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Young drivers make for tough division competition

Photo by Derrick Mahone
Evan Bell prepares to leave victory lane on Thursday after winning his Young Lions division race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The Buford native entered the race as the overall points leader in the division.

Photo by Derrick Mahone Evan Bell prepares to leave victory lane on Thursday after winning his Young Lions division race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The Buford native entered the race as the overall points leader in the division.

If you ask any of the drivers in the Young Lions division of Thursday Thunder, they will without hesitation let you know that they have the “most competitive” division of the summer racing series.

“It is real competitive,” said Evan Bell, who took the checkered flag in the first featured race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Thursday.

It was the second straight week that the Buford native has pulled into victory lane after winning the featured race.

“There are so many good drivers in this division,” said Riley Thornton, who won the first week’s division race. “You can’t really make any mistakes out there because the competition will take advantage of it. The other drivers jump on your mistakes real quick.”

Joey Padgett, who is in his first year in the Young Lions division, has been racing at both AMS and the Charlotte Motor Speedway this summer. He says there is not that much difference between the competition at the two tracks.

The Florida native says that Charlotte might have more drivers, but the competition is just as stiff.

On Tuesday, he came from the 27th spot to finish eighth overall in Charlotte. At AMS on Thursday, he placed third overall.

“I’ve been right there at both tracks, but I haven’t been able to close the deal,” Padgett said. “As far as competition, it is the same here as in Charlotte. There might be more cars on the track in Charlotte, but the competition is the same.”

Last season, Mason Massey won the Young Lions division, but the Douglasville native is now in the Pro division.

Bell entered Thursday’s double featured races as the division’s points leader. He was followed by Thornton and Padgett. Madeline Crane of Pike County was fourth in the division after placing second last season in the Outlaws division.

“This division just comes downs to racing,” Crane said. “I’ve never been as stressed about racing. I’ve been able to pick up the racing pretty fast, and I feel as if I’m getting better with each race.”

Alex Coffey of McDonough is in his second season of racing Legend cars in the Young Lions division. He looked as if he was going to pickup his first win after leading going into lap eight.

However, a caution on the ninth lap put him back to third. He would eventually wreck his car on turn four.

It was the first time this season that he was driving his white Legends car. For the second featured race, he was going to use his red car.

Coffey’s father, Doug, said that an infusion of new racers in the division has made it very competitive. The Younger Coffey entered the night seventh in the points standings.

“There are a lot of kids that have gotten fast real quick,” Doug Coffey said. “We are hoping to get through a night without a lot of wrecks. It basically comes down to dollars in this division. We are being out-spent 20-to-1, but we are going to run what we got. This is definitely a tough and very competitive division.”