This week's Thursday Thunder will have a uniquely southern feel, as the Atlanta Motor Speedway pays homage to the long-running television show, The Dukes of Hazzard. Fans are encouraged to dress up like their favorite character and compete in a look-a-like contest. There will also be a singing competition and other intermission activities themed after the popular show that used Covington as an initial filming location.
Undefeated Drivers and First Time Winners in 2011
Among the winners in the week six edition of Thursday Thunder, an impressive streak was continued and more drivers qualified for the Labor Day Invitational.
Roswell's Parker Barnes went to victory lane for the sixth time in 2011 in the Morley Company Outlaws division. Barnes is undefeated on the season and now leads the points standings by 49 over Columbus native John Curtiss. Despite the perfect record, Barnes has had to earn each win. Last week, defending series champion John Holleman of Winston-Salem, N.C. made a challenge to win, but Barnes held him off.
Meanwhile two more drivers qualified for the Labor Day Invitational with their first wins of the season last week. Fayetteville's Ashton Winger claimed his first career victory in the Papa John's Bandits division, while Zebulon's Jeff Haynie was the top finishing Pro series driver in the combined Pro/Masters event, winning for the eighteenth time in his career. With his win, Winger climbs within 10 points of the lead in the series standings.
"It was good to get on the board," says Haynie. "A win is a win, like everyone says. Taylor (Hull) and Sean (Rayhall) got into it and that helped me out a bit. But I've got a few more weeks to beat them flat out. They (Hull and Rayhall) have been battling it out all year."
While drivers can become qualified with feature wins at other tracks, Atlanta proves to be the toughest to tame.
"Just being a one lane track, that always makes it tougher," says Haynie. "You see NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers have the same problems when they go to one lane tracks, like Martinsville. You are just running in line and you have to rough people up a little to get by. The next lap they may do it to you. You've got to have a really, really good car to pass someone without touching them when you are so evenly matched."
The Labor Day Invitational will be held Friday, September 2, as part of the NASCAR AdvoCare 500 weekend at AMS. Invitational competition will feature both a Bandolero and Legends event. Invitational race winners will be honored on the pre-race stage prior to Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AdvoCare 500 on September 4.
For more information on the Labor Day Invitational, visit www.legendsofga.com.
Driver Profile: Jordan Coker
Powder Springs' Jordan Coker is a busy guy. Like many Thursday Thunder racers, he spends his Wednesday and Thursday afternoons at Atlanta Motor Speedway, tuning up his Semi-Pro machine for competition on the Thunder Ring.
But it's not just racing that keeps this 19-year old busy. Coker will be entering his sophomore year of college at the University of Georgia this fall. A Pre-Business major, he also plays tuba for the university's Redcoat Marching Band at Bulldog football games.
Coker actually finds the summer schedule that racing brings as a nice reprieve to the grinds of college.
"The summer is a little easier," he says. "Racing has cooled off a little bit from my earlier years. It's a little lower key now. Once school and racing start merging later in the summer, that's when it gets tough. We have our last Thursday Thunder race August 4, and the next day I move out to Athens to get ready for band camp and school. The quick transition is when it gets a little tough."
Coker mentions that his racing schedule is lighter now in his late teen years. At one time, driving competitively was a serious career goal. Early parts of the week would be spent at Charlotte Motor Speedway racing before returning to the Peach State to compete at AMS. Add in racing at various other tracks, and Coker would be on the road six days a week. Racing, coupled with that busy schedule, helped prepare him for the challenges of becoming an adult.
"It has helped me a lot," he says. "Not just college, but most things in general. Racing is a very good comparison to life, work or a career. It has helped me manage my time and be more goal-oriented and be focused on what I need to do. Racing is a funny thing. You'll be out front one week, and in the wall the next. There are lots of highs and lows, and you have to be ready to bounce with anything."
Coker is in his sixth season of Thursday Thunder racing. Through six races in the 2011 season, Coker has compiled five-top fives and has not finished outside the top ten. He currently sits fourth in points. While a victory has yet to come, things seem to be coming together as the series heads into the home stretch.
"When the season started, we felt semi-comfortable with what we had," he says. "We knew some guys had been running all winter. We started off a little behind the eight ball, but we started getting things going. We've run top five every week. We're still one click behind the fastest guys, but we've been turning a corner recently. In the most recent race, we led a few laps and we feel like we're turning the corner. We feel like we've got a chance to get in victory lane before the season is out."
Ultimately, Coker is your typical college student that likes to have fun and has an athletic hobby that he enjoys in his spare time.
"Some people play baseball. Some play football. I drive race cars."
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.