Hicks rebounds to be among champions crowned in Thursday Thunder finale
There were fireworks on track and in the sky for drivers who claimed season titles in the Thursday Thunder presented by Papa John's finale at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Just three points separated the top two drivers in the VP Racing Fuels Pro Division entering the final race, with Senoia's Joshua Hicks holding the narrow lead over Jensen Jorgensen of Stockbridge. However the championship picture changed shortly after the race started, with an incident in the first turn collecting several cars, including the top two racing for the title.
Both Hicks and Jorgensen's cars required repairs; Hicks returned to the action in time to stay at the tail end of the lead lap while Jorgensen dropped two laps before returning to the race, essentially ending his hopes of winning the title.
Meanwhile up front, Harrison Halder showed the way until the final lap only to have 2018 Pro champion Cody Hall wrestle the lead away coming to the line. Halder finished 2nd and Hicks recovered from his earlier setback to claim 3rd and ultimately the season championship.
"It was a hard fought summer. I didn't think we had a chance around week 5, but then we started winning races and some other people had bad races and that put us back in the game," Hicks said as he reflected on the season. "In the end we were able to overcome all of the obstacles and win."
DJ Canipe of Fallston, N.C., controlled his destiny in the CMS Group Environmental Services Semi-Pro Division, needing to finish 4th or better to guarantee he'd remain ahead of Nick Woodall, his closest competitor.
Woodall did everything he could on his end, securing the pole and winning his fifth feature race of the season, but Canipe also brought his A-game, finishing 3rd to win the championship by just four points.
"I just had to run my race. I knew where I had to finish to get the championship so I did my best to run up front and get it done," Canipe said.
"I tried to stay out front the whole time. I gotta thank Canipe for racing me clean and everyone who's made this possible for me," added Woodall, of Canton.
A pair of Racing Ruarks from Suwanee finished atop the standings of their respective divisions, and both capped off their successful seasons with victories on finale night. Lucas Ruark outran Samuel Butler and Ashton Whitener to end the summer with his seventh victory and the title in The Associates Group Young Lions. Younger brother Carson Ruark topped Lucas Vera and Aiden Garcia in the Racing Radios Bandits division finale, the fourth victory in his championship season.
In the Wallace Electric Masters Division Bill Plemons, Jr., of Locust Grove took his eighth checkered flag in ten races to put an exclamation mark on a championship season that was seven years in the making.
"It seemed like every year in this race I'd be in contention and something would happen," Plemons said. "But I said I'm not quitting until I win this championship!"
Carson Ramsay of Charlotte, N.C., needed only to avoid trouble in the Racing Radios Outlaws division finale to secure the title. With a 3rd place finish he did just that as his teammates Parker Eatmon and Trevor Wester finished 1st and 2nd, respectively.
No titles were on the line in the Racing Radios Rookie Bandoleros or Chargers features, but trophies awaited those who crossed the line first. In the Rookie Bandoleros it was Bailey Buchanan taking home the hardware, while Graham Campbell took the victory in the Chargers feature.
