Three divisions came down to the final night to determine a champion in the Papa John’s Pizza Thursday Thunder Legends Series in the 2018 season.
The VP Racing Fuel Pro division was such a tight battle, the top two contenders had to stop on the backstretch as the final points were calculated to determine a champion.
As the race winner Rafe Slate of Eatonton was interviewed on the front stretch following his first win of the season in the Pro division, the crowed waited in anticipation as the points were calculated.
Choosing to start on the back row with an opportunity to pick up as many passing points as possible proved to be the difference for Cody Hall of Griffin to claim the division championship over Dawson Fletcher of Canton.
“It’s just amazing,” exclaimed Hall after climbing out of his car after learning he was the champion. “I feel great. It’s just been a fun experience racing with the Pros after my first season here. I felt like I was on rails tonight.”
Toiling away at the back of the field, Hall was the beneficiary of a caution on lap 10 that collected a trio of front runners.
“When I got through [the crash] I was just praising Jesus,” explained Hall about avoiding the wreck. “But while I was in there, I was just fighting the wheel to turn left to avoid it.”
Jensen Jorgenson of Stockbridge drover hard out of turn four down the front stretch and got together with Will Martin of Douglasville and the pair ended up in in the outside retaining wall and collected Fletcher. Martin and Jorgenson could not continue in the race, but Fletcher could, and was pushed to the back of the field.
After making his way back to the front, Fletcher and Hall battled for position over the final five laps. Fletcher briefly moved up to second and into command of the championship, but a bobble out of turn four wtih two laps to go allowed Hall to get back in the gas and regain the second spot.
Hall finished second in the feature race and picked up 104 points on the night including seven passing points while Fletcher finished third. But because he only collected two passing points on the night, Fletcher finished three points behind Hall in the division standings and short of a championship.
In the Associates Group Young Lions division, Lawson Ingold of Social Circle did everything he could to try to capture the division championship, but Ryan Rackley of Valdosta was equal to the task and earned the title.
“We came up short for the championship tonight but the run this year compared to the past couple of years has been amazing,” said Ingold. “I’m just proud of my team.”
Ingold started on the outside pole, but had slipped back to fifth by lap seven. He used a pair of cautions with less than seven laps to go to make up four positions and past Rackley into the lead.
“I knew if Lawson beat me by one spot I was good that’s why as soon as we went green I just wanted to tuck in behind him so I didn’t lose another spot,” said division champion Rackley, “because if I lost another spot it was game over.”
Rackely cautiously dropped in behind Ingold and stayed glued to his competitor’s bumper for the final five laps to finish the feature race in second, but it was enough to win the championship.
“I went into protective mode because I did not want to lose that championship,” explained an excited Rackley following the race.
Championship hopes went up in a blaze of sparks for Bill Plemons Jr. in the Masters division as he tried to weave around lapped traffic with eight laps to go with Robbie Woodall right on his bumper.
Woodall went high and Plemons went low around the lapped car and as they got around the back marker, came together and Plemons spun into the outside wall dashing his hopes of a championship.
Woodall repaired a damaged bumper and returned for two more laps to ensure the Championship before retiring with six laps to go.
With the two favorites out of the race, Rodney Tharp of Thomasville clicked off the final six laps as the leader to earn his first win at Thursday Thunder this season. Mark Swan of Athens was second while Wade Brewer of Locust Grove earned his best finish of the year in third.
Three divisions were out of reach – as long as the division leaders took to the track. In the Bandits division, Kelly Puckett of McDonough keep the nose of his race car clean until a spin on the white flag lapped dropped him to tenth, but still enough to claim the championship.
Landon Rapp of Concord, NC dominated the feature as he took the lead on the second lap and led for the balance of the race. Bryson Matthews of Dallas was third while Ryan Younginer of Locust Grove finished in the same position he qualified in third.
Blaise Maddox continued his domination of the GRT Racing Development Outlaws division with his seventh feature win of the season and wrapped up the division title in the process. Maddox showed his poise throughout the race. He moved into second after a caution on lap seven and waited patiently for the door to open and with five laps to go surged to a lead he wouldn’t relinquish for the remainder of the race. Tyler Newcomer of Woolsey was second while Keaton Hendrix was third.
In the Semi-Pro division, Davis Rochester of Lebanon, TN looked like he was going to claim the championship in style with a week 10 feature victory, but a last lap bump by DJ Canipe of Fallson, NC denied Rochester the sweep. Canipe drove to the inside of Rochester and beat the points leader to the line as the pair battled door-to-door down the front stretch. With the second place finish, Rochester finished the season with an 18 point lead on Canipe for the division championship.
While drivers in six divisions battled for division championships, the Chargers and Beginner Bandoleros took to the track to gain valuable experience behind the wheel.
In the Chargers feature, Zach Bacon of Buchanan dominated all 20 laps for the win. Inman Pope of Loganville finished second in the Chargers feature.
Kyle Bacon of Buchanan held off Clay Hocutt of Mobile, AL for the final 14 laps of the Beginner Bandolero feature to capture the checked flag. Hocutt couldn’t find a line to get past Bacon as the Buchanan native moved all over the track to prevent anyone from getting by helping him to the win.
