By Anthony Rhoads
With 22 victories and four points championships, no Thursday Thunder driver has been as successful as Doug Stevens.
As Thursday Thunder opened its seventh season Thursday night, Stevens returned to the Atlanta Motor Speedway but he wasn't in a racecar.
Several weeks ago, Stevens was involved in a horrendous accident during qualifying for an American Speed Association event at Kentucky Speedway.
Stevens broke several bones and sustained other injuries and was in an intensive care unit for several days after the accident. He recovered enough to get to come home and is currenty undergoing therapy but he still wants to be around the racetrack even if he can't race.
Thursday night, Stevens was back at the speedway to watch the races and talk to other drivers.
He also was greeted with a huge get-well sign that was signed by many Thursday Thunder drivers.
"It's been great; you really don't know how many friends you've got until something happens to you," Stevens said. "I'm really surprised at all the calls I've got."
Doctors have projected that he should be able to walk in about three weeks but he wants to do more than walk he's itching to get back into a racecar.
"I want to get back as soon as I can walk," Stevens said.
Stevens has had a pretty speedy recovery so far and seems to be on the right track.
"I'm shocked," Pro Division competitor Chris Dilbeck. "I really thought he would still be in bed now. He'll probably be back to race in three weeks."
Stevens would like to get back into racing some ASA races but it will depend on his sponsor, Conkle's Tub Grinding.
"They're paying for everything so it's up to them," he said. "I'm willing but we'll have to see. We'd like to take it one step at a time."
Mark Wallace, a Masters Division competitor with Jasper Engines and Transmissions, sponsored Stevens for several ASA and ARCA races in the past and is just one of many drivers who are hoping the best for him now.
"Everybody loves Doug; he's just had some back luck," Wallace said. "He's got a dark cloud over him now but he'll pull out of it; he's too talented. He just needs to heal up."
Andy James, who races in the Pro Division and works for Stevens at ATM, said the drivers are like family and pull together. The support Stevens has gotten from other competitors just illustrates the camaraderie they share.
"We all help each other in the garages," James said. "When the green flag drops, it's every man for himself but in the pits, it's like family."