Love him or hate him, idolize him or vilify him, there`s no denying
Love him or hate him, idolize him or vilify him,
there's no denying, Troy Duncan has the biggest and
baddest show in town. This year's Thanksgiving Thunder, the 21st running, was the biggest to date, and
that's saying a lot. Now, the fact that there were over
2000 entries could be watered down with the notion
that there were 47 classes on the schedule, but images don't lie, the house was packed in Carnesville
GA. There may have been room for 2 or 3 more trailers, and maybe a pick-up or two, but that's it.
For the spectator or racer, this is the one show
you don't want to miss. But, for the karting vendors,
it's more like one you can't afford to miss. I mean seriously, where else can you think of that you can walk a
midway that has mobile units hocking wares such as
Funnel Cakes T-Shirts, Boiled Peanuts, Event Photos,
and brand specific apparel? That's right, a circus, or
carnival. The only thing setting Thunder apart from a
circus are the parts vendors!
Again, all things considered, Thunder is the
biggest kart race in America, bar none, and that didn't
happen overnight, nor by accident.
The action began on Thursday night again this
year with seven classes of competition, highlighted by
the $500 to win Jr Unrestricted Big Dog Championship.
Leading up to the "big one" on Thursday night,
Lancaster SC's Jamie Knopf knocked down two feature wins. Knopf outran Cole Johnson and Bull Smith
for the Clone Medium EL win, and wrestled the checkers
away from Andrew Dove in the closing laps of the Animal
Medium main. Jesse Riggins and Kasey Hammond followed Knopf by Dove on the final lap to claim second and
Ryan Matthews escaped the Jr Sportsman Champ
feature with the win, edging Dominique Rapien by a slim
0.057 seconds at the finish line, and Matt Lynerd cruised to
the Jr Champ win over Hartlee Hoyle and Samantha Mattera. Austin Reed was the winner of the Jr Pro Green feature, fighting off Eli Beets and Colin Bernstein.
"The Shark" Harris
swiped the lead away
from Dillen Brown with
two to go in the Jr Unrestricted Clone feature,
a prelude to the Jr Big
Dog main later in the
evening, and held on
for the win.
The finale for
the night, the Jr Unrestricted Big Dog Championship, saw Bubba
Williams leading the
field to the green flag,
and leading to the halfway point . Dillen Brown
slipped by Blake Can-
non for the
second spot on lap
six, and set his sight on Williams,
making the pass for the lead on lap nine.
Brown sailed under the waving checkers with a 0.299 seconds advantage over Williams, followed by Cannon, Tyer
Weaver, and Clay Harris.
Friday was an action packed day from start to finish. With temps below freezing early, the show would get
underway a little over an hour behind schedule. In addition
to the 6th annual Wayne Poole Memorial Race, Friday's
schedule would be highlighted by the "Clash of The Outsiders", and "The Boss" features. The "Clash" featured racers
from outside the immediate three or four state area around
GKK. "The Boss", a Limited Modified event has become a
favorite of racers and fans over the years.
The Clash saw PA's Josh Spicer set fast time at
14.267 with Harrisonville MO's Nolan Pope qualifying
second at a 14.298. Spicer led lap one, but then it was
Pope taking over the top spot. Delaware's Alex White
moved into the second spot on lap, and wiggled by
Pope on lap eleven. The laps clicked off with White
leading Pope and Zach Axlen. With five to go, PA's
Doug Stearly popped up on the radar, rallying from
his ninth starting spot, into third behind Pope. As the
leaders screamed into to turn three for the final time,
Pope buried the nose of his Moon powered Triton un-
der White, muscling his way into the lead, kicking the
door open for Stearly to follow through. At the stripe, it
was Pope, Stearly, White, Spicer, and Axlen in the top
"Downtown" Dillen Brown returned to victory
lane on Friday, taking the top spot in the Jr 3 Clone
Heavy feature over Clay Harris, and finished third behind Brysen Duncan and Ethan Endicott in
the Jr 2 Clone Heavy main. Endicott captured the
ers in the Jr 1 Clone Heavy feature over JoJo Wilkinson.
On the "Lite" side of the scales, Radical
powered Prowler pilot Trynt Lloyd captured the Jr 1
Clone Lite win over Wilkinson and Brysen Duncan,
while James Seeright beat Duncan, and Endicott to
the checkers in the Jr 2 Lite main. The Jr 2 Clone Lite
was bagged by Brady Penny ahead of Austin Reed,
and Joey Pendergrass.
