HOUSTON (March 26) â€“ After a disappointing weekend where he failed to qualify for the 14th annual Oâ€™Reilly Nationals presented by Pennzoil at Houston Raceway Park, Pro Stock driver Mike Thomas suddenly found himself as the center of attention...
HOUSTON (March 26) – After a disappointing weekend where he failed to qualify for the 14th annual O’Reilly Nationals presented by Pennzoil at Houston Raceway Park, Pro Stock driver Mike Thomas suddenly found himself as the center of attention during an impromptu Monday test session at the venerable southeast Texas track. Thomas ran the quickest and fastest Pro Stock lap of the day when he tripped the timers in 6.863 seconds at 198.88 mph, prompting a barrage of encouraging words from the gathered pros.
“That’s the best run we’ve had in over a year,” said Thomas, who’s been hampered by a pair of accidents and forced into back-up cars several times over the last 10 months. “And it could have been a lot better. We had way too much clutch in the car and it was spinning quite a bit down track, but the eighth-mile numbers were the same as my personal-best pass from last January.”
Officially, Thomas’ best pass in NHRA competition is a 6.880-second lap at 200.35 mph, which he ran in May of 1999 at Virginia Motorsports Park. His best lap ever occurred during another testing session last year at Houston Raceway Park when he dipped to 6.840 at 200.51 mph.
“Normally you don’t get too excited about testing sessions because you’re usually just there trying to figure out something specific on your car,” Thomas said. “But with the bad luck we’ve had in the last year -- wrecking our primary car early in the 2000 season and then getting a new 2001 Grand Am and wrecking it this preseason, and being forced into driving an old car like this just so we can compete -- well, that makes today very, very satisfying. It’s been a long time since we’ve had something to smile about in our pit.” The numbers Thomas ran in testing today would have placed him in the top half of yesterday’s elimination field in the No. 6 spot.
While he awaits the arrival of another new Grand Am, which he expects to take delivery of in the next month, Thomas has been driving the 1997 Chevrolet Camaro that Kurt Johnson drove to six wins in the second half of the 2000 season.
“The car’s old and beat up and looks like hell but we knew it could run,” Thomas said. “Despite the rumblings we were hearing out here and what our recent results might indicate, we knew we had a ton of horsepower with our Finish Line Racing Engines. It was just a matter of matching the chassis and clutch to our motors.
“As it turns out, we’ve been doing everything right. There was just a mysterious electrical problem somewhere. Today we unhooked everything we didn’t need and hardwired the rest right to the battery. The way the car yanked the wheels up at the starting line I knew right then we had solved our problems. The big numbers at the other end were just icing on the cake.
“I haven’t been this excited in quite awhile. We’ve all been dragging lately but this is a huge lift for everyone on the team. We can’t wait to get to Vegas now.”
Thomas, who was always a big player in the Winston championship points standings in the late 1990s, will next have a chance to match up with the rest of the Pro Stock class April 5-8 at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway during the second annual SummitRacing.com Nationals.
- Robert Geiger