Insurance salesman turned driver ready to take a risk

By Anthony Rhoads

During the workweek, Wade Brewer sells insurance at his State Farm office right across from Atlanta Motor Speedway but once a week, he gives in to his wild side.

Brewer, 40, is competing in his first season of Thursday Thunder, the summer racing series at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

"It's the risky side of me coming out, I guess," he said.

Like many Thursday Thunder competitors, he first became interested in the series as a fan.

"Just because I was so close, I started coming out on Thursday night and I thought it would be interesting to start racing," he said. "I had a friend (Semi-Pro racer Jay Cloud) who said ?let's get a car and we'll go in racing at the same time.' I also did the Richard Petty Driving Experience and that peaked my interest in Legends."

Brewer competes in the Masters Division, which is for drivers 40 or older. Even though it's a competitive division with guys like Skip Nichols, Dwight Pilgram and Mark Wallace, there's still a lot of camaraderie among the drivers.

"They're a good group of drivers but they show respect for each other and there's not as much rough driving because they don't want to tear up each other's cars," he said.

Like many other drivers in the Masters Division, Thursday Thunder is giving Brewer a chance to get behind-the-wheel of a race car and have a little bit of fun in the process.

"This is as close as I'll get to NASCAR," he said.

Brewer is a long-time racing fan and has attended races at Atlanta Motor Speedway ever since starting his insurance business in Hampton nine years ago.

"I never miss one," Brewer said. "I can't remember the last time I missed a race."

Brewer was a Bill Elliott fan but is now a solid supporter of Kasey Kahne, the rookie who now drives the No. 9 NASCAR Nextel Cup car.

Not racing but having a good season anyway: Doug Stevens, who is out because of serious injuries he sustained in an American Speed Association accident several weeks ago, isn't racing in Thursday Thunder but he's enjoying a successful season.

Many of the drivers who have been in victory lane this season are driving cars that have been worked on Stevens' shop, Advanced Technology Motorsports.

Some of those drivers include Chris Dilbeck (who's won four races in a row in the Pro Division), Mark Wallace in the Masters Division, Chris Gable and Todd Gulledge in Chargers.

Even though Stevens misses being out on the track, he enjoys seeing those guys do well.

"I've gotten to know a lot of people and have helped some of these guys out," Stevens said. "My shop is having a good season so far. ATM cars won all four races in the first week and went three-for-four last week."

Stevens might be able to come back and race in the final week of the season.

"Chris will win nine races this year and I'll win the last one," Stevens said.