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Rackley races to Young Lions Thursday Thunder win

By Dustin Bixby
  Contact Editor

HAMPTON, Ga. - For the second straight week, Atlanta Motor Speedway’s Thursday Thunder Legends Series presented by Papa John’s Pizza saw several first-time winners, as the event included a trio of Bandolero features from the rained out week four, as well as the regular events as part of the Week 7 features.

Sammy Smith led the Plemons Young Lions Division to the green flag from the pole position and had expertly negotiated several consecutive cautions and restarts to maintain his lead through the first 14 laps. He was looking to cruise through the final six circuits toward his second win of the season, but fate intervened in the most untimely manner, and his grasp on the victory evaporated in an instant when trouble struck from behind.

With the maximum race time having come and gone, any flag would signal the end of the race, and all Smith needed to do was remain in the lead. But as he exited turn 4 on lap 15, Harrison Halder, the division leader entering Thursday night’s action, caught up to Smith and clipped the back of his car, sending both for a spin and bringing out a caution.

With the flag automatically ending the race and forcing both Smith and Halder to the rear of the field, the victory was awarded to Ryan Rackley – who had been running in third place – despite him never leading in the race. In a case of being in the right place at the right time, it became Rackley’s first win on the season.

Hunter Johnson finished in second, with Holt Halder third, Gauntt Hudgins fourth, and D.J. Canipe in fifth.

In the Outlaws Division Week 4 makeup race, Kenny Brady scored his first win of the season by holding off three-time winner Blaise Maddox and two-time winner Joshua Hicks.

In the Ricky Sanders Racing, Inc. Bandits Division make-up, River Allen followed suit by claiming his own first victory in 2017, while Maddox Langham won for the second time this year in the Wallace Electric Rookie Bandolero Division make-up that followed.

Following the Young Lions Division feature, it was Bill Plemons, Jr. on the pole in the Plemons Investments Masters Division. With a fast car and a clear air ahead of him, Plemons got out ahead of the field early and steadily built a lead, even as division standings leader, Scott Moseley was making his way up through the pack after beginning the race in the seventh position.

By the 12th lap, Moseley had made his way all the way up to second in the running order, but with Plemons continuing to pull away, he desperately needed a late-race caution if he was going to have a shot at his third win in 2017.

As luck would have it, the caution flag waved on the 17th lap, setting up a four-lap finale for all the marbles with a re-racked field and valuable championship points on the line.

Moseley restarted outside of Plemons on the first row and with last week’s winner, Robbie Woodall in third. But neither driver had an answer for Plemons’ speed, as Plemons held on, leading flag-to-flag for his second win of the year.

Moseley settled for second place, with Woodall third, Mark Swan fourth, and Tony Armbruster fifth.

It might as well have been the Michael Gannon show in the Outlaws Division feature, as he led each and every lap in the 20-lap feature, snatching his first win on the season and leapfrogging into second place in the overall division standings, just nine points back of leader Josh Hicks.

Hicks finished second, while Blaise Maddox rounded out the podium in third.

Of the four drivers entered into the second Wallace Electric Rookie Bandolero Division feature of the evening, each one would lead at least one lap, but when it was all said and done, Ford Childers was the one in the lead when it mattered most – when the checkered flag waved – and he picked up his first victory on the season after leading each of the final three laps.

Bailey North finished in second, with Carter Griffis in third, and Maddox Langham in fourth.

After winning the pole and leading the field to the green flag, Cody Hall paced the pack for the first seven laps of the Semi-Pro Division feature, but by the eighth lap, he was unable to hold off Hudson Halder, as Halder seized the top spot before driving off to the win in the time-shortened race.

With the win, Halder catapulted from seventh in the standings and 18 points behind leader Connor Younginer all the way up to second, just five points behind new leader Rafe Slate after Younginer was unable to finish the race and settled for a 14th-place outing.

Christopher Clanton finished second, with Slate third, Brandon Brock fourth and Andrew Dollar fifth.

In the second Ricky Sanders Racing, Inc. Bandits Division feature of the night, Lucas Ruark scored his first feature victory of the season by leading 10 of the time-shortened race’s 12 laps, relinquishing the lead for only two laps to division points leader Grant Thompson midway through.

