COLUMBUS, Ohio (June 8) -- Nine-year professional drag racer Mike Thomas has experienced every aspect of the sport he's been a part of for most of his adult life. He's felt the elation of a national event win on 16 occasions, the satisfaction of a...
COLUMBUS, Ohio (June 8) -- Nine-year professional drag racer Mike Thomas has experienced every aspect of the sport he's been a part of for most of his adult life. He's felt the elation of a national event win on 16 occasions, the satisfaction of a top 10 finish, the pride of setting records that will be in the history books forever, and currently the disappointment and frustration of rebuilding his team after a devastating testing accident.
Thomas crashed his primary car during a practice session in late March and has battled to return to contender status ever since. While his sleek machine was being repaired, he borrowed cars from fellow racers so that he could continue to compete. Then he took delivery of his revamped Pontiac Firebird, resplendent with title sponsorship from Matco Tools, only to realize the accident had caused more than cosmetic damages.
Now, after two return trips to the shop for body adjustments and electrical system repairs, Thomas is hopeful that the former front-running machine will return to it's rightful place among the elite of the ultra-competitive Pro Stock class. He'll get his next chance to prove it June 16-18 at the 36th annual Pontiac Excitement Nationals.
"It wasn't long ago that we were on top of the world," Thomas said. "Now, although we're only off by a fraction of a second, we have a big deficit to overcome. We're working on this Matco Tools car day and night to get it straight. It's times like these when you learn what your team is made of and I'm very proud of the group of professionals on my team.
"I think they thing that has kept us so optimistic during these hard times since the wreck is the fact that our Finish Line Racing Engines continue to produce so much horsepower. Everyone out there using our stuff has been recording career-best elapsed times and speeds and that tells me we're right where we need to be with our engine development. It also tells me that our problem is strictly related to the car.
"I've never had an accident like that before. Looking back now I realize that you have to basically start over when the car impacts the wall at 200 mph. The wreck caused damage in areas where we never expected to see problems. This is a valuable and tough lesson to learn but I'm confident we'll be back on top before long."
ESPN2 will broadcast several hours of the Columbus event. Qualifying highlights will air from 7:30-9:30 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, June 17. Same-day race coverage will start with first-round action from 1:30-2:30pm (ET) and semifinal and final-round action from 5-7 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, June 18. A rebroadcast of the elimination rounds will air later that day from 9:30-11:30 p.m. (ET) and again from 2:30-3:30 a.m. (ET) on Friday, June 23.