Week 2 racing in the 2016 edition of the Thursday Thunder Legends Racing Series presented by Papa John's Pizza brought the action to Atlanta Motor Speedway's quarter-mile Thunder Ring Thursday night.
Taking center stage was the largest-ever payout for a Thursday Thunder feature race in the Racing Radios Pro Division, while another two-race family sweep highlighted a seven-race lineup that included five new winners on the young 2016 season.
Bursting out of the gate, pole sitter Cale Hall from Griffin led the field to the green flag in the Plemons Investments Young Lions Division to get the Week 2 competition underway. Hall held onto the lead for all of one lap before a speedy Canon Cochran of Ringgold seized an opening to the inside of Hall on the second lap to wrest the lead away, with the rest of the field visible in his rear view mirror.
But Cochran's lead was a contested one over the next seven laps, as Hall refused to go quietly and Griffin's Hunter Johnson made several bids for the lead. Finally, after passing Cochran exiting Turn 2 on the ninth lap, Johnson used his momentum rounding Turn 4 to shove Hall out of the way and take the lead at the halfway point of the 20-lap feature.
Two laps later, Johnson and Cochran got together, bringing out the caution flag and moving Hall back to the front of the pack. Hall made the most of his golden opportunity, leading each of the final laps, and took the checkered flag for his first win in a Bandolero car.
"It's really fun out there," said Hall in his post-race interview. "I knew we had a fast car, and I just went up to the lead. At first, I thought we were going to wreck, because it was pretty close, but when I got to the lead, I just made consistent laps and won."
Cochran recovered to finish second behind Hall, while Johnson, Iowa's Sammy Smith crossed the line in third-place to round out the podium.
Clay Thompson of Bowersville won his second consecutive race to open the season in the Bandits Division feature, using late-race speed to outdo his opponents down the stretch. After overtaking pole sitter Will Robusto of Fort Mill, South Carolina on the second lap, Thompson relinquished a brief three-lap lead back to Robusto before turning on the jets in the race's last half for the victory. Nathan Jackson of McDonough placed second, while Robusto's twin sister, Isabella, nabbed a third-place finish.
In the Racing Radios Pro Division main event, the largest Thursday Thunder purse ever awarded was on the line, as the best-of-the-best highlighted the seven-race Week 2 competition.
Early on, it was all pole winner Joshua Hicks of Senoia, who used a strong start to lead the opening six laps in the 25-lap feature. As drivers jockeyed behind Hicks in a crowded field hungry to thicken their wallets, William Plemons III of Acworth broke through the traffic and went door-to-door with the leader coming to the start/finish line on the seventh lap.
Exiting Turn 2, Plemons went outside-in behind Hicks and stole the lead on the backstretch, as Hicks' early speed waned, opening the door for challengers in hot pursuit.
But Plemons settled into a rhythm at the front of the pack, ticking off the lap after lap comfortably in the lead. After parrying a mid-race challenge by Cumming's Dylan Murry, Plemons widened his lead each trip around the oval and cruised to the finish, having led each of the final 19 laps.
It was a happy ending for the Thursday Thunder veteran who missed Week 1, but it wasn't all about the winning payout for the Racing Radios Pro Division weekly winner.
"I thank God for blessing me. Last Thursday, I was in the hospital; my little baby girl Juliette Lee was born," he said. "This doesn't top that at all, but this is about the next best feeling in the world."
On top of growing his family by one, Plemons went home this week $600 dollars richer, as he collected the largest-ever Thursday Thunder winning payout after Division sponsor Racing Radios doubled this week's Pro Division purse.
The Atlanta Heart Associates Semi-Pro Division produced another first-time Thursday Thunder winner, as Hampton's Brandon Brock took advantage of a late caution, restarting in the front, and polishing off the final two laps for the victory.
Nolan Pope, the Week 1 winner out of Harrisonville, Missouri, took the pole and showed early speed, leading each of the first six laps before contact with Cumming's Hudson Halder sent him to the rear of the field. Nolan would recover only enough to finish ninth, while a patient Brock used the entire race to put himself in position to take advantage of the late-race fortune.
"It feels great. We finally got one here," said Brock. "So now we can start knocking them off."
Jason Treschl of Lagrange and Jensen Jorgensen of Stockbridge finished second and third respectively to round out the podium.
DJ Canipe started on the outside front row in the Live Oak Plantation Outlaws Division and never ran worse than second to post a dominating second consecutive win to open the season. Canipe stayed ahead of three- and four-wide racing throughout the feature, leading all but the first lap, while Connor Younginer of Stockbridge, Blaise Maddox of Locust Grove, Ricky Springer of McDonough and Blaze Crawford finished second through fifth in order.
In the Plemons Investments Masters Division, Week 1 winner Scott Moseley of
McDonough and 2015 Masters Division champion Tina Johnson of Senoia chased Locust Grove's Bill Plemons, Jr. all over the Thunder Ring for 20 straight laps, but neither could run down the father of the Pro Division winner, as he completed the family sweep and a second straight week with dual family winners.
McDonough's Robbie Woodall won the pole and started up front, but he wouldn't stay there for long, as Plemons opened the throttle and sailed to the front before reaching the third turn. Eventually, Plemons, Moseley and Johnson broke from the field in a three-way duel for the checkered flag, but neither Moseley nor Johnson had an answer for Plemons, who led all of the race's 20 laps.
Rounding out the evening, Wilder Etheredge of Albany surged late in the Wallace Electric Rookie Bandolero Division feature to put together his first win of the season, while Week 1 winner Shelby
Ruark finished second for her second consecutive top-2 finish to begin the season. Ruark and Keaton Hendrix of Homerville each led laps in the race, but Etheredge's late speed was too much for the rest of the field, as he led each of the final 13 laps.
Below are the complete results from Week 2:
Plemons Investments Young Lions Division
1. Cale Hall (Griffin)
2. Canon Cochran (Ringgold)
3. Sammy Smith, (Johnson, IA)
4. Harrison Halder (Cumming)
5. Haili Deegan (Temecula, CA)
6. Davis Rochester (Lebonan, TN)
7. Cody Hall (Griffin)
8. Hunter Johnson (Griffin)
9. Brody Pope (Harrisonville, MO)
10. Nicholas Waters (Senoia)
11. Carden Cochran (Ringgold)
12. Lawson Ingold (Social Circle)
13. Rafe Slate, (Eatonton)
DQ: Connor Younginer (Stockbridge)
1. Clay Thompson (Bowersville)
2. Nathan Jackson (McDonough)
3. Isabella Robusto (Fort Mill, SC)
4. Kenneth Henderson (Alto)
5. Michael Gannon (Canton)
6. Joshua Speas (Concord, NC)
7. Samantha Bart (Cumming)
8. Logan Nalley (Canton)
9. Ryan Younginer (Jonesboro)
10. Max Hennebaul (Monroe)
11. Will Robusto (Fort Mill)
12. Ryan Howell (McDonough)
13. Holt Halder (Cumming)
Racing Radios Pro Division
1. William Plemons III (Acworth)
2. Dylan Murry (Cumming)
3. William Martin (Douglasville)
4. Mason Massey (Douglasville)
5. Mathew Barnard (Fort Worth, TX)
6. Joshua Hicks (Senoia)
7. Kaden Honeycutt (Bret City, TX)
8. Connor Pyle (Concord, NC)
9. Currie Pierce (Griffin)
10. Mike Weed (Franklin)
11. Corey Heim (Marietta)
12. Jeff Holden (Gainsville)
13. Dawson Fletcher (Canton)
14. Adam Roberson (Pikesville, TN)
Atlanta Heart Associates Semi-Pro Division
1. Brandon Brock (Hampton)
2. Jason Treschl (Lagrange)
3. Jensen Jorgensen (Stockbridge)
4. Jeff Oliver (Braselton)
5. Hudson Halder (Cumming)
6. Jonathan Timms (Calhoun)
7. Miranda Meredith (Locust Grove)
8. Amber Fleeman (Dacula)
9. Nolan Pope (Harrisonville, MO)
10. Jessica Dana (Olympia, WA)
11. Christopher Clanton (Brooks)
12. David Lawrence (Senoia)
Live Oak Plantation Outlaws Division
1. DJ Canipe (Fallston, NC)
2. Connor Younginer (Stockbridge)
3. Blaise Maddox (Locust Grove)
4. Ricky Springer (McDonough)
5. Blaze Crawford (Fayetteville)
6. Gage Roberts (Milledgeville)
7. Gauntt Hudgins (Savannah)
8. Annabelle Mohwish (Cumming)
9. Kenny Brady (Marietta)
10. Trey Tadrzak (Stockbridge)
11. Max Brady (Marietta)
12. Andrew Dollar (Atlanta)
13. Audrie Ruark (Suwanee)
Wallace Electric Rookie Bandolero Division
1. Wilder Etheredge (Albany)
2. Shelby Ruark (Suwanee)
3. Ashton Whitener (Monticello)
4. Grant Thompson (Mobile, AL)
5. Wil Griffis (Homerville)
6. Ethan Norfleet (Sommerset, KY)
7. Keaton Hendrix (Homerville)
8. Mikie Mohwish (Cumming)
9. Chad Seagraves (Douglasville)
10. Savannah Bart (Cumming)
11. Cameron Potter (Covington)
12. Justin Campbell (Griffin, GA)
Plemons Investments Masters Division
1. Bill Plemons Jr. (Locust Grove)
2. Scott Moseley (McDonough)
3. Tina Johnson (Senoia)
4. Robbie Woodall (McDonough)
5. Mark Swan (Dunwoody)
6. Tony Armbruster (Covington)
7. Mike Kennedy (Alpharetta)
8. Robert Cheney (Jonesboro)
9. Randy Shubert (Conyers)
10. Dennis Hecht (Hoschton)
11. Dennis Aiken (Villa Rica)
12. Bill Whatley (Snellville)
13. Barry Bowen (Jackson Lake)
The Thursday Thunder Legends Racing Series presented by Papa John's Pizza continues with Week 3 on Wednesday and Thursday, June 15 and 16, as famed Thursday Thunder alumnus and current Sprint Cup Series driver David Ragan returns to his roots on the Thunder Ring for a pair of appearances in the Racing Radios Pro Division.
Infield admission is available for spectators wishing to watch Thursday Thunder, and passes may be purchased at the Security Command building near the speedway's main entrance. Infield passes are $20, while grandstand tickets for the affordable, family-friendly racing series cost just $5, while children ages 5 and younger are free.
For more information, contact the Atlanta Motor Speedway ticket office at (770) 946-4211, (877) 9-AMS-TIX or visit www.atlantamotorspeedway.com.