Las Vegas: Could be turning point for Thomas

LAS VEGAS (April 2) -- Buoyed by a fortuitous testing session just days ago in Houston, 48-year-old Pro Stock driver Mike Thomas of Knoxville, Tenn., is hoping his racing future has finally taken a turn for the better as the 24-event NHRA tour...

LAS VEGAS (April 2) -- Buoyed by a fortuitous testing session just days ago in Houston, 48-year-old Pro Stock driver Mike Thomas of Knoxville, Tenn., is hoping his racing future has finally taken a turn for the better as the 24-event NHRA tour turns it's attention to this weekend's second annual SummitRacing.com Nationals at Bruton Smith's The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

No stranger to the Winner's Circle or a Top 10 ranking in the Winston championship points standings, Thomas, a 16-time winner in NHRA competition, has had a rough run of late. He's crashed three different vehicles over the last 20 months and has been forced to compete in various back-up cars and loaner vehicles ever since.

His latest ride, the out-dated '97 Chevrolet Camaro formerly owned by Kurt Johnson -- which won six races over the course of the second half of the Y2K campaign -- has finally been sorted out by Thomas' championship-winning crew. The near-career best numbers the group posted March 26 during that Houston test session certainly seems to point to greater successes ahead.

"We ran well enough in Houston that we would have been a top-half car on race day," Thomas said. "We are all so excited about Vegas and, for the first time in a long time, we feel like we have a car that can truly contend with the best cars in the class.

"If we can translate what we did in testing to the actual race this coming weekend then it will help us out tremendously in two areas. First, it'll be a huge moral booster for the guys on this team who have never given up even when times were tough. Rick and Jody Hickman, and Lanny Richards should all be commended for their effort. Secondly, if in fact we do have this car at a competitive level, then it eases the pressure off the rush we were feeling to get our new 2001 Grand Am on the track by Bristol."

Thomas and Co. expect delivery of a second state-of-the-art Grand Am within days. The car is currently in the final stages of preparation and should be ready to test by the time the crew returns from Vegas. The first car the team acquired was defective and ended up being damaged in preseason testing. It was then returned to the manufacturer.

"It would be nice to have two cars we can count on," Thomas said. "But first things first, it's time to start a lucky streak in Las Vegas. We're ready for some good luck."

-Rob Geiger

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas