Embattled Thomas takes aim at Top 10 MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Oct. 5) -- Pennzoil Pro Stock driver Mike Thomas will be the first one to tell you he expected bigger things this year. After closing the 1998 season in a career-high sixth place in the ...
Embattled Thomas takes aim at Top 10
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Oct. 5) -- Pennzoil Pro Stock driver Mike Thomas will be the first one to tell you he expected bigger things this year. After closing the 1998 season in a career-high sixth place in the Winston championship points standings, the Knoxville resident was hoping to compete for the top spot of the National Hot Rod Association's competitive Pro Stock bracket.
But as the 22-event circuit makes it's way to Thomas' home state for the 12th annual AutoZone Nationals presented by Pennzoil at Memphis Motorsports Park, the 47-year-old finds himself in 13th place, 111 points (or five and a half rounds) out of the top 10.
"It's been a very trying year," Thomas said. "We made an unexpected crew chief change early in the season and it took us awhile to catch up to the pack. Plus, our new crew chief Rick Hickman has been splitting his time between us and an IHRA Funny Car team that he has tuned into championship contention. It's ended up being a transition year for us."
Despite all the changes and an uncharacteristic four DNQs this season, Thomas has used the power of his own hand-built Finish Line Racing Engines to stay within striking distance of the top drivers. His six elimination-round wins and seven top-half qualifying efforts in 15 national events have earned him 622 points. Additionally this year Thomas joined the exclusive Speed-Pro 200-MPH Club while resetting both his career-best speed and elapsed time with a 6.880-second lap at 200.35 mph.
"We've never lost confidence in our motors," said Thomas, who leases powerplants to several Pro Stock teams. "If we didn't rent our motors out we'd be in the top 10 right now. But the catch is that the money we get from leasing motors helps us compete at a higher level.
"I know we can run with the top teams because we routinely out-ran them in the past. It just hasn't happened much this year. We've had a tough time matching the power to the car. The last few races are a good example. For some reason the front tires are dragging, especially down-track when the wind pushes the body down. So we're sending the car to the (builder) Jerry Haas this week to have it fixed. Hopefully, we'll be ready for Memphis.
"Our goal is to finish in the top 10. We're a few rounds back and there aren't many rounds left this season so every round must be taken seriously from this point forward. Plus, Pennzoil informed us earlier this summer that they're not sponsoring any professional-level drag racing teams so a top 10 finish becomes an important tool as we search for a new sponsor.
"I'd love nothing more than a win in Tennessee. It would help make up for a lot of unfortunate things we've had to deal with this year. We'll be going for broke."