POMONA, Calif. (Jan. 31) - After a sparkling final test session at Houston Raceway Park, NHRA Pro Stock racer Mike Thomas arrives at Pomona Raceway for the 40th annual AutoZone Winternationals Thursday through Sunday with - not one - but two...
POMONA, Calif. (Jan. 31) - After a sparkling final test session at Houston Raceway Park, NHRA Pro Stock racer Mike Thomas arrives at Pomona Raceway for the 40th annual AutoZone Winternationals Thursday through Sunday with - not one - but two lethal Pontiac Firebirds in his trailer. The two-car approach is the latest in upgrades to a team Thomas expects will be contending for the Winston championship from the first race of the season.
Using the same Finish Line Racing Engines that accounted for an astounding 25 percent of the qualified fields in 1999, Thomas powered both of his cars through precise testing laps in Houston. On a cold, green track, Thomas posted one of the weekend's quickest laps in his '99 Jerry Bickel-built machine, 6.863 seconds at 199.82 mph, before switching to his 2000 Jerry Haas-built Trans Am and pounding out several more laps in the low 6.9-second range.
"Both cars are running very strong right now," said Thomas, a 47-year-old from Knoxville, Tenn. "And I'm very pleased with the gains we've made in the off-season with our engine program. We haven't even unveiled our Race Day motors yet. I'm excited to see how we'll stack up. Every thing appears to be in order for us to have a sensational year.
"We have a realistic goal at every event -- we want to win the race. There are several cars capable of winning every week and I believe we're one of them. It all starts right here in Pomona. I'd love to get off to a good start, win the race, and put this car to the front of the pack right from the first race."
Thomas' transporter actually holds three cars, as new teammate Kenny Koretsky will also run his brand-new Rick Jones-built Pontiac Firebird out of the trailer. Koretsky, who drove Top Fuel and Pro Stock cars in the '80s, regained his competition license in Houston with several steady passes, the best of which showed 6.986 seconds at 198.06 mph. Koretsky will run Finish Line Racing Engines all season.
"Having two cars will expand our base of knowledge two-fold," Thomas said. "That has to be beneficial for both Kenny and myself because we'll have twice as much information on the track at every race. It's all part of our plan to challenge for the championship in 2000."
All race action can be seen on ESPN2 with same-day coverage of the elimination rounds. Qualifying highlights will be broadcast from 9:30-11:30 p.m. (EST) Saturday, Feb. 5. Final eliminations will air from 10:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. (EST) Sunday, Feb. 6.