Thomas 'coming home' to Bristol BRISTOL, Tenn. (June 30) -- The National Hot Rod Association's return to Bristol Dragway for the Inaugural Winston Showdown July 8-10 will mark the first time in 33 years that drag racing's top division has...
Thomas 'coming home' to Bristol
BRISTOL, Tenn. (June 30) -- The National Hot Rod Association's return to Bristol Dragway for the Inaugural Winston Showdown July 8-10 will mark the first time in 33 years that drag racing's top division has competed on Tennessee's most historic quarter-mile stretch. For Pennzoil Pro Stock driver Mike Thomas, who lives in nearby Knoxville, the return is long overdue.
"I couldn't be happier," Thomas said. "When I first heard that they were going to tear down the old track and build a new, state-of-the-art facility here, my heart literally started pounding. I love this track and I can't wait to race here again. It's been a long wait.
"When racing cars is such a big part of your life, all your friends and family and the people that work with you during the week are always saying 'When are we going to see you race?' It's hard for most people to drop everything and travel somewhere far away to watch you. Now, everybody's just down the road. Finally, we're coming home to race."
Thomas has an automatic berth in Saturday's elimination rounds of the event by virtue of his win in Chicago in 1998. Still, he and the rest of the Pro Stock class will have to qualify for their starting position on Thursday and Friday.
"I'm glad the NHRA is letting us qualify in the usual fashion," Thomas said. "Because right now nobody has any idea what that track is like. We had scheduled in a few days of testing but were told the track surface was going to be ground out and smoothed over. Basically, there won't be a lot of rubber on that track when we get there so it'll be like a big sheet of ice. Whoever skates the best is going to win."
The 46-year-old Thomas spent several weekend's racing at the old Bristol strip, competing in the International Hot Rod Association's Super Stock bracket. "It was always a lot of fun racing there," Thomas said. "I used to put a big ol' University of Tennessee sticker on my hot rod and the fans would go crazy. But, the more I got involved with racing the more I knew that I would end up in the NHRA and that's exactly what happened. I'm just happy to be back racing in my own backyard for a change."
The 1999 season has been a promising one for Thomas. He has qualified for nine of 11 national events and has notched five elimination round wins. He also competed in the Holley Dominator Duel, an invitation-only special event for the top eight Pro Stock qualifiers from the last year. Additionally, Thomas logged a lap of 200.35 mph, which earned him a spot in the exclusive Speed-Pro 200 mph Club. He is currently in 11th place in the Winston championship points standings.