"The General" JL Furrow bagged the first of
two Thunder feature wins on Friday in the Stock Medium main, outrunning Scott Bajer, and Dagan Bowdoin
to the stripe.
Local hot rod Doug Cash edged out Jerry
Mullis at the stripe by 0.093 seconds to take home
the Sr Stock win, while Cale Smith scored the Clone
Heavy EL win over JR "EL" Tippens, and James McClendon.
In junior champ buggy action, Hartlee Hoyle
in Jr Sportsman Champ, and Jeremy Harshman in Jr
Champ claimed the feature wins, while Jeffrey Kummer kicked down the door on the final lap to take the
Champ Lite win over Bajer, Donnie Nall, and Furrow.
Kummer, piloting a new Ultramax Xceed buggy rallied
from third on the final lap to take the win.
Mr Super Heavy Terence Burdette rolled up
yet another win on Friday, taking the Clone Super win
over Brandon McClain and Brent Lewis.
With the Wayne Poole Memorial on tap later,
racers were given a "warm up" feature to do some final testing and tuning. Cameron Carter picked up that
win over Jason Scruggs and Andrew Dove.
In some high horsepower action, it was Robby Yow
taking the Unlimited All-Stars win aboard the Seay Hi-Performance Ultramax. Kenny Buff, and Dan Sox trailed Yow
at the finish line.
Blackshear GA's Austin Yarbrough put the #127
Onyx Chassis machine on the pole for the Limited Modified
feature, otherwise known as "The Boss". With a couple of
grand on the line this one was guaranteed to bring everyone out of the trailers, and to the fence on this cold night.
Second qualifier Daniel Armstrong grabbed the early lead,
albeit a brief one. It was the MC Motorsports machine of
Jesse Riggins who raced from his fourth starting spot, into
the lead on lap four. From there it appeared to be a battle
to see how would claim the runner-up spot. With Riggins
leading Andrew Dove and Armstrong, a late caution set-up
a green-white-checkered shoot-out. On the restart, Bluffton SC's Chad "Houdini" Haithcock made the best of what
was presented, vaulting from fourth to second on the backstretch coming to the line with two-to-go. But, Riggins was
just out of reach, finishing 0.147 seconds ahead of Haithcock, followed by Clint Yon, and Daniel Simmons. Not that
he's never smiles, but when the helmet came off for the
winner's circle interview, the always serious Riggins had a
"mile wide" grin, as he was greeted by friends and his kart
owner, Matt Connell.
Finally, it was time for one of the most anticipated
features of the year, the Wayne Poole Memorial. Virginia's
Scott Bajer was atop the score sheet after 102 racers made
qualifying runs. Bajer's fast lap was a 13.756 . Just over
one second separated the first and last qualifiers,
and it was less than 3/10ths between
Bajer and 45th qualifier Thomas Tatum. Behind Tatum, the next 20 were within a tenth of a second!! So, you
get the picture, making this field alone was a major accomplishment.
With fifty laps to get the job done, $10,092 on the
line, and the best in the sport on the track, this one was
definitely one for the fence hangers. Bajer and Schlager
led the field in the early laps, but it was Jamie Knopf mak-
ing his way up from the sixth starting spot to push Schlager
into to the lead on lap nine. By lap eleven, it was Knopf out
front, with Bajer and Dagan Bowdoin chasing. A competition caution on lap 25 tightened the field up. Shortly after
the halfway caution, Bajer, Bowdoin, and Jesse Riggins got
by Knopf. With sixteen to go, Riggins made his
way into the top spot, taking Darren
Brown along with him by
was suddenly in the hunt after being quite all night,
and Tyson Fries had rallied from his 27th starting spot
to find himself in the chase for the huge payday. After taking the two-to-go sign, Dove drove the Kenneth
Bray Motorsports Faktor as deep into turn one as he
could, getting under Knopf for the lead. Fries followed
made his move as the leaders came to the ten-to-go
sign from flagman Shane Barrett. Brown kicked the
door open on the way by Riggins, who would fall to
sixth before getting back in line, behind Brown, Jason Scruggs, Bajer, and Knopf. Once into second,
Scruggs wasted little time muscling his Hi-Tech racing powered Millenium Faktor into the lead. Once out
front, it appeared that Scruggs was suddenly the man
to beat, as he began putting a little space between
himself and the second place machine of Bajer. In the
closing laps, running fifth, Riggins spanked the tires
on the front stretch under the flagstand to bring out
a caution. A caution was exactly what Scruggs didn't
need. On the restart, well let's use the PG version, all
heck broke loose, it was time to shut up or put up ,
and go for broke. There wasn't time to leave anything
on the table. In the scramble, Knopf came out on
top with Andrew "The Royston Rocket"
nipping at his heels. Bryan
Vo n C a n n o n
Dove by Knopf, but couldn't hold off the Russian.
