Thomas to drive last Pomona winner

POMONA, Calif. (Jan. 29) -- While many of his peers in the Pro Stock class arrive at Pomona Raceway for this weekend's 41st annual Winternationals with brand new cars, veteran driver Mike Thomas will kick-off his 10th season of professional ...

POMONA, Calif. (Jan. 29) -- While many of his peers in the Pro Stock class arrive at Pomona Raceway for this weekend's 41st annual Winternationals with brand new cars, veteran driver Mike Thomas will kick-off his 10th season of professional competition with a tried and true winner. While he fine-tunes his own 2001 Pontiac Grand Am chassis, Thomas has decided to race with Kurt Johnson's old Chevrolet Camaro for the first few events. It's the same car that Johnson drove to six second-half wins last year, including the NHRA Finals in Pomona.

"We've got a new Grand Am and another one on the way," Thomas said. "But we felt like we were rushing to get the first one done in time to race in Pomona so I bought Kurt's old car and we'll use it until we're comfortable with the new one.

"We're very optimistic about racing the Camaro. Once Kurt started using it last year in Denver he won a bunch of races and shot up the points standings to second place. He probably would have made a serious run at the championship if he had used this car all year. Obviously, it's a reliable car that is capable of winning races. But, the future is with the new designs. They're quicker and faster. Still, this car is good enough to keep us in the hunt."

Thomas completed some test laps in Bradenton, Fla., with his new Grand Am, which was constructed by a new chassis builder, but he never reached a level of confidence with the car that he could be consistent and competitive in Pomona. He even encountered some problems with the steering mechanism and had a minor brush with the retaining wall.

"Everyone out there with a new car is really pushing to get ready for Pomona," said Thomas, a 48-year-old from Knoxville, Tenn. "Some of us just decided to wait. Even (2000 Winston champ) Jeg Coughlin and his brother are waiting. To me, it's the smart and safe thing to do.

"We'll get to Pomona and we'll race as hard as we can. I hope our horsepower works as well in this Camaro as K.J.'s stuff did last year. I know Rick and Jody Hickman have been working around the clock at my Finish Line Racing Engines shop here in Knoxville to make as much power as possible. We're all anxious to see how we'll do when the points and money are on the line. We're excited about this season."

Several hours of the 41st annual AutoZone Winternationals will be broadcast on ESPN and ESPN2. Qualifying highlights will be shown from 9:30-11:30 p.m., Saturday, on ESPN2. The elimination rounds will air from 8-9 p.m., Sunday, on ESPN, with a rebroadcast from 11 p.m.-12 a.m., Sunday, on ESPN2.

-Robert Geiger

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas , Jeg Coughlin , Kurt Johnson