From staff reports
Skip Nichols could have been a household name.
Nichols, now 56, has been racing for the better part of the last four decades. For the last seven years, he's been racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway's summer racing series, Thursday Thunder.
Before that, though, he was well known in Georgia and around the Southeast as a tough late model racer. He raced against such well-known racers as Bill Elliott, Dale Earnhardt, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison.
By 1980, Nichols had begun to make a name for himself in NASCAR. He was offered a full-time ride in the equivalent of today's Busch Series.
He turned it down.
Instead of trying his luck at a big-time NASCAR career, Nichols decided it was more important to be around for his kids. To attend the gymnastics meets and the diving meets and the Little League games.
"It was the best decision I've ever made," Nichols said. "I'll never regret it. I missed racing, but it's just one of those things. My kids were more important."
When his children were grown, Nichols felt the tug back to racing, and in 1998, he began competing at Atlanta Motor Speedway's first season of Thursday Thunder.
Since then, Nichols has won two championships and is gunning this year for a third. Nichols is leading the point standings in the Tanger Outlet Center Masters division with just three races remaining.
It's not where he expected to be before the season started.
"I decided last year that it was time to slow down; I'm getting old," said Nichols. "So I sold both my cars. Then I realized how much I wanted to come back this summer. I just can't stay away. I've made so many good friends, I just had to come back and be a part of it."
So Nichols bought a new car. Instead of his trademark red-and-white paint scheme, this year Nichols' car is blue and silver. But it still carries his old number, 9N, it's still fast, and it still allows him to take part in the racing he somehow can't live without.
"I've raced everything boats, cars, trucks, motorcycles and I've never found a series I enjoyed more than Thursday Thunder," Nichols said. "It's family-oriented and fun, especially here at Atlanta, and I just couldn't give it up."
Tonight's Thursday Thunder will be especially fun for the whole family, as Georgia Power and Z93 present Mascot Mania. Mascots from the Atlanta Falcons, Hawks and Braves, as well as from Papa John's, Arby's and the Macon Knights and Macon Traxx. The mascots will be part of a special obstacle course race, and they will also pose for photographs and sign autographs throughout the night.
Tickets for Thursday Thunder are just $5 for adults, $1 for children 6-11, and children under 5 are free. Parking is free. Spectator gates open at 6 p.m. with preliminary action beginning immediately. Feature racing begins at 7 p.m. and concludes by 10 p.m. For more information about Thursday Thunder, call (770) 946-4211 or visit www.atlantamotorspeedway.com.