ATTICA, Ohio — After heading back to the Midwest following a split with Pennsylvania car owner John Trone, Cale Thomas entered the Cometic Gasket Ohio Sprint Speedweek opener looking to make waves.
He did that Friday night at Attica Raceway Park, in more than one way.
Not only did Thomas notch a fourth-place finish at the third-mile dirt oval, wheeling his family-owned No. 91, but the 22-year-old had one of the more impressive saves you’ll ever see in a sprint car.
Running third at the halfway point of the 40-lap feature, Thomas took evasive action when the lapped car of Duane Zablocki spun right in his path at the exit of turn two.
Thomas spun his car to try and avoid the stopped Zablocki machine, banged wheels briefly with the No. 9z and then gunned his car over the inside berm and into the infield to keep it from stalling out.
After “off-roading it,” as Thomas later described, he maintained his third-place position for the ensuing restart before giving up one spot to All Star Circuit of Champions point leader Aaron Reutzel during the lap-21 restart.
From there, Thomas held serve in fourth to the checkered flag, a remarkable result with all things considered.
“Some guys try to 360 (degree spin) out of it, but I thought from his point of view and I could see he locked it up,” Thomas recalled. “I was so committed (to the bottom), because usually when people spin out you try to go to the outside a little bit and then hope they don’t 360 into you as they’re going back up the race track, but I was just so locked in to the bottom that I was committed.
“I just cranked it left, trying to avoid him. … He was coming at me and I was coming at him, and it happened faster than I wanted. I think I was just trying to spin out myself, but just the way I hit his car was perfect to bounce me out of there,” Thomas added. “Then I just had to do a little bit of off-roading and was able to keep the motor under me and the car under me. Watching it back, it was actually pretty cool.”
While it looked neat to the fans, Thomas admitted the wheel-to-wheel contact he made with Zablocki and subsequent trip through the infield hurt his chances at contending for the win.
“I definitely didn’t have the speed I had before that happened because I was just working on passing for second. I think I was getting closer to Cap Henry, too,” Thomas noted. “I don’t know if they were struggling more than me or I was just really fast, but I definitely feel like they were better on the restart and then I just didn’t get better like I had on the run before. It’s kind of a combination deal.
“It just hurt the rear bumper a little bit, but I think maybe the spin kind of affected my tires a little bit,” Thomas continued. “Half spinning out like I did is pretty hard on the tires, and then just the heat cycle that I was on after that … I think it wasn’t as good as the first run.”
Even though the end result wasn’t quite what he hoped it would be, after his highly publicized struggles driving the Trone Outdoor No. 39 in Pennsylvania, Thomas was simply happy to remind the dirt-track world that he’s not lost his touch behind the wheel just yet.
“The one thing I can say is that everyone’s been joking lately about ‘hey, you are a sprint car driver,’ or ‘hey, you can drive a sprint car,’ or ‘hey, you are pretty good at this thing,’ and I think everyone that knows me or has followed me knows that I was just uncomfortable in Pennsylvania,” Thomas pointed out. “When I’m comfortable and have a good car, I can put it up front and have good runs and stuff.
“We proved that Friday night and, hopefully, we can show it again the next time we get out there.”
Thomas won’t run the full Ohio Sprint Speedweek, but said he plans to run “a couple of races next week; probably the bigger-paying ones.”
Cometic Gasket Ohio Sprint Speedweek continues Saturday night at Fremont Speedway.
SPEED SPORT’s Ohio Sprint Speedweek coverage is presented by Cometic Gasket Inc., a leading worldwide supplier of gaskets and engine sealing solutions for the automotive performance, powersports, original equipment and remanufactured engine industries. No matter what you ride, Cometic Gasket can seal your machine so you can focus on the finish line.
Since 1989, Cometic has been living, breathing, and eating powersports. As a proud supporters of GNCC, AMA, NASCAR, and other race-teams across the country, Cometic understands what it takes to put everything on the line with one goal in mind. When you earn your living racing at the highest level against the best in the country, engine failures simply aren’t an option. Champions across the world continue to use Cometic Gasket for their engine-sealing solutions. Whether they’re driving a Gen-6 stock car or riding a top fuel motorcycle, Cometic Gaskets are the reliable source in extreme conditions.
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