2018 Thursday Thunder presented by Papa John’s Pizza Division Champions
Associates Group Insurance Young Lions: Ryan Rackley (Valdosta, GA)
Semi-Pro: Davis Rochester (Lebanon, TN)
VP Racing Fuels Pro: Cody Hall (Griffin, GA)
Masters: Robbie Woodall (McDonough, GA)
GRT Racing Driver Development Outlaws: Blaise Maddox (Locust Grove, GA)
Bandits: Kelly Puckett (McDonough, GA)
Complete Week 10 Results:
Associates Group Insurance Young Lions
1. Lawson Ingold (Social Circle, GA)
2. Ryan Rackley (Valdosta, GA)
3. Audrie Ruark (Suwanee, GA)
4. Blaze Crawford (Fayetteville, GA)
5. Ashton Whitener (Monticello, GA)
6. Ian Hampton (Stockbridge, GA)
7. Michael Gannon (Canton, GA)
8. Gage Roberts (Milledgeville, GA)
9. Austin MacDonald (Pictou, NE)
10. Max Hennebaul (Monroe, GA)
11. Lucas Ruark (Suwanee, GA)
12. Annabelle Mohwish (Cumming, GA)
13. Zac Bacon (Buchanan, GA)
14. Logan Nalley (Canton, GA)
15. Nathan Jackson (McDonough, GA)
1. DJ Canipe (Fallston, NC)
2. Davis Rochester (Lebanon, TN)
3. Cale Hall (Griffin, GA)
4. Nick Woodall (Canton, GA)
5. Jason Treschl (Lagrange, GA)
6. Andrew Dollar (Atlanta, GA)
7. Parker Brewer (Locust Grove, GA)
8. Max Brady (Marietta, GA)
9. Ricky Springer (McDonough, GA)
10. Trey Tadrzak (Stockbridge, GA)
VP Racing Fuels Pro
1. Rafe Slate (Eatonton, GA)
2. Cody Hall (Griffin, GA)
3. Dawson Fletcher (Canton, GA)
4. Russell Fleeman (Dacula, GA)
5. Taylor Jorgensen (Stockbridge, GA)
6. Jeff Holden (Gainesville, GA)
7. Hunter Johnson (Griffin, GA)
8. Gauntt Hudgins (Savannah, GA)
9. William Martin (Douglasville, GA)
10. Jensen Jorgensen (Stockbridge, GA)
1. Rodney Tharp (Thomasville, NC)
2. Mark Swan (Athens, GA)
3. Wade Brewer (Locust Grove, GA)
4. Tony Armbruster (Covington, GA)
5. Randy Shubert (Stone Mountain, GA)
6. Aaron Crossley (Woodstock, GA)
7. Dennis Hecht (Hoschton, GA)
8. Barry Bowen (Jackson Lake, GA)
9. James Meredith (Locust Grove, GA)
10. Rod Nelson (Knoxville, TN)
11. Robert Anderson (Covington, GA)
12. Kevin Vaughn (Grovetown, GA)
13. Robbie Woodall (McDonough, GA)
14. Bill Plemons Jr (Locust Grove, GA)
15. Bill Whatley (Acworth, GA)
16. Dale Jackson (Clinton, TN)
17. Tina Johnson (Senoia, GA)
1. Landon Rapp (Concord, NC)
2. Bryson Matthews (Dallas, GA)
3. Ryan Younginer (Locust Grove, GA)
4. Matthew Kade (Hampton, GA)
5. Clay Hocutt (Mobile, AL)
6. Bailey North (Hampton, GA)
7. Sarah Sullivan (Gulf Shores, AL)
8. Denton Clem (Kathleen, GA)
9. Lee Brown (Acworth, GA)
10. Kelley Puckett (McDonough, GA)
11. Carter Griffis (Homerville, GA)
12. Carson Ruark (Suwanee, GA)
1. Kyle Bacon (Buchanan, GA)
2. Clay Hocutt (Mobile, AL)
3. Briana Freeman (Bremen, GA)
4. Will Peacock (Eastman, GA)
5. Shelby Schell (Dublin, GA)
DQ. Garrett Gumm (Brooks, GA)
GRT Racing Driver Development Outlaws
1. Blaise Maddox (Locust Grove, GA)
2. Tyler Newcomer (Woolsey, GA)
3. Keaton Hendrix (Homerville, GA)
4. Justin Campbell (Griffin, GA)
5. Kenneth Henderson (Alto, GA)
6. Mason Maggio (Palm Beach Gardens, FL)
7. Tony Yawn (Roanoke, AL)
8. Grayson Dickey ()
9. Aprilia Holt (Senoia, GA)
10. Kenny Brady (Marietta, GA)
11. Shelby Ruark (Suwanee, GA)
1. Zac Bacon (Buchanan, GA)
2. Inman Pope (Loganville, GA)
Legends and Bandolero drivers return to the track on Aug. 25. Infield admission is also available for spectators, and passes may be purchased at the Security Command building near the speedway’s main entrance. Infield passes are $20.
For more information, contact the Atlanta Motor Speedway ticket office at (770) 946-4211, (877) 9-AMS-TIX or visit www.atlantamotorspeedway.com.