Article reprinted from The Richmond Times-Dispatch
Photo by Robert Dennis
As a mechanic, Aubrey Thurston of Thurston Spring Service takes pride in creating smooth rides and reducing "shock" for his big-rig customers.
His strategy changes under the Friday night lights.
That's when Thurston is doing his gosh-darndest to create a shock -- as in shocking surprise -- at Southside Speedway.
Thurston has dreams of shocking the world -- at least the racin' world at Genito Road -- and providing a bump in the road for long-dominant Thomas Stinson in the Modified Division.
"My goals are to win a few races and maybe a track championship, but that's a pretty big task," said Thurston, 31. "Thomas is at the top of the field. Until you can beat him, you're running for second."
Still, after three races on a nine-game race schedule that winds into September, it's Thurston, not two-time defending champion Stinson, atop the points list.
With the next 100-lap chase set for next Friday, Thurston has 128 points to 126 for Stinson and 122 for Jason Eberth.
You might say Thurston -- fifth in points a year ago -- has crept up on the top spot. He has finished third, fourth and seventh in three races to date.
Stinson, in a rare misadventure, crashed and placed 13th on opening night. He followed that with dominating back-to-back checkered flags.
"Thomas is the man to beat, but I think we're slowly getting there," Thurston said.
Still, in racing it is possible to capture the war without winning any of the battles.
"Maybe I can be like Terry Lebonte in '84 [on Grand National circuit] -- win the points without winning a single race," Thurston said with a laugh.
A resident of Amelia, Thurston is picking up where his racing dad -- Billy -- left off in the late 1970's.
Billy Thurston was a front-of-the-pack driver in both the Limited Sportsmen and Late Model divisions before retiring from the track to concentrate on his family business.
Thurston Spring Service, on the south slope of the James River, dates back to 1911 -- when its clients arrived via horse and buggy.
"My great granddad was a blacksmith," Thurston said. "Then, when cars came around, they switched over."
Aubrey Thurston, known as "Boo Boo" around the pits, grew up watching racing at Southside and always had an interest in engines and going fast.
"I used to work on go-karts, lawn mowers, whatever, on our dirt-floor garage," he said. "And I still live [with wife Lynda and son Jacob] in the house I was raised in."
For his seventh Christmas, Thurston found a shiny go-kart under the tree. Wide-eyed and brimming with spirit, he didn't waste much time giving it a test drive. He didn't get far.
"I hit a dip and the kart flipped over," he said. "I didn't get hurt, but my dad told me to wear a helmet and to slow down."
Ever since, Aubrey has heeded his father's wisdom regarding the helmet.
But slowing down on race night?
Now, that would be a real shock.