With the second half of the points season at Friday Night Drags beginning to take shape, the Sportsman division continues to be one of the more exciting racing divisions. With several different drivers finding their way to victory lane, the battle for a second half championship, and a shot at first half champion Bill Hatfield on championship night, is wide open heading into week thirteen.
Since the start of second half points, there have been two different winners in the division. Last week, Lovejoy's Richard Riggi raced his 1987 Ford Mustang Coupe to the win, his first win of the season. And Rex's Joe Stone won his first race of the year two weeks ago with his 1977 Chevrolet Luv.
"It's been a long time in the making," says Riggi of his win. "I had a lot of downs, and of course it's a very expensive hobby. I just basically worked hard at it and tried and tried. I had got close, but not close enough. I've been through a couple of motors. The old motor had some cylinder heads that were old, but good back in the day, and I blew a lot of head gaskets, almost every week. I now have these new heads and they are working pretty good. I missed the first six or seven races of the season, and when I did start I had some sputtering and popping problems with the car. It was the micro switch that controls the nitrous, and as soon as we fixed that, I knew in practice the car felt like a monster and I thought I'd have a chance in eliminations.
"I'm still ecstatic about it. I'm still telling people. Jeremy Rhoades, he's one of my rivals, he calls me each week and teases me, asking if I'm ready. I'm just very grateful and I cherish it. That's what I've been wanting for so long. I really love it. I live it, I breathe it. I love drag racing."
After two weeks of second half racing, Stone and Rob Burch are tied for the points lead, with Riggi lurking two points back. Hampton's Jeremy Rhodes and Griffin's Mark Harris sit tied for fourth, four points back. Ray Puryear of Hampton and Terry Bates are tied for sixth, five points back.
The Sportsman division has seen great parity thus far. In 10 races on the season, six different faces have been to victory lane. Nicolas Feliciano of Griffin and Hampton native Bill Hatfield are the only drivers to win multiple races, with each driver claiming three wins.
Lucky Ladies Night at Friday Night Drags & MCR Safety Show-N-Shine
Guys love fast cars, but this Friday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the ladies will show the men that they are not alone in their love for high speed and burning rubber. This week is Lucky Ladies Night at Friday Night Drags. For grandstand seating, all ladies get in two for one. This is a great way for female race fans to have a girls night at the speedway, and enjoy one of the area's most affordable and exciting entertainment attractions. Lucky ladies looking to take advantage of this deal can enter at gate 15 beginning at 6:30 p.m.
MCR Safety Show-N-Shine Winners Recognized on NASCAR Race Weekend
One of the perks of competing in the MCR Safety Show-N-Shine is that winners are eligible to show their vehicles off on the fronstretch of Atlanta Motor Speedway in a special car show during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AdvoCare 500, Labor Day Weekend at AMS. With large car counts each week and as many as eight classes for judging, it is not too late for fans to bring their vehicles out and compete for an MCR Safety Show-N-Shine trophy.
The 2011 Friday Night Drags season will run on Friday nights through Aug. 19. MCR Safety Show-N-Shine car show judging begins at 6:00 p.m. and practice drag runs begin at 6:15 p.m. Grandstand gates open at 6:30 p.m. with the drag eliminations starting at 9:09 p.m.
All racers ages 16 and 17 must have a fully-executed minor's release form on file at the speedway prior to competition and forms are available at the Speedway or at www.atlantamotorspeedway.com. Competitors must wear a DOT-approved helmet and have operational seat belts in their vehicle and pass a pre-race safety inspection.
Entry to drag race or for the MCR Safety Show-N-Shine is $20 or competitors can enter both for $30. Spectator admission is only $8 and exterior parking is free, while infield parking is $20.
For more information about Friday Night Drags and Atlanta Motor Speedway, contact the Atlanta Motor Speedway ticket office at (770) 946-4211 or visit www.atlantamotorspeedway.com.