Results from Wednesday night of Thursday Thunder Week 3 racing
The first of back-to-back nights of racing in Week 3 of the 2016 Thursday Thunder Legends Racing Series presented by Papa John's Pizza descended on the quarter-mile Thunder Ring at Atlanta Motor Speedway Wednesday night.
Thursday Thunder alumnus and current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver David Ragan highlighted the entry list in the Racing Radios Pro Division, but four new division winners stole the show on a rare Wednesday night of Legends and Bandolero racing.
The Bandits Division kicked off the seven-feature lineup, as McDonough's Nathan Jackson led the field to the green flag in the hunt for this first trip to Victory Lane this season. But no sooner had Jackson accelerated out of the starting box, would Clay Thompson of Bowersville, touting back-to-back wins to open the season, pull alongside side him and make a move to the inside rounding Turn 2 to take the lead.
Despite valiant efforts by both Jackson and Michael Gannon of Canton to overtake him, Thompson would lead each of the race's 20 laps, ringing up his third consecutive victory. Jackson posted his third runner-up finish in as many weeks, while Gannon, Kenneth Henderson of Alto and Ryan Younginer of Stockbridge rounded the top-5.
Jensen Jorgensen of Stockbridge used a front-row start and a strong finish to post his first victory of 2016 in the Atlanta Heart Associates Semi-Pro Division. Lining up to the outside of pole-sitter and Week 1 winner Nolan Pope of Harrisonville, Missouri, Jorgensen was patient, running just behind Pope through the six laps before he saw his opportunity and pounced.
Exiting Turn 4 on the seventh lap, Jorgensen made an outside-in move to nose ahead of Pope as the pair crossed the line, and it was all Jorgensen from there on. He would lead the remaining 13 laps to polish off his first win in 2016, while simultaneously sliding into the points standings lead heading into Thursday night's race. Pope held on to finish second, while Hudson Halder of Cumming punctuated the podium with a third place finish, his best of the year so far.
DJ Canipe of Fallston, North Carolina put on another clinic in the Live Oak Plantation Outlaws Division feature for this third win to open the season. Blaise Maddox of Locust Grove won the pole and led each of the first eight laps, but Canipe showed impressive speed in the last half of the race, taking the lead midway through and widening the gap between him and the second-place car with each lap, for the runaway victory. Connor Younginer of Stockbridge and Maddox finished second and third in order.
In the Plemons Investments Masters Division, McDonough's Scott Moseley led all 20 laps from the pole for his second win of the season, but it was no walk in the park. The always-competitive Masters feature was anyone's race to win, as Mark Swan of Atlanta and Senoia's Tina Johnson threatened Moseley's narrow lead nearly every turn of the race. But Moseley used a number of strong restarts down the stretch to hold off the rest of the field for his second trip to Victory Lane and third straight top-2 finish.
Johnson finished second behind Moseley, her best finish of the season, while Bill Plemons, Jr. of Locust Grove, Swan and McDonough's Robbie Woodall rounded out the top-5 - the same five drivers populating the top-5 three weeks in a row.
Grant Thompson of Mobile, Alabama passed pole-winner Ashton Whitener of Monticello on the first lap of the Wallace Electric Rookie Bandolero Division feature and went on to lead the whole way to punch his first ticket to Victory Lane this year. Whitener held on to finish second and match her best finish of the year, while Keaton Hendrix of Homerville, Stanley Hayes of Concord, North Carolina and Wil Griffis of Homerville rounded out the top-5.
A consistent race for Connor Younginer of Stockbridge paid off, as he bounced back from a Week 2 disqualification to post his first win of 2016 in the Plemons Investments Young Lions Division feature. Starting on the pole, Younginer led the field for the first three laps even as Week 1 winner Brody Pope of Harrisonville, Missouri clung to his rear bumper looking for any opening Younginer offered.
Pope got his opportunity on the fourth lap, overtaking Younginer exiting Turn 2, but Younginer matched the pace behind him, never running more than a couple of car lengths behind. His persistence paid off six laps later when engine trouble forced leader Pope from the race, allowing Younginer to restore his place ahead of the pack. Younginer held on for the final half of the race, driving away in the closing laps to lock up the victory. Canon Cochran of Ringgold and Sammy Smith of Des Moines rounded out the podium finishes in order.
The Racing Radios Pro division saw three different leaders in the "main event" and final race of the evening, as current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver David Ragan raised the talent standard in the series' top racing class.
From the pole position, William Martin of Douglasville entered the race with two straight top-3 finishes to begin the season and looked like he was on his way to his first win before disaster struck. Martin ticked off 21 straight laps at the front of the field, cruising comfortably ahead in fast a race that appeared might go caution-free. But exiting Turn 4 on the 22nd lap of the 25-lap feature, Martin got loose and spun, bringing out the caution flag and sending him to the rear of the field.
Restarting on the inside front row, all Week 2 winner William Plemons III of Acworth had to do was stay out in front for four laps to seal up his second straight victory. But that wouldn't come to pass either.
Two laps later, Plemons and Mason Massey of Douglasville, who opened the season with a win in Week 1, got together on the second-to-last lap, which again caused the caution flag to fly, sending both to the back.
Connor Pyle of Concord, North Carolina, who had been running in fourth behind Massey, suddenly found himself in the lead coming to the green flag with two laps to go.
"We started seventh and made our way up to fourth," said Pyle. "I had a really consistent car all day, and I was putting some pressure on the third-place car and praying for a caution, and the good lord was looking out for me tonight and let me get it."