Dove drove to the finish line with a 0.756 seconds
advantage over Knopf, followed by Fries, Jonathan
Wheeler, and VonCannon in the top five. A testament
to the old adage that perseverance pays off is Ohio's
Justin Clark. Clark qualified 28th, but advanced to the
feature by winning the third consi, and until the late
race caution, hadn't managed to get higher than 14th
in the running order. Clark "kept his nose clean", capitalized on the situation, and jockeyed his Ultramax to
a sixth place finish at the checkers!! Donnie Nall, Corey Roberts, Bowdoin, and Colby Horner completed
the top ten. Now that's how you finish a night!!
Then, it was Saturday morning. 19 more classes to
finish out the program, with the two biggies being the
PRC Race of Champions, 10 grand to win, and another 10 g's up for grabs in the Semi-Pro. Then there
are the 3 Jr Big Dog Championship features in there
too! What a day!!
But first, the other action, where nearly every
feature was a "warm-up" for a big money main later in
JL Furrow picked up win number two on the weekend,
taking the Champ Heavy win over Donnie Nall, Scott
Bajer, and Greg "Smiley" Fields.
Shay Chavous bagged the Animal Heavy, Pro Animal, and
Pro Clone EL features, outrunning Riggins, Yarbrough,
Armstrong, and Mullis to the checkers in Animal, and
Chad Glover, Haithcock, and Austin Wyatt in Clone. Nick
Scott, aboard the Platinum Racing Chassis house machine
chased Chavous to the stripe in the Pro Animal main, followed by Yarbrough, Furrow, and Austin Banker.
Again, with super heavy up, it's a pretty good bet
that Terence Burdette will be in the hunt. He didn't disap-
point on Saturday, outrunning Chris Whitehead, Dick Timmons, and David Alewine to take the win in Animal Super
Armstrong claimed the Clone Heavy EL "WarmUp". Chavous trailed Armstrong at the finish line, followed
by Daniel Simmons, Chad Haithcock, and Knopf.
Disco Donnie Nall found winner's circle on Satur-
day, beating Jason Moates, and Corey Roberts to the finish
line in the Pro Champ main.
In "stock" action, Jesse Riggins returned to winner's
circle after outrunning Austin Wyatt, and Corey Roberts to
the checkers in Stock Heavy, and Wes Suddeth fought off
Armstrong and Bowdoin to bag the Stock Lite win.
The daily dose of horsepower came from the Open
Modified division. Chad Haithcock started on the pole and
led until three-to-go, when Clint Yon body slammed him on
the way to the front. Yon appeared to be much faster from
the middle of the straightaways to the apex, but Haithcock
had enough from the apex to the middle of the straights to
keep Yon at bay, until the kamikaze move on lap 13. Yon
went on to claim the win over Haithcock, Kyle McCallister,
Mark Greene, and Jonathan Cope.
The "warm-ups" for the Jr Big Dogs provided a
glimpse of what was coming up later in the evening. James
Seeright beat Cody Wright and Levi Seagraves to the finish
line in the Jr 1 Warm Up, while Dillen Brown set the stage
with yet another win in Jr 2, taking the "Warm-Up" feature
over Isaac Sisk, and Brysen Duncan. Brady Penny tookthe
Jr 3 Warm Up over Brown, Hunter Markham, and Clay Harris.
