Clanton makes Busch debut

By Anthony Rhoads

Friday night will be the culmination of a life-long dream for Stockbridge's Joey Clanton.

Clanton, an up-and-coming stockcar driver, will be making his NASCAR Busch Series debut in the Hardee's 250 at the Richmond International Speedway.

Clanton will be driving the No. 27 TrimSpa Pontiac in 25 Busch races this year. The No. 27 race team is owned by Brewco Motorsports.

"It's pretty exciting to have the opportunity to make it to that level," Clanton said earlier this year. "It's the next stepping stone and it's exciting to have this opportunity with Brewco. It's going to be quite an experience and we're looking forward to the rest of the year and when I get to run my first race."

Clanton, 30, won the 2002 American Speed Association national points championship after winning nine races of 20 races. He also had 11 top-fives and 16 top-10s in his championship season.

Clanton was third in the points race in 2001 and was the ASA Rookie of the Year in 2000.

The ASA series has been a stepping stone for many drivers including Mark Martin, Darrell Waltrip, Alan Kulwicki, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth.

"The ASA has got everything you need to go on to the next level," Clanton said. "It's where Busch and (Winston) Cup drivers are coming from right now."

In 1992, Clanton began racing late model stock cars at local tracks and in 1994 moved to the Super Late Model class.

In his first year in that division, he won the Memorial Day 100 at Senoia Speedway. Clanton continued to race locally and also began competing in the Southern All-Stars series.

After graduating from Georgia Tech with a mechanical engineering degree 1999, he started racing Legends cars at Atlanta Motor Speedway's Thursday Thunder series and Lowe's Motor Speedway's Summer Shootout. That year, he won 17 races and enjoyed 22 top-fives out of 24 events.

Racing is in Clanton's blood as he is the son of Billy Clanton, a dirt-track racer. Clanton grew up around the tracks and dreamed of one day becoming a Winston Cup driver.

Go, Reed racer: Joey Clanton is not the only Atlanta Motor Speedway Thursday Thunder alumnus who is enjoying success in racing.

Reed Sorenson, the three-time points champion at Thursday Thunder, is fifth in the ASA points standings.

Sorenson competed in a limited number of ASA races last year and is vying for the rookie of the year award this season.

Sorenson recently signed a developmental contract with Chip Ganassi Racing for the NASCAR Busch Series.

At 17, Sorenson will have to wait at least another year before competing on the Busch Series but Ganassi, a legendary owner in both open-wheel and stock-car racing, went ahead and signed the young driver.

Sorenson currently drives the No. 29 AC-Delco Chevrolet in the ASA Series.

The Woodward Academy student lives in Peachtree City but his race team is based out of Forest Park.

Stevens working way up the ranks: Doug Stevens, a 1995 Forest Park High School graduate, is a three-time Thursday Thunder champion and is currently racing in several series.

Stevens drives the No. 71 Jasper Engines Ford in the ARCA series and he also competes in a limited number of ASA and Hooters Pro Cup events.

In the ARCA race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March, Stevens had the fastest practices times but had to start near the back of the pack because qualifying was cancelled.

In the race, he quickly made his way through the field but a crash put him out of the event after just six laps.

Prior to that race, his worst ARCA finish was 12th.

Stevens, who attended Georgia Tech, owns and operates Advanced Technology Motorsports in Lovejoy.

On the web: www.joeyclanton.com, www.reedsorenson.com, www.dougstevensracing.com, asaracing.com, nascar.com