But lining up outside of Pyle in the front of the pack for the green-white-checkered finale was none other than two-time Sprint Cup Series race winner David Ragan, who had quietly moved up from his fourth-place starting position.
Undeterred, Pyle restarted strong and held off the field for the final two laps, and took the checkered flag for the first time this season. Ragan was shuffled back in the final two-lap melee and finished fifth, while Kaden Honeycutt of Bridge City, Texas, Currie Pierce of Griffin and Corey Heim of Marietta finished second through fourth in order.
"Just drive hard, that's all I could think," said Pyle in Victory Lane following his win. "I was just hoping for a top-3 finish, to be honest. I was just hoping to come out here and get a solid finish for the guys on the team and go home with a trophy."
As for Ragan, he was just glad to have the opportunity to return to his racing roots.
"It's tough," he said. "These young kids are really good. They get to race a lot, and I've probably only raced my Legends car three or four times in the past five years. It's just fun for me to come back and get back on a quarter-mile track and race with these guys.
"I'm going to make a few adjustments for my car and see if I can learn something and get a little better tomorrow."
Below are the complete results from Wednesday night's Week 3 action:
1. Clay Thompson, (Bowersville, GA)
2. Nathan Jackson, (McDonough, GA)
3. Michael Gannon, (Canton, GA)
4. Kenneth Henderson, (Alto, GA)
5. Ryan Younginer, (Stockbridge, GA)
6. Logan Nalley, (Canton, GA)
7. Holt Halder, (Cumming, GA)
8. Max Hennebaul, (Monroe, GA)
Atlanta Heart Associates Semi-Pro Division
1. Jensen Jorgensen, (Stockbridge, GA)
2. Nolan Pope, (Harrisonville, MO)
3. Hudson Halder, (Cumming, GA)
4. Jason Treschl, (LaGrange, GA)
5. Brandon Brock, (Hampton, GA)
6. Amber Fleeman, (Dacula, GA)
7. Robert Norfleet, (Somerset, KY)
8. David Lawrence, (Senoia, GA)
9. Jonathan Timms, (Calhoun, GA)
10. Miranda Meredith, (Locust Grove, GA)
Live Oak Plantation Outlaws Division
1. DJ Canipe, (Fallston, NC)
2. Connor Younginer, (Stockbridge, GA)
3. Blaise Maddox, (Locust Grove, GA)
4. Ricky Springer, (McDonough, GA)
5. Audrie Ruark, (Suwanee, GA)
6. Gage Roberts, (Milledgeville, GA)
7. Trey Tadrzak, (Stockbridge, GA)
8. Annabelle Mohwish, (Cumming, GA)
9. Max Brady, (Marietta, GA)
10. Kenny Brady, (Marietta, GA)
11. Gauntt Hudgins, (Savannah, GA)
Plemons Investments Masters Division
1. Scott Moseley, (McDonough, GA)
2. Tina Johnson, (Senoia, GA)
3. Bill Plemons Jr., (Locust Grove, GA)
4. Mark Swan, (Atlanta, GA)
5. Robbie Woodall, (McDonough, GA)
6. Tony Armbruster, (Covington, GA)
7. Dennis Hecht, (Hoschton, GA)
8. Barry Bowen, (Jackson Lake, GA)
9. Robert Cheney, (Stockbridge, GA)
10. Randy Shubert, (Conyers, GA)
Wallace Electric Rookie Bandolero Division
1. Grant Thompson, (Mobile, AL)
2. Ashton Whitener, (Monticello, GA)
3. Keaton Hendrix, (Homerville, GA)
4. Stanley Hayes, (Concord, NC)
5. Wil Griffis, (Homerville, GA)
6. Carson Ruark, (Suwanee, GA)
7. Ethan Norfleet, (Somerset, KY)
8. Wilder Etheredge, (Atlanta, GA)
9. Shelby Ruark, (Suwanee, GA)
10. Mikie Mohwish, (Cumming, GA)
Plemons Investments Young Lions Division
1. Connor Younginer, (Stockbridge, GA)
2. Canon Cochran, (Ringgold, GA)
3. Sammy Smith, (DeMoines, IA)
4. Harrison Halder, (Cumming, GA)
5. Cale Hall, (Griffin, GA)
6. Hunter Johnson, (Hampton, GA)
7. Rafe Slate, (Eatonton, GA)
8. Lawson Ingold, (Social Circle, GA)
9. Carden Cochran, (Ringgold, GA)
10. Cody Hall, (Griffin, GA)
11. Brody Pope, (Harrisonville, MO)
12. Roy Hayes, (Concord, NC)
13. Davis Rochester, (Lebanon, TN)
Racing Radios Pro Division
1. Connor Pyle, (Concord, NC)
2. Kaden Honeycutt, (Bridge City, TX)
3. Currie Pierce, (Griffin, GA)
4. Corey Heim, (Marietta, GA)
5. David Ragan, (Unadilla, GA)
6. Jeff Holden, (Gainesville, GA)
7. Matthew Barnard, (Fort Worth, TX)
8. Taylor Jorgensen, (Stockbridge, GA)
9. William Plemons III, (Acworth, GA)
10. Dawson Fletcher, (Canton, GA)
11. William Martin, (Douglasville, GA)
12. Mason Massey, (Douglasville, GA)
13. Mike Weed, (Franklin, GA)
14. Joshua Hicks, (Senoia, GA)
The Thursday Thunder Legends Racing Series presented by Papa John's Pizza continues tomorrow night as Ragan and the rest of the drivers return to the Thunder Ring for the second half of the back-to-back Week 3 events.
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.