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LAST RIDE

Skip Nichols goes out with win at Thursday Thunder

Skip Nichols, left, celebrates his seventh Masters division points championship at Thursday Thunder with daughter, Trena Etheredge, and follow competitor Bill Plemons Jr. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

Skip Nichols, left, celebrates his seventh Masters division points championship at Thursday Thunder with daughter, Trena Etheredge, and follow competitor Bill Plemons Jr. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

HAMPTON - It was a very emotional day for Trena Etheredge as she made the two and half hour trek from Albany to Atlanta Motor Speedway.

It would be the last time that her father, Skip Nichols, would load his No. 9 Legends car onto the trailer to compete in the points standings at Thursday Thunder, a 10-week grassroots racing series.

Nichols was retiring from full-time racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway to help his grandson, Wilder Etheredge, Trena’s son launch his racing career.

Before he called it a career, Nichols had some business to attend to in quarter-mile “Thunder Ring” on a rainy Thursday evening.

A win would give Nichols his seventh Masters division points championship, and end his career on a high note. Nichols started on the pole in the featured race, and would battle McDonough’s Scott Moseley the entire race.

Nichols would lead all but one lap to take the checkered flag.

Moseley finished second with Tina Johnson taking third.

“It was a great way to end it,” Nichols said. “I don’t think that I could have asked for a better ending.”

And neither could Trena Etheredge.

“I’ve been crying all day,” Etheredge said. “It is sort of bitter-sweet for us. It is going to be something not seeing daddy load that car on the trailer. For 42 years, this has been my life.”

Now that life will have to shift to Wilder, who is also a standout baseball and basketball player. On Thursday, the younger Etheredge finished runner-up in the Beginning Bandolero division. Two weeks ago, he picked up his first racing career win.

Only 53 more to go to catch “G-Daddy”, the name that Wilder calls Nichols, his full-time crew chief and granddaddy.

“Yeah, we are going to see how far Wilder is going to go with this,” Nichols said. “We know at some point he will have to make the choice between racing, basketball and baseball. Whatever that decision, we are going to support him 100 percent.”

While he will not race full-time for a points championship, Nichols said he will be open to substituting for other drivers on occasion.

Moseley said he would have liked to gotten his first career division title, but was pleased to have challenged Nichols throughout the race.

“We had a lot of fun out there, and I felt like I give it my all,” Moseley said. “It was fun running with Skip.”

With his second place finish in the division, Moseley said he is looking forward to next season.

“Yep, especially since Skip won’t be around,” he joked. “Seriously, we are going to miss him. You always want someone to race.”

Johnson, who finished runner-up to Nichols last season for the division title, took third in the race and third overall in the division.

“I’m a little disappointed because I thought I would do better,” Johnson said. “Skip is always tough. I’ve enjoyed the competition we have had through the years.”