Q&A With Tom Harris

Tom Harris. (T.J. Buffenbarger photo)

Tom Harris. (T.J. Buffenbarger photo)
Following the heat races at the Kings Royal 2019 BriSCA Formula 1 Stock Cars British Champion Tom Harris made history becoming the first driver from the United Kingdom to make a World of Outlaws race by qualifying for the 36th annual Kings Royal. Harris from Altrincham, Manchester had a moment to discuss his experience after running the 40-lap Kings Royal finale.

T.J: Can you put into words what it means to be the first driver from the U.K. to qualify for the Kings Royal?

Harris: I’m still pinching myself. I don’t think its sunk in yet. I’m not dissing racing back home, but the way (Americans) put these events on over here and to be a part of a World of Outlaw A-Main and to be part of the Kings Royal are things I never, ever thought would be possible.

I’m frustrated with myself because I’m a racer and I want to win, but I have probably nine meetings experience in a winged sprint car. We’ve got it figured out when the track’s good. When the track goes away form us at these high-speed places, I do struggle. However, 40-laps we’ve improved on our speed and I wasn’t miles off my group that I was racing with. The only thing we can do is progress from that.

I’m still pinching myself from making a World of Outlaws A-Main event and being third quick, being part of the Kings Royal, being on stage, its unbelievable. I’ve been up there with drivers I’ve respected and looked up to forever. Donny Schatz, Brad Sweet, (Daryn) Pittman, everybody. All those names back home are legends. To be on stage with them is quite unbelievable.

T.J: How did you become interested in driving sprint cars?

Harris: I was eight years old and I went to Florida. The first time I saw a winged sprint car go around Volusia I took two steps back when it came towards me. Since then it’s something I’ve had the ambition to do. I’m not a quitter. From that day I’ve always wanted to race a winged sprint car. I never thought it would be possible to run with the World of Outlaws. I’m still quite surprised.

I won the world championship at home and my sponsors got together because they knew it was an ambition of mine to have a go in a winged sprint car. We went to Smiley Sitton’s school in Texas and I ran some laps and he was like, ‘Hey, had never never run a sprint car before?’ and I responded that I had never sat in one.

(Sitton) talked me through it and was impressed. He put me in touch with Bob East and I ran Chili Bowl for Bob. I had never seen a midget before, had nothing to do with the Chili Bowl before, and I was way out of my depth. I was ridiculously out of my depth. From there it’s something I ambitions to do. Then I got my non-wing sprint car. I wanted to race a winged car, but I didn’t want to run around in the back and waste my time and money. We got the non-wing car to get me some experience with the motors, tires, and stuff. A general start of driving. I was fortunate enough that my sponsor, Jamie Davidson, always wanted to have his own sprint car at the Knoxville Nationals. That was my first ever show in a winged sprint car. I was two and a half seconds off the pace. I enjoyed it, don’t get me wrong, but I was terrible. I went to Knoxville the next Saturday and I was three tenths off quick time and want two and a half seconds faster than I was the week before. In nine shows I’m still pinching myself on how far I’ve come forward.

T.J: What are your plans for the rest of 2019?

Harris: “I’m going to run Lawrenceburg in the non-wing car and Terre Haute. Then I’m going to fly home to run the European championship, which I’m defending, at North Hampton. Then the week after that I’m running my World Championship semifinal. Then I fly back to Knoxville on Monday, so hopefully I’m going to run the 360 show, my non-wing car at Oskaloosa, and the Knoxville Nationals.”

T.J: Where would you like to see your sprint car career head?

Harris: I’m a racer, I want to win, and the only way I’m going to win is seat time. To get seat time I need to stay out here. It’s a tough decision, it’s a bit step. The only way I think I’m going to benefit from now is to make the move and come out here for six months or a year and just run sprint cars because they are so different to drive.