By Doug Gorman
Earlier this week when my colleague Anthony Rhoads was cleaning out some old files here in the sports department, he came across an old photo of Reed Sorenson.
The picture captures Sorenson in victory lane after winning a Legends race during Thursday Thunder, the summer racing series at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Sorenson couldn't have been more than 12-years -old when the photo was taken, but it wasn't the last time he would return to Victory Lane at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The Peachtree City resident dominated the series, winning points championships in the Young Lions, Semi-Pro and Pro Divisions at Thursday Thunder.
I have watched Sorenson since 1998 when he won eight of 10 Thursday Thunder Races in the Young Lions Division. I knew very little about racing back then, but something told me this young man was a rising star.
Sure, he had the shyness of a 12-year old, but when he got out on the track, his natural-born racing instincts took over, and most races became a battle for second place because it was pretty much a given he was going to win.
Early on, it became obvious racing wasn't just a passing phase or a hobby for the Woodward Academy student.
In addition to his Thursday night success, Sorenson won points titles in the Legends series at Lowe's Motor Speedway in North Carolina, and elsewhere.
Sorenson's last race in his Thursday Thunder Legends' machine was in 2002, but life hasn't slowed down for the local racer. Sorenson was the 2003 Rookie of the Year on the American Speed Association series, and is now racing with some of the sport's "big guns" as a full-time driver on the Busch Series, after actually making his Busch debut last year.
In 2004, team owner Chip Ganassi signed the young driver to a developmental racing deal. He is already starting to look like a genius for that decision.
Just last week Sorenson rewarded his boss with a Busch series victory in the Pepsi 300.
But Sorenson didn't just win the race, he dominated, cruising to the checkered flag by a huge 14.4-second margin after starting the race on the pole.
I am not surprised Sorenson won the race, but I wasn't so sure his first victory would come in just the 11th race of his Busch career.
I actually thought there would be growing pains, but Sorenson is mature beyond his years. The Busch rookie showed his ability to bounce back after a disapponting trip home to Atlanta just a week ago when he failed to qualify his own car for the Busch event.
Although he ran the race, he did so in a borrowed car from Sterling Marlin, finishing 19th.
Coming back a week later and winning the race from the pole position shows the potential greatness of this young driver.
His victory last week pushed Sorenson to second in the Busch Series points standings.
With Bill Elliott winding down his racing career, it's nice to see that there is another Georgia driver to cheer for. Like Elliott, I expect Sorenston will be making many trips to victory lane and winning some points championships along the way.
Doug Gorman is the sports editor of the Daily. His column runs Fridays. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org