Atlanta Mike Thomas debuts new Matco car in Day 1 action

ATLANTA (May 5) - - Pro Stock driver Mike Thomas debuted his eye-catching, special edition Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird during Friday's opening two rounds of qualifying at the 20th annual Advance Auto Parts NHRA Southern Nationals. The car,...

ATLANTA (May 5) - - Pro Stock driver Mike Thomas debuted his eye-catching, special edition Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird during Friday's opening two rounds of qualifying at the 20th annual Advance Auto Parts NHRA Southern Nationals.

The car, that was originally scheduled to be unveiled May 18 at his title sponsor's namesake race, the Matco Tools Spring Supernationals in Englishtown, N.J., was christened one race early due to the timing of Thomas' car being rebuilt after a testing accident earlier in the season.

Thomas, a 47-year-old from Knoxville, Tenn., posted two respectable laps in the car despite having no test laps under his belt. He ran a 7.044-second pass at 195.96 mph in Round 1 and improved to a 7.035 at 196.50 mph in the second session but still finds himself outside the provisional field in the 21st position. He will have two more chances to earn a spot tomorrow.

"We're breaking this new Matco Tools car in as quickly as possible," Thomas said. "We just picked it up from Jerry Bickel's shop in St. Louis on Wednesday and we were hoping to work out the new car bugs that night at Gateway International Raceway. But it rained on us and we had no choice but to come in here blind.

"We're going through the normal problems you have with a new piece. You don't know how to set the shocks or the clutch or the wheelie bars. It just takes laps. Plus we broke a motor in Round 1 and had a vacuum pump malfunction in Round 2 so it's been a busy day.

"We'll be here past midnight tonight I'm sure. I can tell this car is going to fly as soon as we get it sorted out. It's the latest and greatest design right out of Bickel's shop so I know it's stout. Plus, the last few races have shown that our Finish Line Racing Engines are producing a ton of power. We just need to line everything up straight."

The elimination rounds of the 20th annual Advance Auto Parts Nationals will be broadcast from 4:30-6 p.m. (ET and PT) Sunday, on TNN. They will be rebroadcast at midnight.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas