Christopher Clanton prepares to make his debut in his Legends car at Atlanta Motor Speedway’s Thursday Thunder. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
HAMPTON — As the daylight started to give way to the evening at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Thursday, a new chapter in Christopher Clanton’s racing career started.
The 16-year-old rising junior at Trinity Christian in Newnan made his debut in a Legends car in the Young Lions division at Thursday Thunder.
He started second in the five-car race, but ended up in the fifth position as Woodrow Mullis took the checkered flag.
But Clanton was hardly disappointed in his performance.
“I thought I did pretty good,” Clanton said. “The expectations were pretty high, but my dad said we were looking to race and get some experience in the car. I’m proud of my results.”
The main objective for Clanton and his father, Joey, was to get experience and be able to put the car back in the trailer in one piece.
Mission accomplished on that front.
It is not to say that the Clantons don’t like competing, but both father and son realize that it is a big jump from driving a Bandolero to making the adjustment to a much bigger and faster Legends car.
And Joey, a former NASCAR driver, was pleased with his son’s first race.
“I was definitely surprised,” Joey said. “He got to see what it is like first hand. He has some things to learn, but he has the ability to run with these guys. We will spend all year testing it, and I know he will get better. The main thing was to come out in one piece so we can get back on the track, and we can coach him while he is driving.”
Coming from a racing family, Christopher says he does recognize that there is some pressure. But he says his father has been very supportive, and allows him to make the decision to race.
In addition to racing, the younger Clanton is also a baseball player.
He said he will continue both through high school, and then make a decision on which sport to pursue.
“We are going to keep this car through high school,” Christopher said. “I’m going to see how much I progress over the next couple of years.”
The stipulation that he has on racing or baseball from his father is that he must go to college. Like his father, Christopher wants to pursue an engineering degree from Georgia Tech.
“I let him know that education is important, and that he will not race without going to school,” Joey said.
Prior to moving to the Legends car, Clanton competed in 35 Bandolero races at Thursday Thunder, winning once and getting three runner-up finishes. His first win came in the final race of the 2013 season as he finished sixth overall in the Outlaws division.
Now, he must learn the skills of driving a Legends car.
He and has father saw a lot of patience and maturity in the first race. After falling behind, Christopher said he had the choice to either force the action or take a more conservative approach.
With it being his first race, he chose the latter, and his father said that was the right decision.
“There will be more races for him,” Joey said. “I thought he showed a lot of maturity in staying back and racing his own race. Made the laps, and I think he will learn how to compete as he gets better.”