Atlanta’s Faster Pastor
HAMPTON, Ga. — Week four of Atlanta Motor Speedway’s short-track racing series, Thursday Thunder, featured two-first time winners, two brothers celebrating in Victory Lane and one surprising race finish. The annual Faster Pastor race was the featured intermission entertainment with local church leaders on a “Mission to Race.”
Taylor Hull, substitute driving for Ed Clark, began the Roadsters feature out front. Hull showed his muscle by leading every lap and posting the win.
Mike Weed took the green flag to set off the Semi-Pro feature. Despite several challenges from Luke Behnke and William Plemons III, Weed held on to collect his first win of the Thursday Thunder season.
The Buzz Cars feature started with Alan Nolan as the leader. Scott Kasaparek worked Nolan over for the first three laps and made the pass for the top spot coming off of turn two. A caution bunched the field up, providing a lot of beating and banging throughout the field. Michael Karp made a daring move on the restart following a subsequent caution to become the race leader. A two-lap shootout determined the winner, with Karp claiming the victory, his third win in four starts.
Jeff Haynie was the pole sitter for the Pro feature. On lap six, points leader Sean Rayhall made his bid to become the leader. Rayhall led the remaining circuits to capture his second win of the Thursday Thunder season.
The special race of the night was the annual Faster Pastor race. Six area church leaders were on “A Mission to Race.” Each church collected donations from its members for mission trips. Royal Baptist Church collected the most money and earned their pastor Paul Dennis the pole position. Dennis led the early laps, however a caution for debris bunched the field up, setting up a green-white-checkered finish. Union Baptist’s Tom Conort got his nose to the inside of Dennis in turn one to take the lead. Coming to the checkered flag, Jay Tenney of First Methodist in Barnesville got along-side Conort, but Conort won by half a car length.
The Masters feature launched with Skip Nichols on the pole. Nichols was the class of the field, leading every lap to seize his second Masters win of the summer at AMS. With his win, Nichols logged his 34th career Thursday Thunder victory; still the most in the history of the14-year series.
Chandler Smith paced the field to the start for the Papa John’s Bandits feature. Smith, while leading, spun coming off turn four on the first lap. Ashton Winger inherited the lead. Following a caution, Winger and second-place Joshua Hicks got their bumpers hooked, spinning out both cars. The race lead was turned over to Devon Barnes. Barnes logged his first Thursday Thunder victory in only his fourth start in the series. In post-race inspection, Barnes’ fuel did not pass inspection. Barnes is appealing the decision, so race results are unofficial pending the appeal.
The Morley Company Outlaws feature opened with Madeline Crane pacing the field to the green flag. A multi-car crash coming into turn four on the first lap reset the field. On lap four, Parker Barnes made a pass for the top spot. Barnes crossed the finish line first and remains undefeated in the Morley Company Outlaws class. Barnes is the older brother of Devon Barnes who won the feature before him. In post-race inspection, Barnes’ motor did not pass inspection. Barnes is appealing the decision, so race results are unofficial pending the appeal.
The Young Lions feature got underway with Anderson Bowen in the lead. Mason Massey made the pass to become the leader on lap nine. Points leader Benjamin Rhodes tapped Massey’s bumper, getting him loose in turn four on lap 12 and allowed Rhodes to sneak by to take the lead. A three-car wreck brought out the caution and lined the field up for a three-lap shootout to the finish. Massey made the pass for the top spot on the last lap, then Rhodes came back and bumped Massey out of the way again to take over the lead. Due to his rough driving, Rhodes was black-flagged and Anderson Bowen stole the win, his first ever Thursday Thunder victory. The win qualified Bowen for the Legends Invitational.