NASCAR stars help kick off Thursday Thunder at AMS

AMS

Past and present Legends and Bandolero drivers helped kick off Thursday Thunder racing series Tuesday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Pictured are (l-r) Dylan Murry, David Ragan, Nathan Jackson, Joey Logano, Joshua Hicks, and Reed Sorenson. (Staff Photo by Danny Harrison)

Top-tier NASCAR drivers often have interesting stories of how they made it to the big leagues, with most of them getting started in some kind of automotive racing well before they finished grade school.
More and more, those drivers and crew members are coming out of Legends and Bandolero racing, both of which are growing in popularity down at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton through the Thursday Thunder Legends Racing Series.
Driving home this point, AMS and Legends of Georgia hosted a media day event Tuesday featuring appearances by Sprint Cup Series drivers Reed Sorenson, David Ragan, and Joey Logano, who had just won the Sprint All-Star race and its $1 million purse on Saturday. Sorenson from Peachtree City, Ragan from Unadilla, and Logano from Middletown in Connecticut all participated in Legends racing as children and teenagers at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
“We were from Connecticut. We didn’t know what we were doing. We didn’t know anything about racing,” Logano said. “My parents didn’t race, and we just kind of winged it and had fun with it.”
Logano said his family had come down to the area and wanted to visit the legendary Atlanta Motor Speedway, and that’s when they met Ken Ragan, who began the Legends series at AMS almost two decades ago. That same day, Ragan sold the Logano Family a Bandolero race car, and the Logano Family moved to the area only a few months later to take up racing.
“It’s very competitive, and that’s a lot of fun in itself,” Logano said. “But for me, as I get a little bit older, I just know we had a lot of fun, and it was fun for my family and me.”
Ken Ragan’s own son David is also a product of the Legends program he started.
“As a kid, it’s neat to just be at a race track that the NASCAR stars are racing at on the weekends, and I had a similar experience showing up to a large facility with a lot of grandstands and the banking that the Dale Earnhardts and Jeff Gordons were racing on,” the junior Ragan said. “When you’re eight, nine, 10 years old, that’s a really neat thing.
“When you’re a young kid, you’re not really thinking about 10 years down the road and trying to get into the NASCAR world or what you’re going to do with your career, your job when you’re finished with school,” Ragan continued. “You’re just worried about having fun. You make a lot of friends in the garage, and it’s a family thing.”
“I thought Legends car racing was very competitive,” Sorenson said during Tuesday’s interview time. “You’ve got people on different levels, and I think you learn something new every week. These cars are not easy to drive. Anybody who has ever driven them knows that you need a lot of car control.
“What you can learn from these cars and what you can learn from the competition definitely helps you for that next level,” Sorenson continued. “These guys, at their age – and we thought this a long time ago – is the best choice to try to move up to that next level.”
The “these guys” to whom Sorenson was referring included current Legends and Bandolero stand-outs Joshua Hicks from Senoia, Nathan Jackson from McDonough, and Dylan Murry from Cumming, all of whom are expected to be strong contenders in this year’s summer-long Thursday Thunder Legends Racing Series, which begins Thursday, June 2.
These up-and-coming stars, who will race on the quarter-mile track that shares the same start/finish line as the full-sized, mile-and-a-half track, also had mic time Tuesday and shared their thoughts as the season approaches.
“My goal this year is to be consistent and not have a DNF or any mistakes, try to be as consistent as I can,” said Hicks, who completed his freshman year at East Coweta High School on Friday and is entering his eighth season in Thursday Thunder. “I remember my first Bandolero Winter Flurry championship, I didn’t win a single race. I finished second and third every race and came out on top, so that’s my goal this year.”
“I’d really like to stay consistent and not have a couple of bad races every now and then,” Murry said. “Just stay constantly at the top of the field throughout the entire season and not have any bad finishes, just try to win the championship.”
Jackson, who was the youngest driver on Tuesday panel, was not short on words. He said he wants to “try and stay consistent in the top five but don’t get caught in tech, don’t cheat. Try and stay consistent and stay happy with your car and work with your team with what your car’s doing.”
When the three NASCAR drivers were asked if they have advice for the younger three, Logano quickly offered that, if he had it to do over again, he would listen to his parents more. Partly, he admitted, to avoid the spankings.
This year’s Thursday Thunder Legends Series is again presented by Papa John’s Pizza and begins June 2. Infield admission is available for spectators wishing to watch Thursday Thunder, and passes may be purchased at the Security Command building near the speedway’s main entrance. Infield passes are $12 for adults, $5 for ages 6 through 11, and children ages 5 and younger are admitted free. Grandstand tickets for the affordable, family-friendly racing series cost just $5, while children ages 5 and younger are free.
For more information, contact the Atlanta Motor Speedway ticket office at (770) 946-4211, (877) 9-AMS-TIX or visit www.atlantamotorspeedway.com.

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About

Danny Harrison, a 1992 Fayette High School graduate, began his journalism career with Fayette County News in 1995. After taking several leaves of absence to pursue journalism and Christian ministry opportunities, including a few out of state and overseas, he returned full-time to Fayette County News in August 2014. Harrison earned a bachelor's degree in pastoral ministry in 2009 while serving as a missionary journalist in England and Western Europe.


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