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JUNE 23, 2004

‘Night of Fire’ planned for Saturday at Atlanta Dragway
One of the biggest events of the drag racing season is upon the Atlanta Dragway as the 18th annual “Night of Fire” is set for this Saturday at the NHRA-sanctioned dragstrip in Banks Crossing near Commerce.
“The Night of Fire is always one of the most popular events that we put on during the year,” said Atlanta Dragway’s general manager Craig Armstrong. “It’s one of those unique shows that appeals to fans of all ages, and not just drag racing fans. This is a show for the whole family.”
The main attractions of the event will be exhibition runs by two 300-mph jet dragsters, the “Heartbeat High” wheelstander, eight of the fastest and most exotic pro modifieds in the Southeast and a monstrous jet semi-truck, driven by long-time jet racing standout “Pepi” Urban.
In addition to all day and evening drag racing with the NHRA Summit Racing Series ET bracket cars, the 8-to-17 year old stars of the NHRA O’Reilly Junior Drag Racing League will strut their stuff on the track at speeds nearing 80 mph and then talk with spectators.
Fans will first get to see NHRA qualifying and bracket racing beginning at 1 p.m. while the jet dragsters blast off for the first of three exhibition runs at 5:30 p.m., followed by the pro modifieds and the “Heartbeat High” wheelstander.
In between the exhibition passes, NHRA Summit Series bracket cars will keep the track surface heated up all evening with eliminations in five separate drag racing classes.
A final pass by “Pepi” Urban’s enormous and powerful jet semi-truck, followed by one of the largest aerial fireworks displays in North Georgia, will top off the 2004 “Night of Fire,” a much-anticipated annual tradition at “Georgia’s House of Speed.”
The gates will be open for spectators at 1 p.m.
Adult ticket prices (ages 13-and-older) are $20 while juniors (ages 6-12) are $10 and children under six are admitted free.
Special deals include a family pass, good for two adults, two juniors and four Powerade drinks for $55. Ticket discounts are also available — $5 off one adult admission or $10 off one family pass with a Powerade purchase receipt from any Ingles supermarket.
For more information on the 18th annual “Night of Fire,” call Atlanta Dragway at (770) 682-3782, or log on to www.atlantadragway.com.


Winning While School’s Out
Commerce Summer Ball Team Runs Record To 15-1
The summer baseball season isn’t about padding the win column but it makes for a nice little bonus if you do.
That said, Commerce’s summer team ran its record to 15-1 with a double header win over Jackson County no. 2 last Tuesday in its most recent action.
Head coach Gerald Jordan — whose team’s Monday games with Franklin County were rained out — said the near-perfect record is satisfying given that the objective of the season is to get everyone innings on the field rather than run up the victory percentage.
“It means a lot with the way we separate them up and play them,” said Jordan whose team’s only loss came to Jefferson last Saturday in a double header. “But even if I only played my main nine or 10 guys, I don’t think they’d be any better than 15-1.”
Jordan pin-pointed the team’s chemistry and ability to be coached as keys to the summer success.
“They’re a unit and they do what we tell them to do,” he said.
In getting wins no. 14 and 15, Commerce took game one against Jackson County no. 2, 7-1, and then exploded late in the night cap in a 15-3 win.
Beauchamp worked five innings and got the win in the opener while Josh McDuffie worked three quality innings in game two to pick up the win.
Hank Tiller helped lead the effort offensively in both wins and is now hitting over .620 for the year. Jordan pointed out that the rising senior has been on a tear for two months now, dating back to the regular spring season.
“He started hitting three weeks before the end of the baseball season and hasn’t cooled off since.”
In addition to Tiller, Caleb Jordan took advantage of opportunities in the three spot in the batting order in the wins, collecting three hits and four RBIs.
For the rest of this story see this weeks Commerce News.


Jefferson hosting 9-10 district play
A pair of Jefferson all star baseball teams are in the midst of district tournaments, with a berth in state play on the line this week.
The Jefferson recreation department is hosting the Georgia Parks and Recreation District 7 Tournament for 9-and-10 year-old boys. The tournament began this past Saturday with Jefferson defeating Hall County No. 2, 17-7. The squad then played a hard-fought game against Alpharetta, but was not able to pull out a second win on the day.
They were knocked off 6-1 and sent to the losers half of the draw. Since then, however Jefferson has pulled out wins over Oconee County on Monday and Atlanta on Tuesday to advance to within one game of the district championship game. The right to face Hall County No. 1 in that title game will be decided Wednesday, as Jefferson battles Alpharetta.
In other district action, the Atlanta boys handled Oconee County 16-1, but were then defeated by Hall County No. 1, 6-1, last Saturday. That Hall County team then advanced to the championship game after defeating Alpharetta on Tuesday. They have yet to be defeated in the tournament.
District tournament games will continue through this week, with the championship game scheduled for Friday at 6:30 p.m., with a second game (if necessary) set to follow at 8:30 p.m.
The winner of the tournament will represent District 7 in the state tournament in Carrollton, Ga. from July 22-24.
In addition to the action taking place in Jefferson, the 11-12 Jefferson boys are also in district play this week. The 11-12 tournament is being held at Webb Bridge Park in Alpharetta, Ga.
After winning once in the winners half of the draw, the Jefferson squad’s game Tuesday night was postponed due to rain. The game will be made up tonight at 6 p.m.
The championship game of the 11-12 tournament is set for Thursday at 6 p.m., with the winner of the tournament advancing to the state tournament held in Americus, Ga. from July 22-24.


Otis Brooks takes first victory on asphalt
Chuck Cooper grabs Sportsman win
BROOKS TAKES FIRST CAREER ASPHALT WIN
Drivers and crew members from several divisions surrounded victory lane Friday night at Peach State Speedway as they eagerly waited to congratulate Jefferson’s Otis Brooks who took his first-ever win on asphalt. After competing successfully on local dirt tracks early in his career, Brooks began racing on asphalt in the late 1980’s.
The 30-plus year racing veteran also received a very emotional greeting in victory lane from his wife, Denise, daughter, Misty, and sons, Kent and Craig.
Brooks’ win came in the Iceman division with just laps to go as he battled with Pendergrass’ Chad Hoopaugh and David Murphy to take over the lead.
“I’m proud of him,” said Murphy. “I couldn’t be happier if I had won myself.
“I like racing against Otis because I remember watching him race when I was a kid.”
Hoopaugh finished second, followed by Murphy, Chad Atha and Greg Swink.
Another local favorite, Chuck Cooper, Hoschton, took his first win of the season in the Sportsman division. Cooper, who led the field to the green flag, was soon challenged by Travis Hearn as he made his move to the outside of Cooper to take the lead.
But the chase for the win wasn’t over as Cooper reclaimed the lead on lap 16 taking his #0 car to victory lane. Hearn finished second, followed by Jefferson’s Russell Shore in third, Chris Cochran in fourth and Chris McKeehan in fifth.
In the Georgia Asphalt Series, Fredrick Moore continued his dominance, taking his sixth win of the season. Moore and his crew were met in victory lane with a $2,500 check and trophy.
Rusty Clanton finished second, followed by Roger Delp in third, Billy McGinnis in fourth and Scotty Ellis in fifth.
Local G.A.S. driver Kevin Perry, Jefferson, had a strong top five run, but was forced to the pits early after being tapped from behind, sending him into the inside front stretch wall. Commerce’s Lee Langford also retired early to the pits after experiencing mechanical problems, as did Pendergrass’ Taylor Satterfield.
Spanky Hicks took home his second win in the Mini Stock division. Pendergrass’ James Gaines took second, followed by Talmo driver Brent Howington in third, and Chad Richardson, also of Pendergrass, in fourth. Hoschton’s Shannon Duck rounded out the top five.
Jim Reynolds, who visited the Jefferson track from Greenville, S.C., took the win in the Renegade division.
The next event at Peach State will be Friday, June 25. For more information, contact Scott Sutherland at (706) 387-7490.


Big League Homecoming
Madison County’s Jake Westbrook pitches in front of family and friends at Turner Field
ATLANTA — The last time Jake Westbrook pitched in front of 100 folks from his hometown there weren’t 41,000 other fans in the stands with them.
Red Raider Field didn’t seat quite that many.
These days, the venue does for Westbrook.
Approximately 100 of the Danielsville native’s family and friends — some armed with hommade banners of support — made the two-hour drive to a packed Turner Field Saturday night to witness the former Madison County baseball star take the mound in Atlanta for the first time in his five-year major league career.
Westbrook’s Indians lost 4-0 in his Peach State homecoming with Westbrook surrendering a pair of two-run homers along the way, but the meeting between Cleveland and Atlanta gave many Madison County residents the rare opportunity to see the local sports hero — many who hadn’t seen him pitch in person since high school.
Now eight years removed from his days as a diamond Raider, Westbrook told reporters after the game that he was eager — maybe a bit too eager — to please those who had made the trip.
“I was too hyped up,” Westbrook told The Cleveland Plain Dealer. “I had a lot of family and friends here. I eleveated a couple of pitches and it cost me.”
The familiar faces on hand were still able to see Westbrook throw five innings worth of Major League baseball against the team who he grew up following.
Laboring in a muggy, 87-degree night in Atlanta, the 26-year-old at times demonstrated the kind of form that’s made him one of the Amercian League’s ERA leaders this year, working scoreless innings in the first, fourth and fifth innings
But two fateful pitches in the second and third cost Westbrook the chance for a win in his home state.
Braves catcher Eli Marrero sent a second-inning offering from Westbrook into left field stands and journeyman Julio Franco (Westbrook was only four when the 45-year-old Franco made his Major League debut) did the same in the following inning.
On a night where 50 of his 77 pitches went for strikes, Westbrook said those were two mistakes.
“A sinker to Marrero and a change up to Franco, so that was the difference,” Westbrook told MLB.com.
The Indians never cut into that four-run lead with Atlanta hurler Paul Byrd styming Westbrook’s teammates.
For the rest of this story see this weeks Madison County Journal.

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