Photo by Derrick Mahone
Driver Skip Nichols (right) talks with his grandson, Wilder, during the autograph session Thursday at Atlanta Motor Speedway during the Thursday Thunder racing series. Nichols would go on to pickup his 30th career win with a victory in the Masters race.
By Derrick Mahone
Skip Nichols found himself in a familiar spot at the opening night of Thursday Thunder - in victory lane.
The Albany native won the Masters division at Atlanta Motor Speedway for his 30th career win on the summer racing series.
"All and all I thought I ran a good race," Nichols said.
He started at No. 3 on the pole, but was able to take the lead on the second lap when pole leader William Plemmons spun out. From there, Nichols would lead the rest of the race.
"I got up under him," Nichols said. "It wasn't done intentionally. He tried to chop me off, but that is sort of Bill's style of racing."
Last year, Nichols didn't get his first win until Week 2 of the season. He would go on to win three more times in the Masters division to finish first in the points standings for the first time since 2006.
"You always have confidence when you come into the race," he said. "I'm just out here having fun. For me, this is definitely a family affair. As long as the family is having fun, I'm happy."
Nichols hasn't pinpointed when he will retire from racing, but says he is eagerly awaiting his six-year-old grandson, Wilder, to start racing.
He is known around the garage at AMS as the "youngest crew chief" at Thursday Thunder. Next year, he will begin practicing before he moves into racing the following year.
"He is excited, and I'm excited about him getting into it," Nichols said. "I've always enjoyed watching my kids and grandkids get involved in their sports."
In 1975, Nichols turned down a chance to race in the grand national circuit so he could spend more time with his kids.
And there are not regrets.
"You some times wonder how competitive you could have been, but my family is important," Nichols said. "Back in the 60s and 70s, families weren't as involved with the racing."
Now, Nichols makes the weekly trek from Albany with his wife, Lavon, and their two adult children, Chris and Trena, alone with Wilder.
"Skip is sort of an ambassador for this racing," said AMS president Ed Clark, who also competes against Nichols in the Masters and Roadsters division. "He is a genuine good guy. Anytime you can beat a guy like Skip, you know you have done something."
The masters race, which was the first of the evening, also marked the return of Tina Johnson. Last season, she totalled her car in a wreck in Week 4 of the season.
Johnson finished third on Thursday.
"Actually the car was pretty tight," Johnson said. "We make some adjustments, but not enough. I had a lot of fun out there."
This is her first season in the pro division. Last year, she he best finish in the Pro division was seventh during week two before a season-ending crash the following week. She had a third plae finish during week seven of the Roadsters division.
"I'm looking forward to racing this year," Johnson said.