the fans for their enjoyment this weekend.

Currently the top seven drivers in the points standings are separated by only 51 points. Timothy Peters leads the standings, fresh off his second win of the season last weekend at Bristol. He leads young up-and-comer James Buescher by 17 points, who has visited victory lane three times this year. Rookie Ty Dillon, older brother of Austin, is 25 points back.

Atlanta will play a key part in determining the points champions for both the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series, plus the Chase for the Sprint Cup lineup in the Sprint Cup Series.

Past Winners Look to Repeat Previous Success

The field for the AdvoCare 500 features several past winners of Sprint Cup races at AMS. Many of these same drivers are those battling for positioning in the top-10 in the points standings, as well as berths into the Chase by one of the two wild-card positions.

Below are drivers entered in Sunday’s race that have previously won at Atlanta in Sprint Cup competition:

Kurt Busch: the 2003 Sprint Cup champion is a three-time AMS winner
Kyle Busch: 2008 Atlanta winner, also Toyota’s first Sprint Cup victory
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: looking for his second AMS win after winning in 2004
Carl Edwards: needing a win for the wild-card, won at Atlanta three times
Jeff Gordon: defending AdvoCare 500 champion; five-time AMS winner
Kevin Harvick: won his first-career victory in a photo finish in 2001
Jimmie Johnson: also a three-time AMS victor, was runner-up in 2011
Kasey Kahne: a two-time winner, won the first Labor Day race in 2009
Bobby Labonte: leading active winner at AMS with six victories
Mark Martin: the part-time driver has visited victory lane two times
Tony Stewart: 2010 winner at Atlanta, has claimed three trophies at AMS

NASCAR night racing returns to Atlanta Motor Speedway on Labor Day weekend, Aug. 31-Sept. 2, 2012. Reserve your AdvoCare 500 tickets now. For more information, call the Atlanta Motor Speedway ticket office at (877) 9-AMS-TIX, (770) 946-4211 or visit www.atlantamotorspeedway.com.