Thompson finished second, while Kenneth Henderson = was third, Lucas Ruark was fourth, and Colsen Cochran was fifth.

Matthew Widener led all but two laps of the Chargers Division feature to taste victory in his 2017 Thursday Thunder debut, with Nick Woodall, Ian Hampton, Cody King, and Logan Nalley rounding out the top five.

A wild and rowdy beginning to the headlining Racing Radios Pro Division feature saw several cautions, division points leader, Jensen Jorgensen, in the garage just nine laps in and Corey Heim fighting for position from the rear of the field after being involved in an early-race incident.

After the initial chaos finally subsided, pole winner William Martin settled into the lead, where he remained from laps 2 through 12, until Dawson Fletcher, who entered the evening third in overall points, snared the top spot from Martin as the pair crossed the start/finish line on lap 13 following several laps of a fierce, door-to-door battle.

Displaying good corner-exit and straightaway speed, Fletcher was able to hold a hard-challenging Martin at bay in the final laps and locked up his first win on the year, becoming the fourth new Pro Division winner and third in the past four weeks.

“It was great,” said Fletcher in a post-race interview. “I just got good restarts. We messed up on one but managed to recover, and the car was great today.”

With the dust settled in the race and a shakeup in the standings, Fletcher finds himself in second overall, just four points back of four-time winner Jorgensen but only eight points ahead of third-place Corey Heim.

With just three races left on the 2017 season, Fletcher sees Thursday’s win as a potential launching bad for a shot at the season title, as the Aug. 5 championship finale looms just three weeks away

“It’s gonna be crazy,” he said, “but hopefully we are gonna get some momentum from this and try to dominate the rest of these three races and bring home a championship.”

Russell Fleeman finished in third, with Heim in fourth, and Currie Pierce in fifth.

The Thursday Thunder Legends Series continues with Week 8 next Thursday, July 20. For more information, visit AtlantaMotorSpeedway.com.

Atlanta Motor Speedway – Hampton, GA
Thursday Thunder – July 13, 2017

Week Seven Race Results

Young Lions
1. Ryan Rackley – Valdosta, GA
2. Hunter Johnson – Hampton, GA
3. Holt Halder – Cumming, GA
4. Gauntt Hudgins – Savannah, GA
5. D.J. Canipe – Fallston, NC
6. Cale Hall – Griffin, GA
7. Lawson Ingold – Social Circle, GA
8. Audrie Ruark – Suwanee, GA
9. Sammy Smith – Des Moines, IA
10. Harrison Halder – Cumming, GA
11. Clay Thompson – Bowersville, GA
12. Carden Cochran – Ringgold, GA

Masters
1. Bill Plemons, Jr. – Locust Grove, GA
2. Scott Moseley – Mcdonough, GA
3. Robbie Woodall – Mcdonough, GA
4. Mark Swan – Atlanta, GA
5. Tony Armbruster – Covington, GA
6. Wade Brewer – Hampton, GA
7. Dennis Hecht – Hoschton, GA
8. James Meredith – Locust Grove, GA
9. Bill Whatley – Acworth, GA
10. Randy Shubert – Stone Mountain, GA
11. John Ponzio – Tyrone, GA
12. Barry Bowen – Jackson Lake, GA
13. Rod Nelson – Knoxville, TN
14. Dale Jackson – Clinton, TN

Outlaws
1. Michael Gannon – Canton, GA
2. Joshua Hicks – Senoia, GA
3. Blaise Maddox – Locust Grove, GA
4. Gage Roberts – Milledgeville, GA
5. Blaze Crawford – Fayetteville, GA
6. Shelby Ruark – Suwanee, GA
7. Ashton Whitener – Monticello, GA
8. Max Brady – Marietta, GA
9. Garrett Jorgensen – Canton, GA
10. Grayson Dickey
11. Hayden Swank – Woodstock, GA
12. Aprilia Holt – Senoia, GA
13. Nathan Jackson – McDonough, GA
14. Kenny Brady – Marietta, GA

Rookie Bandoleros
1. Ford Childers – Montrose, GA
2. Bailey North – Mcdonough, GA
3. Carter Griffis – Homerville, GA
4. Maddox Langham

Semi-Pro
1. Hudson Halder – Cumming, GA
2. Christopher Clanton – Brooks, GA
3. Rafe Slate – Eatonton, GA
4. Brandon Brock – Hampton, GA
5. Andrew Dollar – Atlanta, GA
6. Davis Rochester – Lebanon, TN
7. David Lawrence – Senoia, GA
8. Cody Hall – Griffin, GA
9. Pierce Brewer – Hampton, GA
10. Trey Tadrzak – Stockbridge, GA
11. Parker Brewer – Hampton, GA
12. Amber Fleeman – Dacula, GA
13. Brandon Collins – Hampton, GA
14. Connor Younginer – Stockbridge, GA

Bandits
1. Carson Ruark – Suwanee, GA
2. Grant Thompson – Mobile, AL
3. Kenneth Henderson – Alto, GA
4. Lucas Ruark – Suwanee, GA
5. Colsen Cochran – Ringgold, GA
6. Justin Campbell – Griffin, GA
7. Kelley Puckett – Mcdonough, GA
8. Brody Graham – Flowery Branch, GA
9. Keaton Hendrix – Homerville, GA
10. River Allen – Hiram, GA
11. Sarah Sullivan – Gulf Shores, AL
12. Ryan Younginer – Stockbridge, GA
13. Max Hennebaul – Monroe, GA

Chargers
1. Matthew Widener – Bethlehem, GA
2. Nick Woodall
3. Ian Hampton – Stockbridge, GA
4. Cody King
5. Logan Nalley – Canton, GA
6. Kevin Vaughn – Grovetown, GA

Pro
1. Dawson Fletcher – Canton, GA
2. William Martin – Douglasville, GA
3. Russell Fleeman – Decula, GA
4. Corey Heim – Marietta, GA
5. Currie Pierce – Griffin, GA
6. Canon Cochran – Ringgold, GA
7. Mike Weed – Franklin, GA
8. Jeff Holden – Gainesville, GA
9. Robbie Johnston – Laurel, MS
10. Joshua Hicks – Senoia, GA
11. Jensen Jorgensen – Stockbridge, GA
12. Dylan Murry – Cumming, GA

Outlaws
Week 4 Make Up Feature
1. Kenny Brady – Marietta, GA
2. Joshua Hicks – Senoia, GA
3. Shelby Ruark – Suwanee, GA
4. Michael Gannon – Canton, GA
5. Max Brady – Marietta, GA
6. Garrett Jorgensen – Canton, GA
7. Blaze Crawford – Fayetteville, GA
8. Ashton Whitener – Monticello, GA
9. Gage Roberts – Milledgeville, GA
10. Aprilia Holt – Senoia, GA
11. Hayden Swank – Woodstock, GA
12. Nathan Jackson – Mcdonough, GA
13. Grayson Dickey
14. Blaise Maddox – Locust Grove, GA

Bandits
Week 4 Make Up Feature
1. River Allen – Hiram, GA
2. Lucas Ruark – Suwanee, GA
3. Sarah Sullivan – Gulf Shores, AL
4. Kelley Puckett – Mcdonough, GA
5. Justin Campbell – Griffin, GA
6. Colsen Cochran – Ringgold, GA
7. Brody Graham – Flowery Branch, GA
8. Carson Ruark – Suwanee, GA
9. Keaton Hendrix – Homerville, GA
10. Grant Thompson – Mobile, AL
11. Ryan Younginer – Stockbridge, GA
12. Max Hennebaul – Monroe, GA
13. Kenneth Henderson – Alto, GA
DNS: Garrett Erwin – Covington, GA
DNS: Tony Yawn
DNS: Leland Honeyman – Mooresville, SC
DNS:: Wilder Etheredge – Atlanta, GA

Rookie Bandoleros
Week 4 Make Up Feature
1. Maddox Langham
2. Carter Griffis – Homerville, GA
3. Ford Childers – Montrose, GA
4. Bailey North – McDonough, GA

  • Associated Categories: NASCAR News, Other Motorsports
  • Associated Tags: motorsports, Auto Racing, Stock Car, Short Track, Asphalt, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Thunder Ring, Legends/Bandoleros, Thursday Thunder
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