Houston: Engine stockpile has Thomas hopeful

HOUSTON (Oct. 25) -- The "Silly Season" usually refers to the time of the year when drivers change crew chiefs, teams find different sponsors, and new cars roll off the assembly line and onto the racetrack. But as the 2000 NHRA tour reaches its ...

HOUSTON (Oct. 25) -- The "Silly Season" usually refers to the time of the year when drivers change crew chiefs, teams find different sponsors, and new cars roll off the assembly line and onto the racetrack. But as the 2000 NHRA tour reaches its climax with an unprecedented three races in just two-and-a-half weeks, the term "Silly Season" seems to take on a whole new meaning.

Professional Pro Stock driver Mike Thomas is no stranger to the twists and turns of the NHRA schedule and the forced three-race scramble to finish the season, which was necessitated by a rain-out at last weekend's event in Dallas and its subsequent rescheduling to Nov. 3-4, is just another hurdle to clear.

"I don't know that we've ever finished a season with three in a row but we're ready for it," said Thomas, the driver of the Matco Tools Pontiac. "One of the advantages of having your own engine shop is that we have a lot of inventory on hand. Racing three weekends in a row would drain a lot of teams but we'll just load some extra motors on the trailer and we'll be ready to go. I actually think this gives us a clear advantage."

Thomas, a 47-year-old from Knoxville, Tenn., is hoping to parlay that edge into a win over the last three events. His up-and-down season -- a result of an early testing accident -- has taken him out of the 2000 championship hunt but he and his crew are anxious to finish on a high note and take dead aim at their 2001 campaign.

"Our program suffered this year and it's been frustrating at times," said Thomas. "But Rick Hickman is building some of the best engines in the history of the sport and the addition of Tim Freeman as our crew chief has really got us excited about the future. It would be great to finish the year by winning some rounds and maybe getting another trophy. It would be such a lift for everyone on our team that has worked so hard all season.

"Obviously, we'd like to do well in Houston for our sponsor Matco Tools. I reached the finals at that track in 1998 and we went to the semifinals last year so I feel like we know how to tune the car for Houston Raceway Park. We sure won't be holding anything back."

Same-day television coverage of the fourth annual Matco Tools SuperNationals will be divided into two shows on ESPN2. The first round of eliminations will air from 2:30-4 p.m. (ET), Sunday, Oct. 29. The remainder of the elimination rounds will be broadcast later that day from 7:30-10 p.m., with a rebroadcast at 1-3 p.m. (ET) Monday afternoon.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas , Tim Freeman