Repeat, first-time winners mark fourth week of Papa John's Pizza Thursday Thunder
The Thursday Thunder Legends Racing Series Presented by Papa John's Pizza reached its 2016 season midpoint with Week 4 racing on the quarter-mile Thunder Ring at Atlanta Motor Speedway Thursday night.
DJ Canipe and Clay Thompson extended their mastery over their division rivals, each notching their fifth straight win, while a fifth winner in as many races highlighted the Racing Radios Pro Division feature race, as Doug Stevens of Williamson emerged victorious in his 2016 Thursday Thunder debut.
A wild, back-and-forth Atlanta Heart Associates Semi-Pro Division kicked off the seven-race Week 4 action, featuring three different leaders and eight separate lead changes over the course of the 20-lap feature.
Jeff Oliver of Braselton, Nolan Pope of Harrisonville, Missouri, and Jensen Jorgensen of Stockbridge all traded the lead throughout the race, each gaining the lead at least twice and each for at least four laps - but none for more than five at a time.
With four laps to go, Jorgensen, who had been shuffled back to the middle of the pack following a mid-race restart, found himself less than a car-length behind pole winner Oliver and made a skillful outside-in move rounding Turn 4 to surpass Oliver and into the lead for his third time in the race.
Jorgensen held on to the lead for good over the final four laps - including a hectic green-white-checkered finish – for his second win in as many weeks, notching a victory he won’t soon forget.
"That was the weirdest race I’ve ever raced in my life," said Jorgensen. “That was insane. I went from being back in fifth-sixth place, to being in the front, to being back in fifth- and sixth-place, to being back in the front. It was crazy.
“My dang shifter broke halfway through the race, and I was starting in third-gear and just getting killed on the restarts. I hated to see those cautions, but it all worked out. I kept it up front and ended up getting the win.”
Pope finished second to record his fourth top-five in four races, while Hudson Halder of Cumming finished third. Oliver finished the race in fourth, while Amber Fleeman of Dacula rounded out the top-5, her best finish in 2016.
DJ Canipe won his fifth straight race in the Live Oak Plantations Outlaws Division to open the 2016 season, but it wasn’t a sure thing until the checkered flag flew.
After a first-lap caution, Trey Tadrzak of Stockbridge restarted in the lead and led the first five laps, as he and Connor Younginer, also of Stockbridge, ran first and second, holding Canipe at bay early on in the race. But the winner of four straight entering the evening wouldn’t be denied the lead for long.
Canipe drove around both Tadrzak and Younginer on the fifth lap, assuming his familiar spot ahead of the pack, where he stayed for the next five laps. A mid-race caution, though, would slow his momentum and bunch the field, and Younginer took his first lead of the night on the ensuing restart, forcing Canipe back to third.
After three laps in the lead, Blaise Maddox of Locust Grove arrived on the scene, making his presence known by making a strong move to the inside rounding Turn 4 on Lap 14 to nab the lead from Younginer and make a run for his first win of the season.
It looked like Maddox would hold off the field as he took the white flag, but no sooner had he rounded Turn 2 and made his way down the backstretch did Canipe appear in his rearview mirror with an impressive last-lap surge. Door-to-door as they came around the final turn, the pair bumped and rubbed the whole way down the frontstretch, and in a finish reminiscent of this year’s Daytona 500, Canipe nosed ahead of Maddox at the last possible moment, edging him by no more than two feet for an unlikely photo-finish win, preserving his win streak and extending it to five straight in 2016.
“It wasn’t easy,” said Canipe in his post-race interview. “I had to race against a bunch of good cars like Blaise (Maddox) and Connor (Younginer), and I’d like to thank them for racing clean. It was tough getting around them, but I did it.”
Maddox and Younginer finished second and third respectively, while Tadrzak came in fourth and Andrew Dollar of Atlanta finished fifth, his first top-5 of the season.
In the Plemons Investments Masters Division feature, Scott Moseley of McDonough led each of the last 12 laps to extend his winning streak to three, while Tina Johnson of Senoia matched her best finish of the season with a second-place outing. Mark Swan had his fifth consecutive top-5 finish with a third-place performance to round out the podium.
Doug Stevens won the “main event” Racing Radios Pro Division feature in his 2016 Thursday Thunder debut, driving off in the final six laps to become the fifth Pro class winner in as many weeks.
Mike Weed of Franklin started on the pole and led the first two laps, but a third-lap caution would send him to the back, making way for Dylan Murry of Cumming, who restarted in the lead. Murry, Currie Pierce of Griffin, and Week 4 winner William Martin of Douglasville would all take turns leading after that, but it was Stevens who had the last laugh.
Week 1 winner Mason Massey of Douglasville finished second behind Stevens, and Dawson Fletcher of Canton rounded out the top-3.
Brody Pope of Harrisonville, Missouri won for the third time in 2016 and the second race in a row in the Plemons Investments Young Lions Division feature. Pope ran near the front the entire race after starting in third and cruised into the lead with just four laps to go to polish off the victory.
