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MAHONE: Skip Nichols looks to hold off competition at Thursday Thunder

Derrick Mahone

Derrick Mahone

HAMPTON — It is like a Game 7 in the NBA playoffs or World Series.

The final race at Atlanta Motor Speedway’s Thursday Thunder will decide the championship in many divisions. It is now or never for many of the drivers that will take to the quarter-mile “Thunder Ring” on Thursday.

And the biggest race will come for the most experienced drivers in the Masters division. Defending champion Skip Nichols of Albany will be trying to hold off McDonough’s Scott Moseley and Bill Plemons Jr. of Locust Grove.

It should go down as one of the most exciting finishes in Thursday Thunder history because of the new format that has been used this season. Each week, the drivers have given the fans in the grandstands their money’s worth as no less than three caution flags have accompanied each race in the division.

These experienced drivers know how to push it to the limits.

Nichols, Moseley and Plemons have all won at least twice on the grassroots racing circuit this season. Add Tina Johnson into the championship race contention, and Thursday should be a slugfest.

And yes, Nichols has some added motivation once he gets strapped into his car. This is likely the final race for the Thursday Thunder all-time winningest driver. What better way for him to end a championship career than to take the checkered flag?

But believe me, Moseley, Plemons and Johnson will not let it be easy on Nichols, who has 53 wins and seven division championships on his resume.

Nichols is hanging up his racing career to help guide his grandson, Wilder Etheredge, in his racing pursuits.

Etheredge is participating in the Beginning Bandolero division this year. He won his first race last week, and Nichols is hoping there are plenty more trips to victory lane in his only grandson’s future.

It can be pretty taxing preparing for a race, and then trying to help someone else. Nichols did it this season because Etheredge asked his “G-daddy,” as he calls him, to race with him this year.

Between the two, they have five wins. Nichols has four of them.

This will not be the first time that Nichols has put his racing career on hold for family obligations. Earlier in his career, Nichols made the choice to become a “family man” instead of pursuing a professional racing career.

Nichols says he has no regrets about it.

Another championship race to keep your eyes on is in the Outlaws division.

Jensen Jorgensen, who has been one of the hottest younger drivers this season will try to hold off Chase Purdy for the championship.

Jorgensen, a McDonough native, has won at both Atlanta Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway this summer. Last month, he won the Bandolero Nationals for the second straight season.

If he can add the Outlaws division title, it would make for a successful summer.

There is no doubt that Atlanta Motor Speedway will be abuzz as championships will be crowned.

Derrick Mahone is the sports editor of the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at dmahone@news-daily.com. On Twitter? @DerrickMahone_