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JAMES BUTLER: Thursday Thunder, Atlanta Motor Speedway experiences a first for this sports writer

Legends cars coming around turn two during last week's Thursday Thunder action at Atlanta Motor Speedway. (PHOTO: Steve Knight)

Legends cars coming around turn two during last week’s Thursday Thunder action at Atlanta Motor Speedway. (PHOTO: Steve Knight)

As a sportswriter since 2006, I have covered just about any sport you can name, including auto-racing. While I have provided live coverage on a great deal of these sports — including auto racing — I had never covered a live racing event until this past Thursday at the Atlanta Motor Speedway’s Thursday Thunder.

Five races were slated for this past Thursday at AMS with the Legends Cars’ Masters and Semipro divisions competing against each other, along with the Bandolero Bandits, the Beginner Bandits and the Outlaws.

Upon arriving at the track and hearing the sound of revving racing cars, I thought for a second that I may have been late for the event, but it was only the sounds of practice I was hearing. At Thursday Thunder, practice and even qualifying heats occur on race day, and give you that same rumbling feeling in your chest.

Once I made my way inside the track to get the lay of the land, the garage area caught my attention. Having an assignment to do on the Jorgensen racing siblings, I thought this may be a good place to find them. Sure enough Jensen Jorgensen was just pulling out from their space in the garage as I was approaching that area.

As I waited I couldn’t help notice how the scene resembled the typical Christmas or birthday afternoon when parents help their kids assemble their new toys. Only these toys were high-powered and chic racing cars and the kids were drivers, decked out with sporty racing suits.

The occasional ping of a hammer reminded me of the type of work that goes on in a mechanic’s garage, but for the most part the whole experience appeared to be what every child racer would dream of, and it was just what names like Johnson, Gordon, and Logano do every week.

Taylor Jorgensen, and then later Jensen, and their father Jason returned to the garage and I was able to conduct my interviews, but as I was wrapping up, Taylor and Jensen was called into a driver’s meeting. Once again, an experience that those at the top of NASCAR know all-to-well.

As they got prepared for their heat races and eventually their feature race I was able to come across helpful staff at AMS, including Web Content and Social Media Manager Brad Harrison. After I told him that these would be the first races I will ever cover, Brad — a person who estimates he has witnessed over 100 races himself — introduced to AMS president Ed Clark.

Clark saw his first NASCAR race when he was nine years old and estimates he has seen over 500 races just for NASCAR in his lifetime. His advice for this rookie was somewhat surprising.

“Watch the groups of cars. That’s where the action is going to be,” Clark said. “Sometimes the leaders will be one or two drivers up front and there will be three or four drivers racing for third, fourth, fifth and sixth. Keep your eyes on [them]. That’s usually where the action ends up.”

I thought watching the leader was the point of a race, but I guess it’s like watching only the ball in football or only the puck in hockey. Each sport has its own intricacies.

I tried Clark’s advice for the heat races and was able to view quite a few spinouts. I didn’t see much of the Jorgensens however, as they won their respective heats. After all the divisions heats were finished it was time for the races that counted toward the Thursday Thunder championship chase, and the first race up was the Legends Cars Semipro Division, featuring the Jorgensens.

I once again followed Clark’s advice and saw some early spinouts, and different cars falling into the second pack as the race progressed. Every once in a while I would sneak a peek at the lead pack and it was always Taylor leading the way. However, as they raced the final lap and I jotted down some final notes, I heard a roar from the trackside bleachers. The No. 11 car of William Martin had passed Taylor and taken the victory. Martin leads the division in points, so it shouldn’t be viewed as an upset.

I, however, was upset I missed the pass, so I got a couple of addendums to add to Clark’s advice. First, watch the second pack, but on the last lap make sure you are watching the lead pack. Second, don’t ever look down to take notes – even if you are a reporter.

No matter if someone employs these rules or their own rules they are sure to have a great time. Now next time I might have to record my thoughts while watching the races.

James Butler is a contributing writer for He can be reached at You can also follow him on Twitter at @JamesButlerJour. 


James Butler

James Butler