Thursday Thunder at Atlanta Motor Speedway is a family affair

HAMPTON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – Atlanta Motor Speedway is one of NASCAR’s fastest tracks. At top speed, Sprint Cup cars reach nearly 200 miles per hour.

But it’s what happens on the quarter-mile infield oval that’s kept fans coming back on summer Thursday nights for 18 years. It’s called Thursday Thunder, a family-oriented event that includes Legends car racing. I can tell you after driving one that these cars pack a ton of power.

“Top speed is probably going to be about 70 miles an hour, says AMS president Ed Clark. “But understand you’re inches off each other’s bumper, if not touching.”

You have to be careful getting back on the throttle in the corners. If you give it too much gas too early, you can find yourself in the wall in a hurry.

“They’re very, very, very difficult racecars to drive,” says Georgia Tech sophomore Amber Fleeman, who races when she’s not working toward her mechanical engineering degree. “I love them, but I’m a racecar driver, so it’s natural.”

Drivers here are young and old, male and female.

54-year-old Skip Nichols has raced Legends cars since the series started here. This year, he’s taking on a new role: crew chief for his grandson, Wilder.

“When I want stuff, he goes to get it for me,” says 10-year-old Wilder Etheredge, who’s racing a Bandolero car before making the move to Legends cars. “When I need stuff, he goes to get it for me.”

Clark says the family aspect of the event is part of what the track staff and fans love about it.

“We see families come out,” Clark says. “We see lots of kids watching these other kids race. You can start racing in this at 8-years-old. It’s pretty neat to see a young kid get out and thank his sponsors, thank his family. The other kids kind of hang on the fence and enjoy that moment, because that’s one of their peers out there racing.”

If you take in the Thunder for yourself this summer, you might just see one of NASCAR’s next stars. David Ragan, Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, and Austin and Ty Dillon are just a few of the drivers who started their careers in the series.

The season runs on Thursday nights from June 4 to July 23.

Ticket prices are $6 for adults, $2 for kids 6-11 and kids 5 and under get in free.

For those not interested in racing, the track holds activities similar to those you may find at minor league sporting events. Drivers are also available for autographs before the races.

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Categories: Across Georgia Sports, Motorsports, Sports

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