Local guys moving up in NASCAR

By Anthony Rhoads

I first started covering Thursday Thunder, Atlanta Motor Speedway's summer racing series, in 2000.

Two of the guys I got to know during that summer were Reed Sorenson and David Ragan.

Ragan, who was 14 at the time, was competing in the Semi-Pro Division and went on to win four races on his way to capturing the points championship.

Sorenson, who was also 14, was racing with the big boys in the Pro Division.

He more than held his own, winning one race and finished second in the points championship standings to Doug Stevens.

That summer, it was evident these two kids were talented in racing and who knew how far they would go?

Fast forward to 2004.

This past Saturday at Homestead-Miami, Sorenson and Ragan were both competing in the NASCAR Busch Ford 300.

Sorenson, who is racing for Chip Ganassi Racing, finished fourth after placing ninth two weeks ago in the Busch race in Martinsville.

It's been a magical season for Sorenson, who just graduated from Woodward Academy this past spring.

This year, he's won in the ARCA and ASA series and got to compete in a few Busch races.

Ragan, a former Eagle's Landing High School student, hasn't been as spectacular as Sorenson this year but he's getting some laps in and gaining invaluable experience. He raced in 10 NASCAR Craftsman Truck races for Fiddleback Racing and got to make his Busch Series debut in Miami.

"It's neat to see our boys out there," Atlanta Motor Speedway president and general Ed Clark. "They're both talented drivers but more importantly, they're growing up into fine young men."

Giving credit to Rex White: When I was watching the end to the Nextel Cup race Sunday and saw Kurt Busch capture the points championship, I couldn't help but wonder if he knew about and had appreciation for the guys who had been there before him.

The drivers are getting younger and younger and that's good because like any other sport, NASCAR has to have new blood coming in to thrive but I just hope these young guys know that they wouldn't be there if it hadn't been for guys like Rex White.

White was the 1960 NASCAR Grand National Champion and the 1961 runner-up. From 1959-63, it was hard to find a better driver than White.

In those five years nobody won more races than White and by the time his career ended in 1964, he had finished in the top five in nearly half his races and in the top 10 in nearly 70 percent of his races.

In the nine years White competed in NASCAR he made about $200,000. That seems like a pretty good chunk of change but it's just a drop in the bucket compared to what guys now make. Now a guy can finish last and make more than what White made in his entire career.

This month, White's biography Gold Thunder has been released and hopefully, it will help more people become aware of what he accomplished and the contributions he made to NASCAR. With so many younger drivers coming along now, maybe NASCAR should make it mandatory reading for all the new drivers.

Anthony Rhoads is a sports writer for the Daily and his column appears on Wednesdays. He can be reached at arhoads@news-daily.com .