Kevin Thomas, Jason Knoke annouce retirements

KEVIN THOMAS RETIRES Kevin Thomas has said all season that this would be his 25th and last season in a sprint car. There was speculation throughout the racing fraternity that, when it came right down to actually retiring, Thomas would change...

KEVIN THOMAS RETIRES

Kevin Thomas has said all season that this would be his 25th and last season in a sprint car. There was speculation throughout the racing fraternity that, when it came right down to actually retiring, Thomas would change his mind. After all, most of us who have been around very long remember Thomas making this kind of proclamation before.

Saturday night Kevin showed up at Lawrenceburg Speedway to pilot his regular sprint car in the program there. He ran third in his heat race to earn a spot in the feature. When he returned to the pits his crew met him there to get his take on what changes the car would need for the feature. However, when Thomas climbed from the car, he grabbed some wrenches and started unbolting his seat. He took his seat and headed for the parking lot. He was probably in the parking lot and gone before his crew got there chins off of their chests.

One of the bystanders said, "I never saw a seat come out of a car so fast. He must have had it fastened in with velcro.

Thomas' car owner, Rodney Reynolds of North Vernon, was shocked by the way that he left; but he was not surprised that he didn't make it to the end of the season. He said, "Kevin has been very busy with his race car service business; and he had said, 'I'm not going to make it to the end of the season.'"

Perhaps more dramatic than Thomas' departure was the line of drivers who found their way to the Reynolds pit to express interest in the ride. Chances are that Reynolds will make a decision on an interim replacement for Thomas before Friday night. He doesn't want to miss the Sheldon Kinser Memorial at Bloomington Speedway on Friday.

JASON KNOKE QUITS SPRINT CAR RACING

Jason Knoke of Columbus has been driving for the Law Brothers out of Commisky the past couple of seasons; and the fit could not have been better. There are no nicer people in sprint car racing than Roger and Vic Law and their families. While the Law Brothers sprinter is not the highest dollar car on the track, it is a good, solid car that is meticulously maintained. They know that they're not going to win too often in USAC; but they can win sometimes and they can often win non-USAC races. They won two championships at Twin Cities Raceway in Vernon with Jason in the cockpit.

Jason is a smart, talented race driver. There are lots of talented race drivers; and there are a good number of smart race drivers. There are relatively few that are both. However, like most race drivers, Jason could not afford to do it full time. He needs a real job too. He has a good job at Toyota; and, last year, he was married. He started to think about his obligations then. A few weeks ago he took a very bad ride at Terre Haute. He got a pretty bad concussion; and the Law Brothers' brand new sprint car was demolished. It was the worst injury that Jason had ever had; and it made him think about how much worse it could be. He also felt bad about totaling out the new car. Roger and Vic are well aware that a car can be destroyed every time it goes on the track and that if the driver is trying to win it's going to happen once in a while. As soon as it was determined that the car was history, they ordered a new one. They stressed to Jason that it wasn't his fault. It was just part of racing. After all, Jason has done exceptionally well in taking care of their equipment.

Jason is smart enough to know that it is highly unlikely for him to make the big leagues; and he also knew that his other obligations would go on whether he was able to work or not. He felt that these obligations sometimes kept him from taking a chance that he needed to take to maximize his performance in the car. He didn't feel that this was fair to the Laws; and he told them after the USAC race at Lawrenceburg that he was going to retire. They told him to think about it for a week and let them know for sure. The end of last week he went to their home and told them that he was done. They respected his decision; and they will, no doubt, find another good driver.

Jason commented, "I'll probably race some karts and maybe some TQ's for fun. I love sprint cars. Maybe I'll discover that I like turning wrenches better."

The way that Jason and the Laws handled this speaks volumes about the feelings that they have for each other. They have developed a friendship that will last a lifetime. It's too bad that they will not be racing together; but it would be far worse if they never had.

-Tim McKinney

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Series Sprint