By Jeffery Armstrong
Hampton native Chris Dilbeck celebrated his fourth anniversary at Thursday Thunder in a big way: he won his first Pro Division race.
It's funny how time flies - Dilbeck didn't realize it's been four years already.
"Wow! It is my fourth anniversary today," said Dilbeck. "I'm just glad I was able to win an early race this year."
The races at this week's Thursday Thunder at the Atlanta Motor Speedway started before the usual start time of 8:00 p.m. due to rain earlier in the evening and the threat of more rain later.
The rainy conditions didn't hamper Dilbeck Thursday night. He said he handled the rain better this time than he has in the past, also noting that tips from fellow Pro driver Andy James of Morrow helped him this week.
"When you drive in normal conditions, you really have to concentrate on making hard turns around the track," Dilbeck said. "Tonight in the rain, it was all about finesse. You have to pat the gas so you can make it around the track safely."
Dilbeck's ability to pick up techniques has served him well in his racing career.
"He's always been a quick learner," said Brent Dilbeck, Chris' father. "Chris drives with his head and not his foot. He takes note of what he has to do, figures it out and then takes control. I'm real proud of him."
James advised Dilbeck on how
to drive in the rain, but he ended up in fifth place.
"Me and Chris were racing here a few months ago, running in the rain," said James. "I was just trying to help him out - I like having good competition and we're having a pretty good time."
"I think Andy might've told me a little too much," Dilbeck said, laughing.
Thursday's win at AMS capped a pretty good week for Dilbeck. Last Thursday, he talked to Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue at the state capitol and finished second in the Pro Division race to Joey Logano (who didn't race at Thursday Thunder last night). This past Tuesday in Charlotte, he finished second after starting in third place.
Dilbeck said he's enjoying Pro Division racing a lot this year.
"Racing in this division is great. I'm more comfortable and you don't have to worry about getting hit as much," he said. "The Pro drivers treat you with respect because they know you had to be good to get here. In turn, I give them much respect."
Dilbeck, who's won the 1999 Bandolero Georgia Dirt Track Championship and the 2001 Young Guns Georgia title, is looking forward to winning a Pro Division championship and winning a few races at Charlotte.
"I'd love to be a top finisher in state and do real well at Charlotte," Dilbeck said. "There's peak competition in Georgia and North Carolina."
Dilbeck, who finished third in Semi-Pro last year, said his main goal is to win the Georgia State Championship. Dilbeck is currently ninth in national points .