Bristol Thomas' Car Suits Fans to a 'T'

Thomas' car suits fans to a 'T' BRISTOL, Tenn. (July 8) -- Much of the excitement surrounding the Inaugural Winston Showdown at Bristol Dragway is attributable to the first-ever head-to-head racing between Top Fuel Dragsters and Funny Cars. But...

Thomas' car suits fans to a 'T'

BRISTOL, Tenn. (July 8) -- Much of the excitement surrounding the Inaugural Winston Showdown at Bristol Dragway is attributable to the first-ever head-to-head racing between Top Fuel Dragsters and Funny Cars. But there is also plenty of hardcore Pro Stock racing going on with lots of prize money up for grabs.

During Thursday's first qualifying session, the largest cheer of the Pro Stock session occurred when Pennzoil driver Mike Thomas rolled his gleaming machine onto the track. Thomas, who lives in nearby Knoxville, delighted the fans before he ever started the motor due to the huge University of Tennessee orange "T" emblem on the roof of his car. The logo's inscription, which reads 1998 National Champions, drew an additional roar when it was read aloud by track announcer Bob Frey.

"I'm a longtime season ticket holder and avid supporter of the school and its football program," Thomas said. "This is my salute to what they accomplished last season. I knew the fans here would appreciate it. They really are the best football fans in the country. I hope they support me like they support the team."

After the initial response from the fans, Thomas received yet another ovation after covering the quarter-mile strip in 7.183 seconds at 193.93 mph. The competitive lap earned him the No. 9 spot in the field with three rounds of qualifying yet to be run.

"We should be, and will be a full tenth of a second quicker," Thomas said. "We were just trying to get adjusted to the new track and running at a little bit of altitude. We had the wrong gear ratio in there. That was basically the Pro Stock equivalent of muscling a car down the track because my incremental numbers up to half-track were terrible. The motor just carried us through.

"That's really encouraging because once we make the necessary adjustments we should be flying. I can't wait for tonight when the temperatures drop."

The second qualifying session is scheduled to begin at 8:30 p.m. EST.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas