Pomona: Thomas eyes future as season closes

POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 7) -- Pro Stock driver Mike Thomas heads to this weekend's 36th annual Auto Club of Southern California NHRA Finals at historic Pomona Raceway with the same goals as every other driver -- win the last event of the 2000 season.

POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 7) -- Pro Stock driver Mike Thomas heads to this weekend's 36th annual Auto Club of Southern California NHRA Finals at historic Pomona Raceway with the same goals as every other driver -- win the last event of the 2000 season. But the decorated nine-year pro from Knoxville, Tenn., is also thinking months ahead of this event to next year's campaign, which he hopes will be his best year ever.

The 47-year-old Thomas finished a career-high sixth in the Winston championship points standings in 1998 and he has implemented a gameplan for his racing team to return the group to prominence in the class in 2001.

Certainly, all the pieces are firmly in place at this point. Thomas has been working with four-time IHRA world champion crew chief Rick Hickman for two years now and the two men have established a state-of-the-art engine-building facility near Thomas' home in Tennessee. Additionally, Thomas hired fellow competitor and respected crew chief Tim Freeman as the head wrench on his car. Together, the three men form a formidable trio.

At the same time, in adherence to the latest rule changes in the Pro Stock class, Thomas has ordered a pair of brand-new cars for next year. Taking a cautious approach, Thomas ordered the two cars from two different manufacturers.

"We're not going to take any chances next season," Thomas said. "I wanted to make sure we covered all the bases and I firmly believe we've done just that at this point. We have all the ingredients of a championship team here. Our engine program behind Rick Hickman's guidance is the best I've ever seen and the changes Tim Freeman has made on this old car we've got now has shown me he's one of the best in the business.

"When we get all of our new stuff together, look out, we're going to be flying. Don't get me wrong, I would love to go into Pomona and win this race but I'm really more excited about the future then anything else. All the hard work and bad luck we've fought through will be made up for 100 times over when we come back to this track in February."

ESPN2 will broadcast several hours of the 36th annual Auto Club of Southern California NHRA Finals. Qualifying highlights will air from 10:30-11:30 p.m. (PT), on Saturday, Nov. 11. Same-day elimination round coverage will be divided into two segments on Sunday, Nov. 12, with the first round airing from 3-4 p.m. (PT) and the finals airing from 7-9 p.m. (PT). A repeat will follow from 10 p.m.-12 a.m. (PT), on Monday, Nov. 13.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas , Tim Freeman