The first 10G's up for grabs was the PRC Race of
Champions, a tilt reserved for Phantom Racing Chassis
customers. Nearly 90 entries, it was Cameron Carter earning the top starting spot with a lap of 13.908. Carter led lap
one, then gave it up to second qualifier JL Furrow for a few
laps before snatching it back on lap five. Daniel Armstrong
wrestled the Tod Miller Racing "big red
machine" into the lead on lap
eight of the thirty
Furrow fought back to lead a couple of laps just past
the halfway point, before Jesse Riggins came knocking on lap 18. As the laps counted down, it was clear,
the only that would cost Armstrong or Riggins would
be themselves. Armstrong made his move, slipping by
Riggins, coming to two-to-go, and held on for the win
with a 0.115 seconds margin at the
line. Knopf, Furrow, and Jerry Mullis
capped the top five.
Florida's "Gator" Mattice
edged Cutter Love for the top starting spot for the Jr 1 Big Dog feature,
but he failed to lead a single lap of
the main. Love led lap one before
giving way to DJ Hamby on lap
three. Then it was JoJo Wilkinson's
turn. She swapped the top spot with
Colin Bernstein for a couple of laps,
then seized control as things settled
down for the long haul in the thirty
lap feature. Wilkinson led Boo McDonald until the halfway mark, that's
when James Seeright took over,
bringing Brysen Duncan along for
the ride. With five to go, it was the
Radical powered Prowler of Trynt
Lloyd knocking on the door, rallying from his 12th
starting spot. Lloyd methodically worked on Seeright
in the closing laps, finally managing to make the pass
on the final trip around the oval, for the win. Trailing
Lloyd and Seeright to the finish line were Eli Beets,
Cody Wright, and McDonald.
Drew Wiltse bagged the pole for the Jr 2 Big Dog
main, and lead until lap eight. Rob Hruska and Ethan
Endicott traded the top spot for a few laps, before Dillen Brown decided it was time to stop playing around.
Brown took over the top spot on lap eleven, and was
joined by Greenville SC's Devin Morgan at the halfway
mark at the head of the field. Morgan
managed to swipe the lead briefly
with three laps to go, but Brown was
having none of that. At the checkers,
it was Brown by 0.212 seconds over
Morgan, Kole Platt, Endicott, and
A qualifying lap of 14.122
was good enough for the top starting spot in the Jr 3 Big Dog feature
for Clay Harris. William Prince, a defending Big Dog Champion started
second after a lap of 14.138. Harris,
along with MC Motorsports teammate Brady Penny, who qualified
fifth, quickly settled into the top two
spots and worked the field over like a
WWE tag team. While the rest of the
field battled amongst themselves,
this duo sailed away. Penny slipped
by Harris with two to go, and held on for the big win.
Colby Horner, Blake Lester, and Case Daniels filled
out the top five.
Then, there was one feature left.
With 10G's on the line last
year, this was the
that made JR Tippens somewhat a household name. Of
course he helped that cause by not knowing who Harrill
Wiggins was when he was standing next to him, lol.
With another 10 grand up for grabs, 118 competitors took qualifying laps. When the smoke cleared, it was
Dagan Bowdoin on the pole with a quick time of 13.843.
Josh Nichols' 13.881 was good enough for the second
starting spot, followed by Chance Latiolais, Austin Carter,
and Cameron Carter.
While this one was full of action throughout the
field, it was honestly uneventful, for most part, at the front.
Bowdoin led until just the halfway competition caution.
That's when Conway SC's Cole "Fireball" Johnson took
over. Johnson, currently aboard a Millenium Faktor, was at
one time, among the hottest junior racers in the country.
Unfortunately, for whatever reason, Johnson slid off the radar for a few years. But, the young man is back, and he's
back in a big way. Since resurfacing at some bigger events
this year, Johnson has proven that he's still got what it takes
to get to the front and cash in when he gets there. Johnson
cruised to the checkers, nearly two seconds ahead of Bowdoin, to claim the 10G payday! Tanner Garrett, Nolan Pope,
and Michael Nale rounded out the top five. Again, there's no denying, Troy Duncan's Thanksgiving Thunder is THE three day event that kart racers
across the country plan on for 362 days a year. Yeah, there
are other happenings on the holiday weekend, but they are
a far cry from the spectacle of Thunder. Similar to the old
days when the WKA Nationals could draw a thousand entries, and even two thousand in the glory days of Daytona,
winning at this event sets a competitor apart from their
peers. About the only limitation to the growth of this event
appears to be parking room, and there are a few acres left
around the facility yet to be used. Of course one may need
a shuttle to get to and from the grid from the back forty! Lol.