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MAHONE: Getting hooked on Thursday Thunder racing

File Photo

Fans react to the action on the track at the last season's Thursday Thunder racing series at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Several fans are expected to be in attendance this season as the racing gets started today.

File Photo Fans react to the action on the track at the last season's Thursday Thunder racing series at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Several fans are expected to be in attendance this season as the racing gets started today.

OK, I will admit it.

I've never been a big NASCAR fan. With 24 years of experience in sports journalism, I would occasionally look and see who won some of the bigger races on the circuit.

There was a time when I worked at other publications I would engage in conversation with the NASCAR beat writer. He also had fascinating stories to tell about the drivers and life covering the racing circuit.

But as far as sitting in front of a TV on race Sunday and watching - never.

My first experience with racing came as a intern in Memphis during the summer. I was assigned to cover some of the semi-pro events at a local track.

I will admit, it was fun and there were endless stories to tell.

After all, telling people's life story is what attracted me to journalism many years ago.

Fast forward some 20 years, and I'm back at the tracks. Each week this summer, I'll be out at Atlanta Motor Speedway helping cover Thursday Thunder.

And I will admit, it is fun. One of the most memorable times at AMS last summer was during a race storm during practice rounds. A group of us huddled in the back of a trailer as racers and their fathers swapped stories about how they got into the sport.

There was no racing on that evening, but the stories were entertaining.

Not only do the drivers and their families have interesting stories, but watching those cars race around the quarter-mile Thunder Ring is entertaining. Competitors race in eight divisions ranging from age eight and above.

Some are chasing their NASCAR dreams. Several Thursday Thunder alumni have gone on to compete on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series including Joey Logano.

Racers making the weekly trek from across the state and bordering states to compete.

One of the most amazing parts of Thursday Thunder is the competition between the youngsters in the Bandolero division. It's refreshing to see them fiercely competed on the track one minute, and the next hanging out together in the garage area.

Usually what happens on the track stays on the track.

Thursday Thunder is a family affair for many of the racers as family and close friends gather in the garage area and seating along the track.

While auto racing was never one of my favorite sports, Thursday Thunder has renewed an interest.

Derrick Mahone covers sports for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached at dmahone@news-daily.com.