HAMPTON, Ga. — A thrilling night packed full of bumper-to-bumper and side-by-side racing kicked off the season of Thursday Thunder presented by Papa John’s at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Mitchell Flater of Conyers took the first checkered flag of the night on the “Thunder Ring”, topping the Racing Radios Rookie Bandolero Division. Flater was followed by a persistent Jackson Reynolds, of Marietta, in 2nd and a hard-charging Briana Freeman, of Bremen, in 3rd.
The 20-lap Racing Radios Bandits Division feature was one of the most exciting of the night. Garrett Gumm, of Brooks, led the first 9 laps, but lost the lead when Carson Ruark, of Suwanee, took command on a restart. Gumm spent the rest of the race trying to find a way back around Ruark; coming off the final turn, Gumm sped to the inside of Ruark and the pair flashed across the line at nearly the same time, with Gumm getting the edge over Ruark for the feature win.
Just past halfway in the 20-lap Racing Radios Outlaws Division feature Carson Ramey, of Charlotte, N.C., worked his way around Clay Hocutt, from Mobile, Ala. Ramey didn’t look back and took the checkered flag over Mason Maggio, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., who snagged 2nd from Hocutt on the final lap.
Suwanee’s Lucas Ruark started 2nd in The Associates Group Young Lions Division, but wasted little time getting to the front of the pack. Ruark snagged the lead from polesitter Jaiden Reyna, of Cornelius, N.C., on the first lap. Nathan Jackson, of McDonough, worked his way into 2nd shortly thereafter and took chase after Ruark and the race lead. Despite the pressure, Ruark never bobbled and took the victory, followed by Jackson in 2nd and Michael Gannon, of Canton, in 3rd.
The VP Racing Fuels Pro Division featured a stunning battle between William Plemons III, of Acworth, and Davis Rochester, of Lebanon, Tenn. While Plemons started on the pole, Rochester surged from his 5th place starting spot up to 2ndhalfway through the 25-lap feature. From there it appeared the duo was evenly matched, with both running a blistering pace at the front of the field. Then, with just a handful of laps remaining, Rochester saw his opportunity and drove to the inside of Plemons, taking the lead and the victory.
“I didn’t think I had enough to run down William Plemons there, but he just started backing up to me,” a jubilant Davis said after the win. “This is awesome! Round one – we’re winners!”
Another great battle followed in the CMS Group Environmental Services Semi-Pro Division. Hunter Wright, of Lebanon, wrestled the lead from Max Brady, of Marietta, on lap eight of the 20-lap feature, but Brady didn’t surrender. Brady followed Wright’s tire tracks for the remainder of the race, and was within a couple of car-lengths in the final five circuits. Wright however was up to the task, staying cool under pressure and taking the checkered flag.
“I’m just happy we were able to keep our car out front and keep it clean,” Wright said. “Brady gave me a good run. He hung right with me and I was doing everything I could to pull away from him.”
One more exciting duel was in store during the final feature of the night. This time, it was Bill Plemons Jr., of Locust Grove, and Robbie Woodall, of McDonough, challenging each other for the Wallace Electric Masters Division victory. The pair ran nose-to-tail for the duration of the race, with 2018 division champion Woodall searching for an opening to get around Plemons. Plemons never flinched and held off Woodall to take the win.
“Woodall’s a great racer,” Plemons said after the win. “He and I really put on a show because we were getting into each other, bumping each other. He’s a great competitor.
“I’ve been around a lot longer than I’d like to admit,” Plemons continued with a chuckle. “But I like the cars and I like the people, and as long as I have at least one kid pulling for me up there in the stands I’ll be back here.”