By Anthony Rhoads
Atlanta Motor Speedway has nearly become a second home for Chris Dilbeck.
The Henry County High School student is an up-and-coming Legends racecar driver and has already made a name for himself at the speedway's Thursday Thunder summer racing series.
He has competed at Thursday Thunder since 1999 and he enjoyed his most successful season last year. He won three races and finished third in the Semi-Pro points standings.
Dilbeck not only has spent a lot of time at the track as a driver but for the last few NASCAR events, he has worked as an intern.
The behind-the-scenes work helps him be a better a driver on the track, he said.
"I come around here as much as I can and hang out in the pits," he said. "It gives you another perspective."
He enjoys working at the speedway but nothing compares to the excitement of being behind the wheel.
"You can't describe it," he said. "When you come out of turn 4 and see the white flag for the final lap, the adrenaline is boiling. You can't describe it; it's awesome."
Dilbeck has grown up basically with the speedway in his backyard and one of these days he wants to race at Atlanta as a NASCAR Winston Cup driver.
In the weekend of the spring Winston Cup race, Dilbeck won a special Legends Pro Division race at the speedway.
He's also done well at Lanier National Speedway this spring and is in contention for the points championship there.
He also plans to race in Charlotte's summer series.
Even though he likes racing at each track, they require different approaches.
"Racing is more driver-oriented at Atlanta," he said. "It's like a short track and it's hard to race. Charlotte is pretty much the same but Charlotte has a larger field and the competition will make you better. Lanier is high-banked and is fast-paced."
Dilbeck is confident he can be successful at all three tracks this year.
"We're excited and ecstatic about what we've been doing lately and hope it lasts through the summer," he said. "We want to win the Atlanta points championship and go to Charlotte and let them know we're there."
Dilbeck has several titles to his credit including the 1999 Bandolero Young Guns Georgia Dirt Track Championship, 2001 Young Guns Georgia State Champion and the 2002 Young Lions Georgia State Champion (Semi-Pro Division).
One key to Dilbeck's success has been Doug Stevens. Stevens is a three-time Thursday Thunder Pro Division champion and races part-time on the ASA and ARCA circuits. Stevens also owns Advanced Technology Motorsports, where he works on many cars for Thursday Thunder competitors.
"Doug is like my brother," Dilbeck said. "I pretty much live in his shop during the summer. I really look up to Doug; he's a real good role model."
Even though Dilbeck hopes to have a career in racing, he wants to make sure has gets an education.
He plans to go to Georgia Tech and get a mechanical engineering degree.