Columbus: Thomas catching up to the pack

COLUMBUS, Ohio (June 11) -- Every driver of note in the competitive world of NHRA Pro Stock racing has been on a giant learning curve this year. New rules calling for a massive switch to 2001 body styles across the class reset any competitive edge...

COLUMBUS, Ohio (June 11) -- Every driver of note in the competitive world of NHRA Pro Stock racing has been on a giant learning curve this year. New rules calling for a massive switch to 2001 body styles across the class reset any competitive edge that teams had built over the past several years. Now, the race for a new advantage has dominated the headlines in Pro Stock with eight different winners in the first 10 races.

"No one has stepped up yet and taken control of this class," said Mike Thomas, a 10-year pro from Knoxville, Tenn. "The teams you expect to run well have moved to the front but it's still wide open because everyone out there has had stretches where they're totally lost, including our team. It's exciting because no one is out of the running just yet and we're 10 races into the season."

Like many of his counterparts, Thomas worked furiously in the off-season to adjust to a new car. But an unforeseen testing accident ruined his primary 2001 Pontiac Grand Am and moved him to the back of the line for a replacement vehicle. He has since taken delivery of a new machine and he and his Finish Line Racing Engines crew have been working double-time to get back up to speed with the category's frontrunners.

"We got another car from Don Ness a few races back and it appears to be a very competitive design," Thomas said. "Our problem has been timing. We got the new car in the middle of a stretch of six races in seven weekends so we just haven't had any time to work out the nuances of this car except for at the races themselves. Not exactly an ideal scenario but you have to work with what you've got.

"We've been making progress matching the car to our horsepower and finding the exact set-up this car wants to get up and down the racetrack. Hopefully, we're where we need to be by the time we get to Columbus.

"I personally love racing at these older events that have been around forever. These are the races you grow up hearing about and to win one of them would be extra special. This team is still taking baby steps right now so we'd be happy with a strong qualifying effort and a chance to race on Sunday. Once you get there it's anybody's game."

ESPN 2 will broadcast several hours of the 37th annual Pontiac Excitement Nationals presented by Summit Racing. Highlights of the qualifying rounds will air from 10 p.m. to midnight ET, Saturday, with a rebroadcast from 4-6 a.m. ET, Sunday. The elimination rounds will air from 8-10 p.m. ET, Sunday, with a rebroadcast from 4-6 a.m. ET, Tuesday, June 19, and again at 1-3 p.m. ET, Wednesday, June 20.

-GM Racing

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