Matco's Thomas tabs Freeman as crew chief

INDIANAPOLIS (August 29) -- Pro Stock driver Mike Thomas has hired respected crew chief and driver Tim Freeman to tune his Matco Tools-sponsored Pontiac Firebird entry. Freeman has already joined the crew at their shop in Knoxville, Tenn. and has...

INDIANAPOLIS (August 29) -- Pro Stock driver Mike Thomas has hired respected crew chief and driver Tim Freeman to tune his Matco Tools-sponsored Pontiac Firebird entry. Freeman has already joined the crew at their shop in Knoxville, Tenn. and has been working feverishly to have the car prepared in time to qualify for this weekend's 46th annual U.S. Nationals.

"I've raced with Tim for a long time and I believe he's the most qualified person out there," Thomas said. "In our sportsman days and since we've both come over to the professional ranks, I've always admired his abilities, especially in clutch situations. He's raced well when he's driving and he's helped a lot of different teams pick up their performance as a crew chief. We're excited to have him on our Matco Tools team."

Freeman's most recent job was as the driver of the Larry Kopp-owned Pro Stock Truck entry. Kopp put Freeman in the seat after being sidelined due to shoulder surgery. Since then Kopp has recovered and returned to the cockpit. Freeman, who finished in the top 10 of the class in 1998 and '99, is currently in 14th place in the PST standings.

The 35-year-old from Roan Mountain, Tenn., has one national event win in his brief professional driving career. Previously, Freeman competed in Comp Eliminator and the IHRA's modified eliminator bracket. He is married to Crystal and has a son named Garrett.

"Tim was anxious to get to work and he and my engine builder Rick Hickman are working on the car right now," Thomas said. "They've already found a bunch of things that needed adjusting. Hiring Tim has really got me excited again about the possibilities of this team."

The move comes in the midst of a frustrating year for Thomas in which he's struggled mightily at every event. The former top 10 driver, who last won a race in Chicago of 1998, was involved in a testing accident earlier in the season and had to borrow several different cars to continue racing. When his primary car was finally repaired it was producing sub-par numbers, prompting several return trips to the shop. In all, Thomas has qualified for just four events and has yet to record an elimination-round win in 2000. He is 22nd in the Winston points.

"It's been disappointing for all of us," said Thomas, an eight-year veteran. "The only thing keeping our spirits up is that Rick has been making some awesome horsepower at our Finish Line Racing Engines shop. We just haven't been able to show it off yet. Hopefully, Tim can get us up to speed and we'll use the rest of the season to make amends for our slow start. The future for this Matco team is limitless, I truly believe that."

Same day television coverage of the U.S. Nationals will air Labor Day entirely on TNN. Qualifying and first-round action will be broadcast from noon-2 p.m. ET with final eliminations airing from 5-7 p.m. ET, Monday, Sept. 4.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas , Larry Kopp , Tim Freeman