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Drivers prepare for Thursday Thunder title races

Scott Moseley, left, and Bill Plemons Jr. are currently in the chase for the Masters division championship at Thursday Thunder. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

Scott Moseley, left, and Bill Plemons Jr. are currently in the chase for the Masters division championship at Thursday Thunder. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

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Skip Nichols is currently in first place in the Masters division at Thursday Thunder. He is hoping to close out his career with his eighth division championship. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

HAMPTON — It has come down to one race for many drivers.

This Thursday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, drivers will decide several division titles at Thursday Thunder.

One of the most hotly contested championships will unfold in the Masters division. Four drivers have a shot at the title to unseed defending champion Skip Nichols of Albany.

Nichols is currently in first place heading to the 7:30 p.m. feature races with 870 points while McDonough native Scott Moseley is five points behind in second place with 865 points. In nine starts this season, Nichols has won four races while Moseley has two wins.

Bill Plemons Jr. of Locust Grove is in third place with two wins while Tina Johnson picked up her first win of the season and sits in fourth place.

Last year, Nichols edged Johnson in the final race to pick up his eighth Masters division title. The legendary Nichols is currently the all-time winningest driver in Thursday Thunder history with 53 wins.

In a caution filled feature race last week, Johnson, a Senoia resident, earned her first victory of the season. Johnson started from the second position but was able to drive past Tony Armbruster of Covington in turn one on the first lap and ride to the win. Armbruster faded to the back of the field as Mosele, Plemons and Nichols moved up behind the leader. Johnson was able to hold off the hard charging trio over the closing laps for the win.

“That was awesome,” said Johnson when asked about earning her first feature win of the season.

Thursday’s race will also mark an end of an era in the “Thunder Ring” as Nichols will drive in his final race.

Nichols had originally planned to retire following last season, but continued racing to serve as a mentor for his grandson, Wilder Etheridge. Nichols serves as the crew chief for the first-year Bandolero driver.

Last week, Etheridge earned his first feature win of his career in the beginner Bandolero feature. Blaise Maddox finished second as he challenged Etheredge for the lead throughout the race.

Although Chandler Smith’s bid to set a new Thursday Thunder record for most consecutive wins in a season slipped away on lap 11 of the Bandits feature race last week. He is hoping to get a win to clinch his third straight division title.

Earlier this season, Smith won the Bandits division Bandolero Nationals at the track.

Smith was tied with former Thursday Thunder competitor and current NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Joey Logano for most consecutive feature race wins at Thursday Thunder in one season at eight. He was at the front of the field and on pace to set a new record at nine before Smith encountered trouble just past the halfway mark of the race.

Wilder Etheredge of Albany earned his first feature win of his career in the beginner Bandolero feature. Blaise Maddox finished second as he challenged Etheredge for the lead throughout the race.

In the Outlaws division, McDonough native Jensen Jorgensen will be trying to hold off Alabama native Chase Purdy for the title. Jorgensen won the Outlaws division at the Bandolero Nationals for the second straight season.

He was runner-up at Atlanta Motor Speedway’s Winter Flurry series and finished fourth in last season’s Thursday Thunder races. Defending champion Ashton Winger stopped racing at Thursday Thunder after the Bandolero Nationals to concentrate fulltime at competing at the Summer Shootout at the Charlotte Motor Speeday.