Local drivers making way up the ranks

By Anthony Rhoads

The Southern Crescent has been an area that has produced many top-of-the-line athletes over the years.

Many athletes from the area have gone on to play at the collegiate level and a few have gone on to play professionally.

It's astounding to look at the number of athletes who have come out of this area and have gone to the next level whether it is in football, baseball, basketball or even swimming (who can forget Jonesboro's Steve Lundquist, the gold-medal winner in the Olympics)?

Lately, the Southern Crescent has not only been a proving ground for traditional sports but for auto racing as well.

Right now, there are two Stockbridge residents who are competing at the highest levels of auto racing.

Jimmy Kite will be competing in the Indianapolis 500 this Sunday, his fourth appearance in the legendary event.

Kite tried to make the field last year but a rainout cancelled the final day of qualifying and he missed his chance to try to make the starting grid. This year, he made the field and will be starting 32nd out of 33 cars.

Kite began his career racing quarter-midgets at the age of eight and worked his way up through mini-sprints, USAC midgets, sprint cars and Silver Crown cars to the Indy Racing League.

He is a five-time national champion in various open-wheel series with countless victories. He has a career total of 22 Indy Racing events and $1,232,000 in career IRL earnings.

Joey Clanton is making his way up the ranks in stock-car racing and is just one step down from the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.

Clanton is currently in his first year in the NASCAR Busch Series after making his debut May 2 in the No. 27 TrimSpa Pontiac.

Clanton has been competitive and in the last Busch race in Nazareth, Penn., he finished 18th. Last season, Clanton won the 2002 American Speed Association national points championship before getting his Busch series ride this year.

In addition to Clanton and Kite, there are other guys in the area who are trying to make a name in auto racing.

There's Doug Stevens, a 1995 Forest Park graduate, who is racing part-time in the ASA and ARCA series.

There are some other drivers who haven't quite made it to that level yet but have been successful locally.

Henry County High School graduate Charles Shoemaker has set several records at Lanier National Speedway and Senoia Speedway. He went on to UNC-Charlotte and competed on the schools Legends team and the Formula SAE team.

Henry County High School student Chris Dilbeck won three Semi-Pro Division races at Atlanta Motor Speedway's Thursday Thunder series last year. This year he has won several Pro Division races at various tracks.

Morrow's Andy James also competes at Thursday Thunder and other local tracks. In 2001, he was the Pro Division points champion at Senoia.

Brian Meredith, a former baseball and football standout at Morrow High School, competes at Thursday Thunder as well and won the Chargers Division points title in 2000.

Anthony Rhoads is a sports writer for The Daily. He can be reached at arhoads@news-daily.com.