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Drivers focus on long-term goals

By Anthony Rhoads

Many drivers in Thursday Thunder dream of moving up to the Nextel Cup series but the reality is that very few will have the chance to compete in the highest levels of NASCAR racing.

Even though the vast majority won't move on, some still want to be involved in racing, even if they won't be driving a racecar.

That's definitely one of Sean Cassidy's goals.

Cassidy, a 19-year-old mechanical engineering student at Georgia Southern, has his sights set on being behind the scenes in the NASCAR.

"My goal was to drive but it's turned into being a behind-the-scenes engineering guy," Cassidy said.

He's already gotten a taste of what it's like to be behind the scenes in major league racing. He has served as a spotter at Daytona International Speedway for NASCAR and works as a spotter for Southern All-Star Series competitor Les Law.

Cassidy has competed at Thursday Thunder since 1999 and currently competes in the Bandolero Outlaws Division.

"The driving is tough this year," he said. "It's tough just to have a competitive car every week. Racing here has helped me learned about how to set up a car. It's giving me some basic knowledge and the late model experience has helped with this car."

Todd ?Catfish' Gulledge, a Chargers Division competitor, has already been on the NASCAR Busch Series as a pit drew member.

Gulledge was a pit crew member for Jeff Purvis and Randy Lajoie on the Phoenix Racing team from 1997-2000.

The biggest highlight was when Lajoie won the 1999 Daytona/NAPA 300.

"It's almost not real but it was like ?wow, we won!" he said. "It was a great experience."

Gulledge said Thursday Thunder is a good way for younger drivers to get involved in racing.

"This is where everybody's coming from," Gulledge said. "I wish it was around for me to start years ago."

Gulledge has been racing at Thursday Thunder since 2002. He got interested in it a year earlier when he visited the garage area. At the time, he was restoring a 1963 Impala but decided his time and money would be better spent on racing.

"I love it," he said. "It's a good atmosphere here with all the friends I've made. The competition's definitely here but if you bump somebody, we try to work it out. It's very family oriented but there's some good competition here."

Gulledge isn't just focused on racing; he's musically-oriented as well.

The 1987 Griffin High School graduate plays in a contemporary Christian band called Clay Covered Souls.