News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 7, 2013

TRACKSIDE: Thomas taking momentum into Lincoln Park

Joe Buckles
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE —  When drivers and crews of the Midwest Sprint Car Series return to Lincoln Park Speedway for a makeup date Saturday night up and coming star Kevin Thomas Jr. will enter the night looking to continue his highly successful ways.

Thomas tuned up for the event this past weekend by winning the MSCS Hoosier Sprint Nationals feature at Tri-State Speedway near Haubstadt. It marked his third MSCS feature win of the year.

Local fans had the opportunity to watch Thomas display his immense talents with his recent win in the Don Smith Classic at the Terre Haute Action Track’s USAC Indiana Sprint Week show.

It was his third straight win in the ISW series that was eventually won by Bryan Clauson. It marked his sixth USAC win of the year.

When Thomas appeared on the Midwest sprint car scene it was generally assumed that the youngster was the son of former area sprint car standout Kevin Thomas.

And for good reason. Bearing the same last name and hailing from Cullman, Ala., it was easy to see why the fans were quick to draw the comparison between the two.

But both are quick to attest the only relationship between themselves are that they just happen to have the same last name and made their ways into sprint cars after traveling here from Alabama.

“I wish I had a dollar every time I’ve been asked if we were related,” voiced the former sprint car standout. “I had the chance to meet him for the first time a year ago. He’s a nice kid with a ton of talent. I wish him all the best.”

The younger Thomas good naturedly concedes that he's had his share of moments when on more than one occasion the comparisons have been aimed in his direction.

“It’s been a pretty common occurrence to be asked if were related but I tell the fans there’s no relationship. Yeah, we’re both from Alabama but he came from a lot farther south than I did. I never met the guy until a year ago,” voiced the younger Thomas.

Now in his second year running USAC, Thomas ventured to the Midwest after starting his racing career running BMX bicycles at age eight. He later moved up to mini-sprints before venturing north to run the sprints.

“You don’t see sprint cars much in Alabama so I knew I had to come up north if I was going to run the sprints. I had never been in a sprint until I got here. I guess you could say they sort of threw me to the wolves. But that’s how I learned,” confessed the 22-year-old Thomas.

As the records will show he's been a pretty fast learner. After posting his initial win in USAC a season ago, Thomas has reeled off six wins already in 2013. “Its really been a good year for us. Things have fallen in place. You just hope things continue to go your way,” said the hard charging newcomer.

• Pit notes — The local area was well represented in the Haubstadt MSCS card with four drivers from the Terre Haute area joining the strong field.

It was good to see Fitzpatrick Racing out of West Terre Haute back at the race track. The brother combination of Blake and Braylon Fitzpatrick were both back in action after sitting out most of the early part of year.

Blake made the most of the opportunity finishing with a solid third finish behind Thomas and runnerup Chase Stockon.  Seth Parker ran 14th. Brandon Matton 17th and Braylon Fitzpatrick 20th in the 40-lap main event.

Saturday’s LPS card will pay tribute to area driver Ed “Slick” Griffin who passed away unexpectedly earlier this summer. The veteran racer who hailed from Carbon was one of the most recognizable and most successful driver in the history of the Putnam County oval.

On a sad note sprint car racing lost one of its best over the weekend when legendary sprint car driver Kramer Williamson lost his life in a URC winged sprint car race at Lincoln Speedway in Pennsylvania Sunday.

The Hall of Fame racer was part of the famed “Pennsylvania Posse” that made an appearance at the Action Track in the early 70s when they competed in the Tony Hulman Classic.

 

Joe Buckles can be reached at jbuckles4@frontier.com.