By BILL EVANS, Douglas County Sentinel Sports Writer
As the second half of the Thursday Thunder season at Atlanta Motor Speedway got started, one thing remained consistent: Winston’s Mason Massey is tough to beat in the Young Lions Division.
On a night when Massey was the only winner from the county, he battled Anderson Bowen over the final five laps to capture his fourth victory in six starts at AMS.
“It was all about being patient,” said Massey, the points leader who started in the No. 8 position.
Grant Crane paced the field to the start. Alex Coffey got a fender to the inside of Crane, causing Crane to slip to the outside in turns one and two, which allowed Coffey and Bowen to sneak by. However, Bowen was the leader by the time they completed the second lap.
Massey, keeping his poise and waiting for his opening, moved up to second by lap eight. Massey and Anderson were racing side-by-side, until late in the race. Massey crossed the finish line first.
“He (Anderson) was racing pretty good. We were even for two laps of so (from lap 14 to 16) and then I was able to pull away. In the end, my car was just a little faster,” said Massey.
Massey says it’s not just him, but his entire team that’s making it another successful summer.
Coming from a tradition-rich racing family, Massey is still just 14 years old. He has been racing since age 3.
What does the champ do on the morning following another win?
“I took a dip in our pool. It helps me to relax a little,” said Massey.
The local racer says his team is getting stronger.
“As the summer season goes on, I think we’re doing better,” said Massey. “Everybody’s working hard and again patience is our key in every start.”
Massey was 40 points ahead of second-place Bowen prior to Thursday’s race, but increased that lead with his victory.
The busiest driver during the summer, Massey has also started five Young Lions races at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. He’s got a couple of second-place finishes, but is still looking for his first win at that track.
So why is Massey having more success at AMS than CMS?
“Probably because AMS is my home track and also there are some very tough drivers to beat at Charlotte. But, I’ve come close,” said Massey.
Massey is already thinking about the big season-ending race when the top drivers from the Southeast head to Charlotte. He remembers last summer’s disappointing finish.
“That’s the night I got hit and wrecked,” he recalled. “I got knocked back into the No. 28 spot. I was able to come back and finish No. 10, which wasn’t bad.”
But, this season he’s hoping for a much better finish.
Winston’s Taylor Hull and Sean Rayhall didn’t end up in victory lane, but as usual were in the battle.
Hull was busy, competing in two divisions. He placed second in Roadsters and fourth in Pro, behind third-place Rayhall.
The Roadsters feature got underway with James Meredith in the lead. Hull was running up front early, however 2007 Roadsters Champion Dwight Pilgram, substitute driving for points leader Skip Nichols, was glued to his bumper. On lap nine, Pilgram made the pass for the top spot and took Nichols’ car to victory lane.
Hull entered the race No. 4 in the Roadsters points standings.
The combined Pro and Masters feature opened with Jeff Haynie pacing the field to the green flag. Contact in the early laps between Hull and points leader Rayhall sent both cars to the rear of the field.
By lap 13, Rayhall had climbed through the field to the third position, but was unable to advance. Haynie secured the win for the Pro division and Ed Clark was the highest-finishing Masters driver to capture the trophy.
With his win, Haynie qualified to compete in the Legends Invitational held on Sept. 2 during the AdvoCare 500 race weekend.
It was Haynie’s first Pro win of the season. Rayhall, who has three wins in six starts, stayed atop the points race.
Short-track racing returns to Atlanta Motor Speedway on Thursday for No. 7 of the 10-week Thursday Thunder summer series.
Atlanta Motor Speedway contributed to this report.