ARARAT, Va. — Just four races remain in the FUEL Racing Series as area drivers invade Rolling Thunder Speedway this weekend.
FUEL Racing is a new series this season with a dozen races from South Carolina to West Virginia. All the cars feature the CT525 engine package.
Three of the top-10 drivers are local, led by Ryan Atkins in fourth place in the standings. Billy Hicks is in eighth place and Mitchell Coble in 10th.
Since this series is new, drivers are still getting familiar with the cars, said Atkins. He said he’s been going through a big learning curve and feels like he could be getting a little more out of the car and is fortunate to be so high in the standings.
A couple of times, he was wrecked by another driver and had to patch up the vehicle to get it back on the track and save some spots to help his points total.
Speaking of wrecks, Atkins said Hicks had a really bad one a couple of weeks ago where the car was knocked into the wall, tumbled and was demolished.
Atkins said Hicks was wearing one of the HANS (head and neck support) devices and walked away.
While now standard in NASCAR Sprint Cup races, the HANS devices are optional in the FUEL series. Atkins said he wears one himself because a $1,000 device is a lot cheaper than neck surgery — or worse.
This Friday’s race just north of the Virginia line is a 40-lap event with a $3,000 prize.
Points leader Ross Bailes (872) and four-time race winner Brett Hamm (858) lead the series contenders into Friday night’s event. Donald Bradsher, fresh off a pair of runner-up finishes, resides third in the standings followed by Atkins and Kenny Van Derveer.
Atkins said he has raced at Ararat three or four times, but typically has struggled. With a different car than before, he is hoping to win, but would still be happy with a top-five finish.
Of all the tracks he’s run this season, Atkins said he has had his best success at the dirt track in Charlotte. He won a race there last year and then with the FUEL car he took the pole and finished third. He also won a race at Gastonia last year, but was sixth in the FUEL race this season.
In addition to the headlining event, Rolling Thunder has other division races Friday. The SECA (South Eastern Crate Association) late models will be competing with $1,000 to win. A $500-to-win Open Wheel Modified race and a $400-to-win Mini Sprint race are on the schedule as well.
Gates are set to open at 5 p.m. with the drivers meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Rolling Thunder Speedway fans who bring their armbands from the July 25 event will receive a $5 discount on their tickets (grandstand admission only).
Aft this race, the last three events are in Lancaster, South Carolina, Beckley, West Virginia, and Friendship in Elkin.
FUEL Racing Series
Points Top 10
1. Ross Bailes 872
2. Brett Hamm 858
3. Donald Bradsher 820
4. Ryan Atkins 682
5. Kenny Van Derveer 656
6. Ricky Weeks 634
7. Greg Knight 564
8. Billy Hicks 520
9. Jason Pack 486
10. Mitchell Coble 444