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Summer series a stepping stone for some drivers

By Anthony Rhoads

Atlanta Motor Speedway's Thursday Thunder summer racing series has turned into quite a proving ground for drivers who want to move up in the racing world. Reed Sorenson is the most famous Thursday Thunder alumnus as he is currently third in the NASCAR Busch Series standings. Sorenson raced at Thursday Thunder from 1998-2002, winning 22 races and three points championships.

He went on to race in the American Speed Association and won that series' rookie of the year award in 2003. He was signed by Chip Ganassi Racing and competed in a full ASA slate with a few ARCA and Busch Series events thrown in last year.

David Ragan, a former Eagle's Landing High School student, is another former Thursday Thunder driver who is trying to make it in racing. Ragan has raced in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and Busch Series and the ARCA series. Ragan, the son of former NASCAR and ARCA driver Ken Ragan, notched his first ARCA victory this past weekend at Lanier National Speedway. Ragan is currently fifth in the ARCA season standings.

"I'm proud of them," 2004 Thursday Thunder Pro Division champion Chris Dilbeck said. "Seeing David and Reed, it's better for us Georgia drivers because it shows this is some stout competition down here."

Ragan and Sorenson are inspiring the next generation of young drivers like Trey Maughan and Chris Cable.

"It definitely gives you hope," 2004 Thursday Thunder Outlaws Champion Trey Maughan said. "It's nice to know people can come out of here and make it. It's cool."

"All I want to do it make a living racing one way or another," 2004 Thursday Thunder Semi-Pro Champion Chris Cable said. "I'd really love to get to NASCAR like Reed. I'd love to follow in his footsteps."

Some other former Thursday Thunder drivers who have gone on to national series include Doug Stevens in ARCA, ASA and Hooters Pro Cup; Michelle Theriault in Hooters ProCup, Joey Logano in ASA and Hooters ProCup and Joey Clanton in ASA, NASCAR Busch and Craftsman Truck. Clanton, a Jonesboro native, was the 2002 ASA points champion.

"I think this is great," Skip Nichols said. "This form of racing is a great way for young drivers to learn. This car is harder to drive than any other racecar. If they can drive a Legends car they can drive anything."

Legends of Georgia director Pete Horne said part of the fun of watching Thursday Thunder is you might be seeing some future NASCAR stars in action.

"I think it's great to take hobby racing and move up in NASCAR," Legends of Georgia director Pete Horne said. "It's a lot of fun and you can see some kids who could be the next Reed and that's kind of neat."