Full results from July 18 Thursday Thunder presented by Papa John's racing:
The Associates Group Young Lions
- Lucas Ruark (Suwanee, GA)
- Samuel Butler (Delphi, IN)
- Ashton Whitener (Monticello, GA)
- Jake Bollman (Huntington Beach, CA)
- Austin MacDonald (Pictou, NS)
- Timothy Watson (Panama City, FL)
- Kenneth Henderson (Alto, GA)
- Nathan Jackson (McDonough, GA)
- Justin Campbell (Griffin, GA)
- Tony Yawn III (Roanoke, AL)
- Cole Cash (Bethlahem, GA)
Champion: Lucas Ruark (Suwanee, GA)
CMS Group Environmental Services Semi-Pro
- Nick Woodall (Canton, GA)
- Lawson Ingold (Social Circle, GA)
- DJ Canipe (Fallston, NC)
- Brandon Brock (Hampton, GA)
- Blaze Crawford (Fayetteville, GA)
- Ricky Springer (McDonough, GA)
- Austin Saunders (Fort Worth, TX)
- Max Brady (Marietta, GA)
- Luke LeBrun (W. Newton, MA)
- Jonathan Taylor (Atlanta, GA)
- Pierce Brewer (Locust Grove, GA)
- Holt Halder (Cumming, GA)
- Audrie Ruark (Suwanee, GA)
- Camden Prouty (Spanish Fort, AL)
- Zac Bacon (Buchanan, GA)
- Ian Hampton (Stockbridge, GA)
- Kenny Brady (Marietta, GA)
- Trey Tadrzak (Stockbridge, GA)
- Parker Brewer (Locust Grove, GA)
Champion: DJ Canipe (Fallston, NC)
VP Racing Fuels Pro
- Cody Hall (Griffin, GA)
- Harrison Halder (Cumming, GA)
- Joshua Hicks (Senoia, GA)
- Christopher Clanton (Brooks, GA)
- Max Hennebaul (Monroe, GA)
- Jensen Jorgensen (Stockbridge, GA)
- Taylor Jorgensen (Stockbridge, GA)
- Gage Roberts (Milledgeville, GA)
- Gauntt Hudgins (Savannah, GA)
Champion: Joshua Hicks (Senoia, GA)
Wallace Electric Masters
- Bill Plemons Jr (Locust Grove, GA)
- Tony Armbruster (Covington, GA)
- Mark Swan (Athens, GA)
- Wade Brewer (Locust Grove, GA)
- Randy Shubert (Stone Mountain, GA)
- James Meredith (Locust Grove, GA)
- Kevin Vaughn (Grovetown, GA)
- Barry Bowen (Jackson Lake, GA)
- Robert Anderson (Covington, GA)
- Aaron Croslyn (Woodstock, GA)
- Phillip Young (Dallas, GA)
Champion: Bill Plemons Jr (Locust Grove, GA)
Racing Radios Bandits
- Carson Ruark (Suwanee, GA)
- Lucas Vera (Charlotte, NC)
- Aiden Garcia (Easley, SC)
- Bobby Elder (Cary, NC)
- Bryson Matthews (Dallas, GA)
- Kyle Bacon (Buchanan, GA)
- Lee Brown (Acworth, GA)
- Garrett Gumm (Brooks, GA)
- Gianni Esposito (Dacula, GA)
Champion: Carson Ruark (Suwanee, GA)
Racing Radios Rookie Bandoleros
- Bailey Buchanan (Senoia, GA)
- Mitchell Flater (Conyers, GA)
- Bryce Sanders (Ola, GA)
- Jackson Reynolds (Marietta, GA)
- Briana Freeman (Bremen, GA)
- Mason Reece (Conyers, GA)
- Baylor O'Neil (Grantville, GA)
- Alex Ford (Atlanta, GA)
Racing Radios Outlaws
- Parker Eatmon (Wilson, NC)
- Trevor Wester (Canton, NC)
- Carson Ramsey (Charlotte, NC)
- Bailey North (Hampton, GA)
- Clay Hocutt (Mobile, AL)
- Kelley Puckett (McDonough, GA)
- Blaise Maddox (Locust Grove, GA)
- Tyler Newcomer (Woolsey, GA)
- Shelby Ruark (Suwanee, GA)
- Ryan Younginer (Locust Grove, GA)
- Natasha Elder (Cary, NC)
- Sarah Sullivan (Gulf Shores, AL)
- Mason Maggio (Palm Beach Gardens, FL)
Champion: Carson Ramsey (Charlotte, NC)
- Graham Campbell (Braselton, GA)
- Trent Barfield (Hamilton, GA)
- Jason Ferguson (Concord, GA)
- Amanda Woodall (Canton, GA)
- Lisa Scott (Dallas, GA)
Legends and Bandolero drivers return to the track to kick off the Fall Five series on Aug. 24. For more information, contact the Atlanta Motor Speedway ticket office at (770) 946-4211, (877) 9-AMS-TIX or visit www.atlantamotorspeedway.com.