By Brian Paglia
Mike Weed drove into Victory Lane and parked his No. 29 Legends car. He got out and let forth a short, emphatic celebratory shout.
"It feels good to be back here," Weed said.
Weed won his first Thursday Thunder race since 2008 on Thursday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, passing Garrett Smithley on lap four and withstanding a caution on lap 13 to claim his first-ever Semi-Pro win.
"It was pretty cut and dry," Weed said. "It took a few laps to get to the front. When I got to the front, I found I pretty much had the most dominant car out there."
Not that success in the Semi-Pro division had eluded the Franklin-native entirely. It had just eluded him at AMS. Weed has two Semi-Pro wins at Lanier National Speedway and won an offseason race at AMS.
But to claim his first Semi-Pro win in Thursday Thunder was significant for Weed. This was the track he came to when he was six to see his first NASCAR race, where he came when he was eight to witness Thursday Thunder for the first time.
"It's a bigger crowd, more excitement and a harder track to drive. It's one of the hardest races in the Legends
series," Weed said. "To win here and beat all these people, it makes it even better."
Weed raced in the now-defunct Chargers division for a year-and-a-half. Four weeks into the 2008 season, Weed had two wins and a runner-up finish, and he was promptly promoted to Semi-Pro.
"I remember, I was up in the stands and he could go to the back to the front in probably four laps," said Bill Stevenson, a fellow Semi-Pro racer.
But Weed's mid-season transition into Semi-Pro was anything but smooth. In six races, his best finish was 10th place in the eighth week of the season.
But Weed showed marked improvement last season. He finished in the top 5 seven times and finished fifth in the final standings.
This season, Weed opened the season with a fifth-place finish. With an inverted start, Weed began the race in the back and got stuck. Thursday, Weed started third with an inverted start and calmly navigated to the front.
"I feel we're more competitive," Weed said. "We're able to go up to the front and lead a race, lead a lot of laps and win races now since we've gotten better."
Help from a friend
When Amber Colvin showed up last week for the Thursday Thunder opener, she did so not knowing if it would be her only race of the season. Without a significant sponsor, a lack of funds threatened to shut down her season just a few months after winning the 2010 NASCAR Diversity Young Racer Award.
But Colvin was back Thursday night thanks to an unexpected donation from an unlikely source.
After finishing her Semi-Pro race last week, Colvin sat in the stands watching the rest of the night unfold. She glanced at her Blackberry. There was a message.
"It was from this guy who had come to see me race from Maine," Colvin explained. "He had put $2,000 in my PayPal account."
So Colvin was able to race at Charlotte Motor Speedway and AMS. She finished 10th last night after getting sent to the back for making contact with Jordan Coker.
And when she was done, Colvin faced a familiar dilemma. The $2,000 is gone after two races, and Colvin is left to hope that last night's race won't be her last this season.