Mike Thomas to run Richie Stevens'' back-up car in Vegas and Houston

LAS VEGAS (April 5) -- Veteran Pro Stock driver Mike Thomas, who wrecked his Matco Tools-sponsored Pontiac Firebird in testing last week, has agreed to a two-race deal with fellow Pro Stock competitor Richie "The Kid" Stevens to run his back-up...

LAS VEGAS (April 5) -- Veteran Pro Stock driver Mike Thomas, who wrecked his Matco Tools-sponsored Pontiac Firebird in testing last week, has agreed to a two-race deal with fellow Pro Stock competitor Richie "The Kid" Stevens to run his back-up car.

Thomas, a 47-year-old from Knoxville, Tenn., will pilot the second Valspar Refinish Pontiac Firebird at this weekend's inaugural NHRA SummitRacing.com Nationals at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and the following weekend in Houston during the O'Reilly Nationals.

"I can't thank Richie, his father, and (crew chief) Tommy Utt enough for stepping up and helping us out," Thomas said. "We've worked with Richie almost since the beginning of his professional career and I feel like we have a real good relationship with the whole Valspar team.

"This car I'll be driving is a great piece. Richie was actually testing with it in Darlington when I wrecked my car. He was running some very quick laps with one of my Finish Line Racing Engines under the hood so I know this car is already set up and ready to go for Vegas. I'll just need to get in it and drive."

Thomas was slightly burned but unhurt when his car burst into flames and hit both retaining walls during a test run at the Darlington, N.C. track. "It appears one of the cylinders quit firing and filled up with fuel which knocked the top of the piston off," Thomas said. "Then it threw a rod and just blew up."

Unable to see, Thomas hit the right side retaining wall and began to slow his car as quickly as possible. Sensing the fire would only get worse, Thomas steered away from the flames, which caused him to cross the track and hit the opposite wall. The car is now being repaired at Jerry Bickel's race shop in St. Louis.

"Jerry is totally updating my car," Thomas said. "It will be a 2000 model when he's done with it. He's also working hard on our 2001 GM car, which he says is going to be a beautiful machine.

"We need to make a move over these next two races and go some rounds. We've had a tough start but its certainly not too late to make a move in the Winston championship points standings. Without Richie's help I think we'd really end up in a deep hole."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas