HAMPTON, Ga. - Six drivers drove away as champions of the Thunder Ring Saturday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway, as the 20th Anniversary season of the Thursday Thunder Legends Series presented by Papa John’s Pizza came to a close with its 10th and final week.
After two playoff races and a NASCAR-style elimination process, six drivers – Jensen Jorgensen, Corey Heim, William Martin, Canon Cochran, Russell Fleeman and Josh Hicks – were the final six drivers eligible for the Racing Radios Pro Division championship, with the top finisher among them in Saturday night’s feature laying claim to the hardware.
With tensions mounting as the Pro Division field of 10 cars took the green flag, it was anyone’s race – and trophy – to win on the other side of the 25-lap feature.
With five-time winner Jorgensen on the pole and Week 8 winner William Martin lined up behind him on the inside, the two highly-favored drivers did battle early at the front of the pack, with neither giving an inch to his challenger.
After leading 15 of the first 16 laps, Jorgensen was well on his way to a Pro Division title in his first season in Thursday Thunder’s top racing class, but contact from behind collected him, Matthew Barnard and Martin, sending all three to the rear and handing Heim the lead on the ensuing restart.
What followed was an aggressive, nine-lap melee, as the title-eligible drivers fought to reach the front of the field. With no holds barred and nothing left to lose, six of the ten cars that started the race – three of which were in line for the championship – were unable to finish what they started due to the carnage sustained in the battle, and it turned into a four-car shootout down the stretch.
Playoff drivers Heim, Martin and Fleeman, as well as Barnard, were all who remained as the final laps began to tick off. Heim managed to hold Martin and Fleeman at bay to claim his second victory of the season and secure the 2017 Pro Division title.
“It was crazy,” said Heim. “The 32 (Jorgensen) and the 11 (Martin) were definitely the class of the field right there. I knew they were going to be the two hardest cars to beat in this race, and you could definitely tell they were definitely on rails there for the first 10-12 laps. But an incident happened, and we just took advantage it.”
Though typically it’s the inside line that drivers prefer in order to gain an advantage over their competitors on the flat Thunder Ring track, Heim made the outside work throughout most of the entire second half of the race in a surprising move that proved to be his secret weapon.
“I like this track, because the bottom groove kind of got worn out a little bit,” he said. “I could tell that the outside groove started to come in, and I gave it a try the first restart, and it just stuck, so I kept on going up there. Sure enough, it worked out.”
Martin wound up finishing second both in Saturday night’s race and in the standings, while Russell and Barnard rounded out the field of finishing drivers.
In other action, the Semi-Pro Division feature got the night started with one of the closest title races in the series. Christopher Clanton led in the standings by eight points over Hudson Halder entering the finale, and needed to finish within three spots of Halder in order to maintain his lead and claim the championship.
But after starting the race back in eighth – and with Halder on the pole – Clanton wasn’t able to avoid the chaos mid-pack and ran out of time before making it up to the front or within reach of the lead to hold onto his position in the standings.
Halder, meanwhile, held his own at the front of the pack and took the checkered flag in first-place to win his fourth race of the season and easily clinch the title.
Rafe Slate, who entered the night third in the standings, finished second, and Brandon Brock rounded out the podium in third.
In the Masters Division, four-time winner Scott Moseley entered the evening with a 12-point advantage over second-place driver Robbie Woodall and needed only to finish within four places of Woodall to stake claim to his second Masters Division title in as many years.
But true to his season-long form, Moseley led all 20 laps of the Week 10 feature, holding off Woodall all the way, and easily hoisted the hardware with his fifth victory on the year.
Woodall wound up in second, his ninth top-three of the year, while Mark Swan finished third to round out the podium.
Josh Hicks carried three victories and a 22-point lead in the standings with him into the Outlaws Division feature and led each of the final six laps after battling with second-place driver Blaise Maddox, to win his fourth race of the season and lock up the title with a 25-point cushion.
Maddox, who won three races of his own in 2017, finished second Saturday night after leading nearly half of the race, while Nathan Jackson finished third.
Blaze Crawford led all 20 laps of the Chargers Division feature to take home the victory in his Legends car debut. Behind him, Logan Nalley and Kevin Vaughn rounded out the field.
With a 46-point margin in the standings going into Saturday night’s finale in the Ricky Sanders Racing, Inc. Bandits Division, Grant Thompson made his season championship a no-doubter by leading all 20 laps of the feature for his fifth win of the season.
Behind Thompson, Kenneth Henderson, Lucas Ruark, Colsen Cochran and Ryan Younginer finished second through fifth in order.
In the Wallace Electric Rookie Bandolero Division feature, Luke Cooper led all but the first lap to score his first Thursday Thunder victory of the year. Carter Griffis finished in second, with Bailey North third, Denton Clem fourth and Lee Brown fifth.
In the closest title race of the series other than in the Racing Radios Pro Division, D.J. Canipe held a narrow, three-point lead in the Plemons Young Lions Division standings over Harrison Halder, each with three victories entering the evening.
A Canipe victory meant he would drive away with the title. But in the event of a Halder victory and a second-place finish by Canipe, it would mean a deadlock in the points, which would trigger a race-wins tie-breaker and award Halder the season title.
Though Halder, Canipe and Ryan Rackley each challenged for the lead the entire night in a rough and tumble race – and as fate would have it – the Halder-Canipe one-two finish came to fruition in a time-shortened feature, and despite finishing with 861 points apiece on the season, Halder claimed the championship by virtue of winning four races in 2017 to Canipe’s three.
Hunter Johnson, Carden Cochran and Cale Hall rounded out the top five.
Atlanta Motor Speedway’s Legends and Bandolero racing continues with its fall points series beginning on Saturday, September 9.
For more information, visit AtlantaMotorSpeedway.com.
Atlanta Motor Speedway – Hampton, GA
Thursday Thunder – August 5, 2017
Week 10 Results
1. Corey Heim – Marietta, GA
2. William Martin – Douglasville, GA
3. Russell Fleeman – Decula, GA
4. Matthew Barnard – Fort Worth, TX
5. Mike Weed – Franklin, GA – DNF
6. Jensen Jorgensen – Stockbridge, GA – DNF
7. Joshua Hicks – Senoia, GA – DNF
8. Taylor Jorgensen – Stockbridge, GA – DNF
9. Canon Cochran – Ringgold, GA – DNF
10. Jordan Stillwell – Kannapolis, NC – DNF
2017 Champion: Corey Heim
1. Hudson Halder – Cumming, GA
2. Rafe Slate – Eatonton, GA
3. Brandon Brock – Hampton, GA
4. Davis Rochester – Lebanon, TN
5. Connor Younginer – Stockbridge, GA
6. Andrew Dollar – Atlanta, GA
7. Connor Mosack – Charlotte, NC
8. Trey Tadrzak – Stockbridge, GA
9. Nate Tretow – Concord, NC
10. Brandon Collins – Hampton, GA
11. Nick Woodall – McDonough, GA
12. Pierce Brewer – Hampton, GA
13. Amber Fleeman – Dacula, GA
14. Hannah Bell – Raleigh, NC
15. Parker Brewer – Hampton, GA
16. Miranda Meredith – Locust Grove, GA
17. Cody Hall – Griffin, GA
18. Christopher Clanton – Brooks, GA
19. Jake Tretow – Concord, NC – DNF
2017 Champion: Hudson Halder
1. Scott Moseley – McDonough, GA
2. Robbie Woodall – McDonough, GA
3. Mark Swan – Atlanta, GA
4. Tony Armbruster – Covington, GA
5. Wade Brewer – Hampton, GA
6. Randy Shubert – Stone Mountain, GA
7. John Ponzio – Tyrone, GA
8. Charles Hampton – Stockbridge, GA
9. James Meredith – Locust Grove, GA
10. Rod Nelson – Knoxville, TN
11. Dennis Hecht – Hoschton, GA
12. Barry Bowen – Jackson Lake, GA
13. Dale Jackson – Clinton, TN
DNS. Bill Whatley – Acworth, GA
2017 Champion: Scott Moseley
1. Joshua Hicks – Senoia, GA
2. Blaise Maddox – Locust Grove, GA
3. Nathan Jackson – McDonough, GA
4. Michael Gannon – Canton, GA
5. Max Brady – Marietta, GA
6. Shelby Ruark – Suwanee, GA
7. Garrett Lowe – Gastonia, NC
8. Blaze Crawford – Fayetteville, GA
9. Ashton Whitener – Monticello, GA
10. Kenny Brady – Marietta, GA
11. Gage Roberts – Milledgeville, GA
12. Garrett Jorgensen – Canton, GA
13. Hayden Swank – Woodstock, GA
14. Grayson Dickey
15. Aprilia Holt – Senoia, GA
2017 Champion: Joshua Hicks
1. Blaze Crawford – Fayetteville, GA
2. Logan Nalley – Canton, GA
3. Kevin Vaughn – Grovetown, GA
2017 Champion: Harrison Halder
1. Grant Thompson – Mobile, AL
2. Kenneth Henderson – Alto, GA
3. Lucas Ruark – Suwanee, GA
4. Colsen Cochran – Ringgold, GA
5. Ryan Younginer – Stockbridge, GA
6. Santiago Hill – Mint Hill, NC
7. Max Hennebaul – Monroe, GA
8. Carson Ruark – Suwanee, GA
9. Wilder Etheredge – Atlanta, GA
10. Justin Campbell – Griffin, GA
11. River Allen – Hiram, GA
12. Kelley Puckett – McDonough, GA
13. Tony Yawn
14. Ford Childers – Montrose, GA
15. Keaton Hendrix – Homerville, GA
2017 Champion: Grant Thompson
1. Luke Cooper – Woodrufd, SC
2. Carter Griffis – Homerville, GA
3. Bailey North – McDonough, GA
4. Denton Clem – Eastman, GA
5. Lee Brown – Acworth, GA
1. Harrison Halder – Cumming, GA
2. DJ Canipe – Fallston, NC
3. Hunter Johnson – Hampton, GA
4. Carden Cochran – Ringgold, GA
5. Cale Hall – Griffin, GA
6. Clay Thompson – Bowersville, GA
7. Gauntt Hudgins – Savannah, GA
8. Ryan Rackley – Valdosta, GA
9. Holt Halder – Cumming, GA
10. Hunter Burns – Thomaston, GA
11. Ian Hampton – Stockbridge, GA
12. Lawson Ingold – Social Circle, GA
13. Audrie Ruark – Suwanee, GA – DNF
14. Sammy Smith – Des Moines, IA – DNF
15. Annabelle Mohwish – Cumming, GA – DNF