By Anthony Rhoads
Last season at Thursday Thunder, Vince Ponder was a familiar sight at Victory Lane.
He won seven races in the Bandolero Outlaws Division on his way to capturing the season points championship.
This season, it has been a different story as he moved up to compete in the Legends Chargers Division.
In seven races leading up to this week, he had four top fives but in three races, he finished 18th twice ad 19th last week.
This week, Ponder was able to turn things around and return to Victory Lane as he won his first race of the 2003 season.
"I never thought I would get back out there," he said. "It's been a struggle and I'm glad we got things going right thanks to (Advanced Technology Motorsports owner) Doug Stevens. He got me straightened out. I was lost and he helped me find my way."
In Thursday's race, Ponder took the lead at lap 2 and never relinquished the top sport. Rounding out the top five were Casey Tate, Gary Tatum, Rose Ulrich and Billy Chapman.
"It feels good," Ponder said. "I was really feeling down going into this race. I told everyone back there in the garage that I hoped just to get through the race with my car in one piece."
Even though it's been a struggle this year and his car has gotten banged up, he's still had fun this season.
"That's all a part of it," Ponder said. "These Legends are harder to set up than the Bandoleros but the Bandoleros are hard to drive. We don't have any sponsors this year so we're having to do everything ourselves but we're having fun and that's what it's all about. It's a really fun sport."
Ponder's brother-in-law Darrell Banks competes in the Outlaws Division this year and up until last week, was leading the race for the points championship. Banks is driving the same car Ponder drove last year.
"We've been working hard and he's been doing awesome," Ponder said.
Thursday night, Banks won his fifth Outlaws race of the 2003 season.
Stevens to race in ARCA event Aug. 9: Three-time Thursday Thunder Pro Divison points champion Doug Stevens won his third race of the year Thursday night. Stevens currently leads the race for the 2003 Pro Division points championship.
In addition to being the most successful Thursday Thunder driver in the five-year history of the series, he has also raced nationally in the ARCA series, the American Speed Association and the Hooters Pro Cup series.
On Aug. 9, Stevens will get back into an ARCA car when he races Nashville Superspeedway.
Ragan might come back to Atlanta Motor Speedway: David Ragan, the 2000 Thursday Thunder Semi-Pro points champion, has lived in the Charlotte area since 2001 trying to make his way up the ranks in stock-car racing.
In that time, the former Stockbridge resident has raced in Lowe's Motor Speedway's Summer Shootout Series, worked as a crew member for NASCAR Goody's Dash Series driver Cam Strader and he recently made his ARCA debut in the No. 56 Bridge Track/Gresham and Associates Ford.
On July 12, the 17-year-old finished 12th in an ARCA event at Lake Erie Speedway in Pennsylvania. He started in the No. 2 position and ran in the top two spots for most of the race.
In March of 2004, Ragan could return to Atlanta Motor Speedway and race in the ARCA event.
"If things go right, we'll be here at the March race," said Ragan's father, former Winston Cup driver and former Legends of Georgia director Ken Ragan. "Things are going good for David now. He's having a ball. He's having fun and he's learning a lot."
In addition to getting into the ARCA circuit, Ragan is racing for Winston Cup driver Mark Martin at the Summer Shootout.
Ragan plans to make ARCA test runs in Nashville, Charlotte, South Boston, Va. and Daytona this year.