ATLANTA (May 2) -- For three consecutive seasons in the early 1990s, Pro Stock driver Mike Thomas virtually ruled the field at Atlanta Dragway, taking three straight Super Stock titles at the historic Southern Nationals. Now, as the 24-event NHRA...
ATLANTA (May 2) -- For three consecutive seasons in the early 1990s, Pro Stock driver Mike Thomas virtually ruled the field at Atlanta Dragway, taking three straight Super Stock titles at the historic Southern Nationals. Now, as the 24-event NHRA drag racing tour returns for the 21st annual Advance Auto Parts Southern Nationals, Thomas hopes a new car and a new engine will help his team reclaim glory in the Deep South.
Thomas, a 15-time winner in NHRA competition, enters this race behind the wheel of the newest Pro Stock car on the circuit, a two-week-old 2001 Pontiac Grand Am built by Don Ness and David Monday. Now he's hoping that his familiarity with the track -- Thomas lives in Knoxville, Tenn., and oftentimes tests his various racecars at Atlanta Dragway -- combined with his latest state-of-the-art powerplant from his Finish Line Racing Engine shop will be the perfect combination to set the track ablaze once again.
"We've won more races in Atlanta than anywhere we go," said the 48-year-old Thomas, who turned pro in 1993. "So it's always been one of my favorite tracks. Since they remodeled the place and repaved the track it's even better then it was back in the early '90s when we were winning races there.
"It's the kind of facility that lends itself to big horsepower teams. As long as it doesn't get too terribly hot, you can really pound on the track and it always seems willing to hold the power. We pride ourselves on making a lot of horsepower and generally, we've been able to do that. Now we need to find a way to get all that horsepower onto the track."
Thomas is coming off a disappointing near-miss in Bristol, Tenn., where his team failed to make the elimination field by a mere four-thousandths of a second.
"The elapsed time we ran in Bristol with this new car would have made us the No. 1 qualifier there the year before," Thomas said. "But most of the top teams in the class have switched over to the new car designs and the advancements have made everyone considerably quicker. I think we would've made the field with room to spare but the time crunch of getting this new car to the race left us with only one day to test. Our inexperience with the car came back and got us. That won't happen in Atlanta."
ESPN2 will carry several hours of the 21st annual Advance Auto Parts Southern Nationals. Qualifying highlights will air from 4:30-6:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, with a rebroadcast early Sunday morning from 4-6 a.m. The elimination rounds will be air from 5-8 p.m. ET, with a rebroadcast from 1-3 p.m., Thursday, May 10.