By Derrick Mahone
Alex Coffey had been on a hot streak during this season's Thursday Thunder at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The McDonough-native has opened the season with the first two wins in the Bandit division.
Thursday, he received his stiffest competition from an influx of racers from across the country. Coffey, 12, wasn't able to pull into victory lane Thursday for a third straight week, but his second place finish was met with smiles from his family members as he pulled into the garage.
"We are very pleased," said father, Doug Coffey, as he began working on the car. "For us, this is almost like a Thursday win. I wish we had got up front, but he raced well against some great competitors. This tells me we are in good shape to be able to beat a lot of Charlotte cars. It is hard to beat the No. 18 car."
Coffey finished second to St. Louis native Clayton Weatherman, who raced in the No. 18 car. It was Weatherman's fifth victory at AMS since 2008. Last year, he spilt time between Charlotte and Atlanta, but his dad, Daryn Weatherman, said that became a bit much for this season.
He primarily races in Charlotte during the summer.
"I was able to hold Alex off," Clayton Weatherman said. "It was a lot of fun out there. This is Alex's home track, so I knew he would give it a run. I just had to remember that I won the championship last year. I was pretty confident."
Last season, Clayton finished second in the Bandits division to his older brother, Kyle, in the points standing at AMS. This season, Kyle is racing in the Young Lions division.
National points leader Garrett Biggers started second on the pole to Weatherman, put wrecked on the 14th lap and had to be towed to the garage with front-end damage.
Biggers, 10, collided with Coffey, who had pulled himself from a mandatory No. 8 start to third. Coffey said Biggers attempted to pinch him in the grass and he held his position.
"I was just trying to get by him," Coffey said.
Biggers had a different take.
"He tried to take me out," Biggers said. "I'm disappointed because I thought I could win. The car is pretty damaged."
This was the second time that Biggers and Weatherman had met on the track with them splitting the wins.
"I'm not sure if I could have got him," Biggers said. "I think it could have been a great race."
Daryn Weatherman said it could have been a more exciting race if all three started in the top position. Because Coffey was the points leader at AMS, he had to start in the No. 8 spot. He went from eighth to fifth to third and eventually second with in the first few laps of the race.
The elder Weatherman said Coffey probably used a lot of energy pulling himself from the middle of the pack.
"Alex was at a disadvantage at the beginning, which was bad," Weatherman said. "He did a great job to get back in the race. It would have been a heck of a race if all three were up front."