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Tina Johnson looking to contend for championship

Last year, Tina Johnson finished runner-up in the Masters division at Thursday Thunder. It was the second time in her career that she finished that high in the standings. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

Last year, Tina Johnson finished runner-up in the Masters division at Thursday Thunder. It was the second time in her career that she finished that high in the standings. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

Thursday Thunder

When, where: Thursday at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton

Time: 5 p.m. gates open

Cost: $6 for adults, $2 for children ages 6 through 11 and is free for children ages 5 and younger.

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After taking most of the winter off to rest and work with a personal trainer, Tina Johnson has her sites set on challenging again this season for the Masters division title. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

HAMPTON — Last year, Tina Johnson went into the Thursday Thunder season hoping to just win a race.

The veteran driver did better than she had anticipated by finishing 11 points from winning her first career division title at the grassroots racing series. Johnson finished second to Thursday Thunder’s all-time winningest driver Skip Nichols in the Masters division.

“I was looking to win a race, and be up front most of the season,” Johnson said. “Finishing second last year really pumped me up, and made me want to work harder this season. We have some of the best drivers in our division.”

Johnson’s second place finish was her best since finishing runner-up in the Outlaws division during the 2002 season, her first year of racing at Thursday Thunder. She won races in Weeks 7 and 8 at Atlanta Motor Speedway and finished runner-up three times, including the season finale last season which secured her runner-up finish.

“This year, I want more wins,” Johnson said. “The Masters division is bigger this season with more drivers. It is going to be exciting.”

When she takes to the track on Thursday, Johnson will be looking to better her fourth-place finish achieved during a special Saturday edition of Thursday Thunder last month.

“I wasn’t as pleased at the way I raced because I made the wrong adjustment during a crucial part of the race,” Johnson said following the first race.”

She said they made some adjustments with the car and will look to be near the front again when the green flag drops this week.

To prepare for this season, Johnson broke from her regular routine, and didn’t participate in the Winter Flurry season at the track. Instead, she enjoyed her down time from racing and worked with a personal trainer.

“I’ve been racing for 13 years, and decided to slow down a bit to take more vacation time,” Johnson said. “I took two and half months off, so now I’m ready. It felt pretty good when I got back into the car. We will make some adjustments, and I think that will help.”