By Doug Gorman
It's been 12 years since the green flag first dropped on the Thursday Thunder summer racing series at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Now, the 12-week racing series has become a Southern Crescent tradition die-hard racing fans can't do without.
Add to it the third year of Friday Night Drag racing and the fact the fall Atlanta NASCAR race has been moved under the lights to Sunday night before Labor Day, and AMS is the place to be the next few months.
"It's going to be the busiest summer at AMS ever," said track president and general manager Ed Clark. "It's hard to believe its been 12 years since we first started Thursday Thunder."
The racing series that offers competition in the Legends, Bandoleros and Roadster division was a springboard to NASCAR for current Sprint Cup drivers David Ragan, Joey Logano and Reed Sorenson.
All three were once champions in Bandolero and Legends cars at AMS before jumping into the "major leagues" of auto racing.
But you don't have to be a future driver on Sprint Cup Circuit to have fun driving the Thursday Thunder series.
"There is something for everybody who just wants to get involved in racing," said Dunwoody resident Mark Swann, who moves up from the Chargers Division to Semi-Pro this year.
"I am sure it's going to be exciting and competitive," he said.
Then there are some Thursday Thunder drivers who have a vision of competing at Atlanta Motor Speedway in a NASCAR race someday.
Just ask 15-year-old Texas native Bryce Walker, who has already hooked up with an agent and moved to Charlotte to concentrate on his racing career.
"I know about the guys who came through here and now race in NACAR," he said. "I get a lot of inspiration from them."
Going to Thursday Thunder is an easy, economical way to for a family to get their racing fix.
Adult tickets to Thursday Thunder are just $5. Tickets for children ages 6-to-11 are just $1 and anybody under 5 gets in for free.
"This is a great deal for families to come out and watch some great racing," said AMS vice president of events Brandon Hutchinson. "We are excited about everything that is happening at the track."
Each night at Thursday Thunder there will be some exciting activities going on off the track too, including autograph sessions, fireworks and games for the kids.
The green flag drops on this year's event starting June 4.
In addition to the Thursday Thunder series, Friday Night Drags is back for its third year.
At the Friday Night Drags, anybody can race just about anything down the one-eighth mile drag strip, including in a motorcycle division.
Spectators can get into the drag racing for $7, with children under five admitted for free. The cost to enter the drag racing series is $20 for the Show and Shine and $30 to race and show the car.
Friday Night Drags gets underway this week with a non-points $20 ride along night. After taking next week off, the points competition will begin on June 5. The series goes until Sept. 11.
The biggest event at AMS this summer will be Sprint Cup racing under the lights starting as the Pep Boys 500 takes place Sunday, Sept. 6.
There will be a full weekend of racing over the Labor Day holiday, including the Degree V12 Nationwide Series race on Saturday and Pep Boys 500 qualifying on Saturday night.
For information on all events at AMS checked the track's website at atlantamotorspeedway.com.