Photo by Derrick Mahone
Luke Behnke (right), who won Thursday Thunder’s Semi-Pro division race on Thursday, chats with William Byron after the practice race this week.
HAMPTON — Luke Behnke certainly made the most of what might be his only race at Thursday Thunder this season.
The Fayetteville native was a substitute driver for Hub Talbot on Thursday in the Semi-Pro division. On the second lap of the featured race, the 20-year-old passed leader Taylor Jorgensen at the Atlanta Motor Speedway track to coast to the win.
Behnke, the 2011 Semi-Pro division winner, is not racing full-time this season after getting an internship with Joe Gibbs Racing near Charlotte, N.C., this summer.
This was his first race at AMS since finishing in the top five at the INEX Legends Asphalt Nationals eight months ago.
“I was just thrilled with the opportunity to race again at AMS, but to win the race, I couldn’t have asked for anything better,” Behnke said.
Last season, he finished fifth in his only race during Thursday Thunder in the final week of the 10-week grassroots racing series. This was his first win at AMS since Week 8 during the 2011 season, which sawh hime capture the Semi-Pro division by one-point over William Plemons III.
“We reskilled the car, and it was like a rocket ship out there,” Behnke said. “I went out there, and wanted to be smart with my driving. Although I haven’t been out there in a while, it is sort of like riding a bike, you never forget how to do it. I just had to shake the rust off. I was a little surprised at how fast the car was.”
While Behnke knows his way to victory lane at AMS, Christopher Lilly of Virginia won for the first time at the track in the Legends Checked Flag Challenge. Tristian Meredith won in the Beginner Bandits series.
Two Henry County residents — Jensen Jorgensen and Conner Youginer — each won their respective races. Jorgensen won in the Outlaws division after taking the lead on the first lap.
Younginer was involved in one of the most exciting finishes on the night when he fought his way to the frong and took the lead on the last lap for the victory in the Bandolero Checkered Flag Challenge. It was his first Thursday Thunder win since joining the series in 2011.
His previous best was a third place finish last season.
William Plemons III is the only driver to win every race he has started this season. He won the two-car Pro division race with the win over Madeline Crane.
Because of the small field, the Pro and Masters races are combined. Skip Nichols of Albany won the Masters race with Tina Johnson placing second, and Ed Clark taking third.
RACE RESULTS FROM THURSDAY
- Hub Talbot (Smyrna) 2. Riley Thornton (Peachtree City) 3. Taylor Jorgensen (Stockbridge) 4. Jeff Holden (Gainesville) 5. Brett Hardin (Acworth) 6. Trevin Aswarnauth (Loganville) 7. Aaron Bailey (Burlingame) 8. Amber Fleeman (Dacula)
- Joseph Pilato (Birmingham) 2. Zachary Ayers (Marietta) 3. Osmer Ronnie 4. Dawson Gay 5. Jake Farm
- Jensen Jorgensen (Stockbridge) 2. Chase Purdy (Gallion) 3. Joshua Hicks (Senoia) 4. Ashton Winger (Fayetteville) 5. Alton Clark (Newnan) 6. Christopher Clanton (Brooks) 7. Eli Bailey (Johns Creek) 8. Miranda Meredith (Locust Grove)
- William Plemons III (Smyrna) 2. Madeline Crane (Meansville)
- Skip Nichols (Albany) 2. Tina Johnson (Senoia) 3. Ed Clark (Peachtree City) 4. Bill Plemons Jr. (Locust Grove) 5. Scott Moseley (McDonough) 6. Mike Kennedy (Alpharetta) 7. Phillip Young (Dallas) 8. Mark Swan (Dunwoody) 9. Brian Weimer (Cumming) 10. Martin Snyder (Ackworth)
- Payton Ryan (Jonesville) 2. Tripp Gerrald (Lexington) 3. William Byron (Charlotte) 4. Woodrow Mullis (Hoboken) 5.Connor Pyle (Concord) 6. Christopher Lilly (Grottoes) 7. Blake Gaither (Nashville) 8. Dylan Saul (Charlottesville) 9. Alex Coffey (McDonough)
- Chandler Smith (Talking Rock) 2. Lawson Ingold (Social Circle) 3. Lee Hodges (Lake Park) 4. Zach Leonhardi (Smyrna) 5. Clay Thompson (Powersville) 6. Austin Geer (Johns Creek) 7. Connor Younginer (Stockbridge) 8. Will McConnell (Dallas)
- Tristan Meredith (Locust Grove) 2. Nathan Jackson (McDonough) 3. Ryan Howell (McDonough) 4. Samuel Oliver (The Rock)
Legends Checkered Flag Challenge
- Christopher Lilly (Grottoes) 2. Trevin Aswarnauth (Loganville) 3. Blake Gaither (Nashville) 4. Dyaln Saul (Charlottesville)
Bandolero Checkered Flag Challenge
- Conner Younginer (Stockbridge) 2. Lawson Ingold (Social Circle) 3. Clay Thompson (Powersville) 4. Will McConnell (Dallas) 5. Lee Hodges (Lake Park)