Thursday Thunder kicks off with close, hard racing at AMS
In some ways the 23rd season of Thursday Thunder Legends and Bandolero racing is unlike any of the 22 that have come before it. Social distancing guidelines have altered the procedures for racers in the garage and prevented spectators from attending.
But as the season kicked off Wednesday night one thing quickly became clear: Atlanta Motor Speedway's Thunder Ring is producing the same intense, bumper-to-bumper action that it has for over two decades.
This was perhaps most evident in The Associates Group Insurance Pro feature. Jensen Jorgensen of Stockbridge led from the jump but was stalked throughout the feature by Shelbyville, Ky.'s Caleb Heady. For 18 laps the pair ran nose-to-tail, with Heady slipping by Jorgensen at one point only to have the Thursday Thunder veteran cross him over to retain the top spot.
Finally on lap 19 Heady nudged Jorgensen's No. 32 out of the way and took the lead for good, leading the final 7 circuits in his No. 82. The victory is Heady's first in the division.
Earlier in the evening Monticello's Ashton Whitener led the way in the Semi-Pro division as the feature surpassed the time limit, which dictates that a race will end either with the checkered flag or upon the next caution flag. On what became the final lap, Whitener was shuffled off the bottom lane by contact and Kenny Brady of Marietta took advantage and challenged Whitener on the inside. As the pair flashed across the stripe, a spin further back in the pack triggered a caution that ended the race.
By virtue of leading at the line, Brady was awarded the victory while Whitener was relegated to 2nd in the opening night feature.
Defending Masters division champion Bill Plemons, Jr. of Locust Grove appeared to be picking up right where he left off in 2019 when he won the pole for Wednesday night's feature, but from there seemingly anything that could go wrong for Plemons did. In the first set of corners, Plemons spun off the bumper of another competitor, forcing him to relinquish all-important track position as Ronnie Wehunt of Canton took over the top spot.
Five laps later while battling for third, Plemons was again involved in a caution that sent him to the rear of the field once more. However, over the final 14 laps Plemons slowly but surely worked his way up to second and up to the rear bumper of Wehunt. On the final lap, Plemons gave Wehunt a shot entering the final set of corners to move him up the track, dove to the inside and edged Wehunt by a nose at the line to take the win.
As the sun set over Atlanta Motor Speedway, Louisville, Ky.'s Isaac Bevin set sail from the rest of the WJP Investments Young Lions field. Bevin led all 20 laps of the feature en-route to his first Thursday Thunder victory, topping Floridians Gavin Graham and Mason Maggio in 2nd and 3rd respectively.
Donovan Strauss of Marietta took the lead five laps into the Outlaws bandolero feature, but almost immediately was involved in a caution that forced him to go to the rear of the field. When the next caution came out six laps later, Strauss had rebounded to 2nd behind Kyle Bacon of Buchanan. That caution bunched up the field and put Strauss on the rear bumper of Bacon when the race resumed, and Strauss wasted no time reclaiming the top spot. Strauss led the final five circuits before taking his first Thursday Thunder feature win, followed by Bailey North in 2nd and Bacon in 3rd.
In other feature action Wednesday night Tristan McKee of Williamsburg, Va., claimed the Bandits feature win. Beckham Malone of Rock Hill, S.C., took the checkered flag in the Rookie Bandoleros feature and Chance Frank claimed victory in the Chargers feature.
Here are the full results from Round 1 of the 2020 season of Thursday Thunder:
WJP Investments Young Lions:
- Isaac Bevin (Louisville, KY)
- Gavin Graham (Lakeland, FL)
- Mason Maggio (Palm Beach Gardens, FL)
- Michael Gannon (Canton, GA)
- Preston Tatro (Brasleton, GA)
- Tony Yawn III (Roanoke, AL)
- Nathan Jackson (McDonough, GA)
- Keaton Hendrix (Homerville, GA)
- Matthew Kade (Hampton, GA)
- Jackson Reynolds (Marietta, GA)
- Justin Campbell (Griffin, GA)
- Kenny Brady (Marietta, GA)
- Ashton Whitener (Monticello, GA)
- Ricky Springer (McDonough, GA)
- Brandon Brock (Hampton, GA)
- Jason Treschl (Lagrange, GA)
- Connor Younginer (Stockbridge, GA)
- Thomas Everson (Ulton, NH)
- Graham Campbell (Braselton, GA)
- Trey Tadrzak (Stockbridge, GA)
- Jonathan Taylor (Roswell, GA)
- Blaze Crawford (Fayetteville, GA)
- Max Brady (Marietta, GA)
- Taylor Hull (Senoia, GA)
- Ian Hampton (Stockbridge, GA)
- Tyler Garrison (Muscatine, IA)
- Jadyn Daniels (Harrisburg, NC)
- Landen Lewis (Ocean Isle Beach, NC)
The Associates Group Pro:
- Caleb Heady (Shelbyville, KY)
- Jensen Jorgensen (Stockbridge, GA)
- Cale Hall (Griffin, GA)
- Gage Roberts (Milledgeville, GA)
- Christopher Clanton (Brooks, GA)
- Timothy Watson (Panama City, FL)
- Nick Woodall (Canton, GA)
- Taylor Jorgensen (Stockbridge, GA)
- Gauntt Hudgins (Savannah, GA)
- Kenneth Henderson (Alto, GA)
- Max Hennebaul (Monroe, GA)
- Bill Plemons Jr (Locust Grove, GA)
- Ronnie Wehunt (Canton, GA)
- Mark Swan (Athens, GA)
- Phillip Young (Dallas, GA)
- James Meredith (Locust Grove, GA)
- Barry Bowen (Jackson Lake, GA)
- Tristan McKee (Williamsburg, VA)
- Aiden Garcia (Easley, SC)
- Garrett Gumm (Brooks, GA)
- George Phillips (Charlotte, NC)
- Garrett Erwin (Covington, GA)
- Bryce Sanders (Ola, GA)
- Baylor O'Neil (Grantville, GA)
- Mitchell Flater (Conyers, GA)
- Nicolas Denton (Pascagoula, MS)
- Lee Brown (Acworth, GA)
- Nathaniel Harry (Concord, NC)
- Beckham Malone (Rock Hill, SC)
- Carson Brown (Moseley, VA)
- Kayli Kade (Hampton, GA)
- Makenna Kendrew (Senoia, GA)
- Katelyn Hicks (Senoia, GA)
- Sebastain Asztalos (Temple, GA)
- Emma Britt (McDonough, GA)
- Julia Buchanan (Senoia, GA)
- Conner Butler (Forsyth, GA)
- Bo Powers (Atlanta, GA)
- Donovan Strauss (Marietta, GA)
- Bailey North (Hampton, GA)
- Kyle Bacon (Buchanan, GA)
- Brianna Freeman ()
- Bailey Buchanan (Senoia, GA)
- Clay Hocutt (Mobile, AL)
- Ryan Younginer (Locust Grove, GA)
- Kelley Puckett (McDonough, GA)
- Chance Frank (Griffin, GA)
- Amanda Woodall (Canton, GA)
- Cole Nelson (Jefferson, GA)
- Lisa Scott (Dallas, GA)
- Meredith Kepley (Falls Church, VA)
Thursday Thunder continues Thursday night, July 2, with Round 2 on the Thunder Ring. Fans can catch all the action live on Atlanta Motor Speedway's Facebook page starting at approximately 7 p.m.
For more information on Thursday Thunder and the AMS Legends program, visit AtlantaMotorSpeedway.com or LegendsOfGa.com.