HOUSTON (April 16) -- After the starting the season with an uncharacteristic string of DNQs, Pro Stock driver Mike Thomas knew the road back to contender status would take some time. Fortunately, the 47-year-old from Knoxville, Tenn. took a big...
HOUSTON (April 16) -- After the starting the season with an uncharacteristic string of DNQs, Pro Stock driver Mike Thomas knew the road back to contender status would take some time. Fortunately, the 47-year-old from Knoxville, Tenn. took a big step forward this weekend by qualifying for the 13th annual O'Reilly Nationals presented by Pennzoil at Houston Raceway Park.
Thomas, who had been one of the most consistent racers on the circuit with just five total DNQs in the last two seasons, has struggled out of the gate in 2000, missing four straight races. He unsuccessfully tried to break in a new car at the start of the season and then wrecked his 1999 machine in testing a few weeks ago. But, by all indications from the Houston race, the bad streak appears to be over.
"We're getting better, step by step," Thomas said. "I'll have my car back by next week and we should be back where we need to be by the Richmond (Va.) race. It's certainly been a tough start for us. We had high hopes for this season and now we'll have to adjust our goals and do the best we can for our sponsors and our fans.
"Bad luck visits every team out here at some point. I guess it was our turn. We'll tighten everything up in this pit and work as hard as we can to get back in the points race. My car will be totally updated to 2000 specifications. It will basically be brand new."
Driving fellow competitor Richie Stevens' back-up Valspar Refinish car for the last two races while his machine was being repaired, Thomas has run close to the lead cars. He missed the Las Vegas field by .001 of a second before breaking through here in the Bayou City.
Thomas qualified with a 6.929-second pass at 197.77 mph before losing to current Winston points leader Jeg Coughlin in Round 1. In that race, Thomas was disqualified at the starting line for leaving too early (.386 seconds.)
"This weekend was very satisfying because we've worked so hard to get back on the track," Thomas said. "The car went a little left and I overcorrected. I guess it didn't matter because I left too early but I knew we needed a good run to beat him. I was trying to nail the light. It was still good to be back out there competing. We'll keep after it and I guarantee you people will hear from us before we're done."