By Tim Tuttle
Teenager Tyler Thomas takes his pursuit of the championship in the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series to Jacksonville (Ill.) Speedway on Friday (April 27) and Macon (Ill.) Speedway on Saturday (April 28).
The 16-year-old from Collinsville, Okla., emerged in second place in the points after the opening two events of the season at Cowtown Speedway in Kennedale, Texas. Thomas finished second in the feature on March 17, an event which had 64 entries. He was 22nd in the feature on March 16, which had 66 entries. Thomas trails two-time POWRi National Midget champion Brad Kuhn of Avon, Ind., 250-200.
Thomas was spectacular in his POWRi debut a year ago, winning the feature at West Plains (Mo.) Motor Speedway. It was his first race in a fully-powered Midget. Thomas entered nine more POWRi events and made six features. He was fourth at Springfield (Mo.) Raceway and 10th at U.S 36 Raceway in Cameron, Mo.
Father, team owner and crew chief Brian Thomas and Tyler decided, based on their performances in 2011, they were ready to chase the Midget championships in POWRi National and first-year POWRi West, which includes four events in their home state of Oklahoma.
“We were looking for the next step in Tyler’s career and we thought we’d go to Midgets,” Brian Thomas said. “Everything we learned, everyone we talked to told us POWRi was the most professional and most competitive series in the country right now. We were looking for that level of competition. You can only be as good as the competition and you have to race the best if you want to be one of those guys. POWRi was a no brainer.”
Thomas has been successful in everything he’s driven. In karting, he won races in the Stars of Karting and finishing second (out of 47 starters) at age 12 in the TaG Junior class at the prestigious SKUSA SuperNationals in Las Vegas. He transitioned to dirt ovals and had three seasons of steadily winning races in a modified Midgets and Micro Sprints.
Tyler Thomas also works on the team’s Triple X chassis. The team uses an Esslinger Engineering motor.
“Tyler works on the car just as much as I do,” Brian Thomas said. “It helps him learn about shock and chassis adjustments and gets him involved in our setups.”
With the deep and quality field at Cowtown, Brian Thomas’ goal was to make the features both nights and a top-10 “would have been like a win.”
Tyler ran 11th in the opening-night feature before cutting a tire and dropping back. He ran third for most of the second feature and finished second.
“He earned second,” Brian said. “I’m more proud of that than anything. He didn’t fall into it. He was fast all week and everything came together in the feature.”
Tyler Thomas gave his crew chief credit for a fast car.
“You couldn’t have asked for a better car,” Tyler said.
The events at Jacksonville and Macon will also have the POWRi Speedw. ay Motors 600cc Outlaw Micro Series and will be co-sanctioned by the Badger Midget Auto Racing Association, which opens its 76th season. It’s also start of the season for the POWRi Micros.
The events at Jacksonville and Macon are titled “Dirt Road to Indy” in honor of three-time National Midget Driver of the Year Bryan Clauson, who has been entered in this year’s Indianapolis 500 by Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. Clauson had hoped to compete at Jacksonville and Macon, but an unexpected schedule conflict has forced him to withdraw.
POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series top-10 points standings (after two of 31 events); 1. Brad Kuhn 250, 2. Tyler Thomas 200, 3. Tyler Courtney 175, 4. Zach Daum 170, 5. Andrew Felker 160, 6. Levi Roberts 135, 7. Chett Gehrke 130, 8. Christopher Bell 120, 9. Jake Blackhurst 105, 10. Garrett Aitken 95.
POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series 2012 race winners: Kennedale, Texas—Brady Bacon; Kennedale, Texas—Dave Darland.
For more information, go to www.POWRi.com.