By Anthony Rhoads
Chris Dilbeck has come close to winning a points championship at Atlanta Motor Speedway's Thursday Thunder summer racing series.
In 2001, he finished second in the final Young Lions Division standings and in 2002, he placed third in the Semi-Pro Division.
Last year, he moved up to the Pro Division, finishing 18 points behind his friend and mentor Doug Stevens for the season championship.
Starting Thursday, Dilbeck will embark on his fifth season at Thursday Thunder and this could be the year the Hampton resident will finally win a title at his home track.
"I can't wait," Dilbeck said. "I feel like we've got a good chance to win it this year."
Even though a points championship at Atlanta has been elusive for the 18-year old, he has won several titles elsewhere including last year's Pro Division championship at Lanier National Speedway.
In 1999, he won the Bandolero Georgia Dirt Track championship and from 2001-03, he won three straight state titles including the 2001 Young Guns championship, the 2002 Semi-Pro championship and the 2003 Pro championship.
Dilbeck has been racing at Lanier this season but won't run a full schedule there.
Two weeks ago at Lanier, his engine blew up and caught on fire during a race. Dilbeck escaped unscathed.
"It was nasty," he said. "I was out of there before it stopped rolling."
Dilbeck plans to run a full Thursday Thunder schedule this season and also plans to race in the Summer Shootout series in Charlotte.
Dilbeck's involvement in racing goes beyond being behind the wheel. He's been a volunteer for Atlanta Motor Speedway's public relations department for several years and he's spent a considerable amount of time at Stevens' Advanced Technology Motorsports as well.
It's all a part of Dilbeck's master plan where he wants to learn as much as he can about the racing business. Someday, he wants to move up to NASCAR like other Thursday Thunder racers like Reed Sorenson and Joey Clanton.
"I hope in a year or two, I'll be right there with them," Dilbeck said.
Even though he's definitely focused on racing, he's concentrating on his education as well. He plans to go to West Georgia for two years and transfer to Georgia Tech.