In the Wallace Electric Rookie Bandolero Division, Wilder Etheredge of Atlanta returned to Victory Lane for the first time since Week 2, snapping Mobile, Alabama’s Grant Thompson’s two race win streak. Etheredge and Thompson swapped the lead three times, before Etheredge took the lead for good on the 16th lap and cruised to victory. Keaton Hendrix of Homerville finished second, his best performance of the year, while Wil Griffis – also of Homerville – placed third. Ashton Whitener of Monticello and Thompson rounded out the top-5 in order.
The Bandits Division feature saw Clay Thompson of Bowersville lead 17 out of 20 laps for his fifth consecutive victory. Michael Gannon of Canton had his best race of the season, finishing second behind Thompson, while Nathan Jackson of McDonough rounded out the podium in third with his fifth straight top-5 finish.
Below are the complete results from Thursday night’s Week 4 racing:
Atlanta Heart Associates Semi-Pro Division
1. Jensen Jorgensen, (Stockbridge, GA)
2. Nolan Pope, (Harrisonville, MO)
3. Hudson Halder, (Cumming, GA)
4. Jeff Oliver, (Braselton, GA)
5. Amber Fleeman, (Dacula, GA)
6. Jonathan Timms, (Calhoun, GA)
7. David Lawrence, (Senoia, GA)
8. Miranda Meredith, (Locust Grove, GA)
9. Robert Norfleet, (Somerset, KY)
10. Jason Treschl, (LaGrange, GA)
11. Brandon Brock, (Hampton, GA)
Plemons Investments Masters Division
1. Scott Moseley, (McDonough, GA)
2. Tina Johnson, (Senoia, GA)
3. Mark Swan, (Atlanta, GA)
4. Robbie Woodall, (McDonough, GA)
5. William Plemons III, (Acworth, GA)
6. Mike Kennedy, (Alpharetta, GA)
7. Bill Whatley, (Acworth, GA)
8. Randy Shubert, (Conyers, GA)
9. Barry Bowen, (Jackson Lake, GA)
10. Robert Cheney, (Stockbridge, GA)
11. Wes Potter, (Covington, GA)
Live Oak Plantation Outlaws Division
1. DJ Canipe, (Fallston, NC)
2. Blaise Maddox, (Locust Grove, GA)
3. Connor Younginer, (Stockbridge, GA)
4. Trey Tadrzak, (Stockbridge, GA)
5. Andrew Dollar, (Atlanta, GA)
6. Annabelle Mohwish, (Cumming, GA)
7. Ricky Springer, (McDonough, GA)
8. Max Brady, (Marietta, GA)
9. Kenny Brady, (Marietta, GA)
10. Gage Roberts, (Milledgeville, GA)
11. Gauntt Hudgins, (Savannah, GA)
Racing Radios Pro Division
1. Doug Stevens, (Williamson, GA)
2. Mason Massey, (Douglasville, GA)
3. Dawson Fletcher, (Canton, GA)
4. Corey Heim, (Marietta, GA)
5. Dylan Murry, (Cumming, GA)
6. Michael Womack, (Troutman, NC)
7. William Martin, (Douglasville, GA)
8. Currie Pierce, (Griffin, GA)
9. Matthew Barnard, (Fort Worth, TX)
10. Mike Weed, (Franklin, GA)
11. Joshua Hicks, (Senoia, GA)
Plemons Investments Young Lions Division
1. Brody Pope, (Harrisonville, MO)
2. Connor Younginer, (Stockbridge, GA)
3. Hunter Johnson, (Hampton, GA)
4. Canon Cochran, (Ringgold, GA)
5. Cale Hall, (Griffin, GA)
6. Rafe Slate, (Eatonton, GA)
7. Carden Cochran, (Ringgold, GA)
8. Sammy Smith, (DeMoines, IA)
9. Cody Hall, (Griffin, GA)
10. Lawson Ingold, (Social Circle, GA)
11. Harrison Halder, (Cumming, GA)
12. Davis Rochester, (Lebanon, TN)
13. Nicholas Waters, (Senoia, GA)
Wallace Electric Rookie Bandolero Division
1. Wilder Etheredge, (Atlanta, GA)
2. Keaton Hendrix, (Homerville, GA)
3. Wil Griffis, (Homerville, GA)
4. Ashton Whitener, (Monticello, GA)
5. Grant Thompson, (Mobile, AL)
6. Mikie Mohwish, (Cumming, GA)
7. Ethan Norfleet, (Somerset, KY)
8. Cameron Potter, (Covington, GA)
1. Clay Thompson, (Bowersville, GA)
2. Michael Gannon, (Canton, GA)
3. Nathan Jackson, (McDonough, GA)
4. Max Hennebaul, (Monroe, GA)
5. Holt Halder, (Cumming, GA)
6. Ryan Howell, (McDonough, GA)
7. Ryan Younginer, (Stockbridge, GA)
The Thursday Thunder Legends Racing Series presented by Papa John’s Pizza continues with Week 5 of the eight-week summer series next Thursday, June 30.
Grandstand tickets for the affordable, family-friendly racing series cost just $5, while children ages 5 and younger are free. Infield admission is available for $20, and passes may be purchased at the Security Command building near the speedway's main entrance.
For more information, contact the Atlanta Motor Speedway ticket office at (770) 946-4211, (877) 9-AMS-TIX or visit www.atlantamotorspeedway.com.