DU QUOIN, Ill. (Dec. 15, 2015)–Tyler Thomas of Collinsville, Okla., will race indoors Saturday in the inaugural Junior Knepper 55 on the one-sixth Mini-Magic Mile at the Southern Illinois Center in a USAC non-points event.
The 19-year-old has one victory and a second place in five events at the track in events sanctioned by the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series. Saturday’s event will be the first indoors for USAC’s Midgets since 2007.
“We’ve taken the last month off and it’s been good to re-energize ourselves and go to Du Quoin with a fresh focus and attitude,” Thomas said. “We’ve gone through every square inch on our Spike chassis and we feel pretty confident we can go there and make the show (feature) and be competitive. We’re ready to go racing.”
Thomas and his crew chief father Brian switched to the Spike at the start of the Honda USAC National season in 2015. They finished sixth in the championship and had two top-fives and 10 top-10s in 16 features. The Thomas team will race the full Honda USAC National schedule in 2016.
“We’re not learning the car and engine (Esslinger) combination any more,” Thomas said. “We have a package we like and we’ll be fine tuning it from here. Our experience with the package will be a key to our success early in the year.”
Thomas drove to one of his most memorable victories in his most recent event at Murray Bridge, Australia, on Nov. 14, in the finale of the Australian Pro Speedcar Week. It was his first win in an international race.
“It was a special moment for me,” Thomas said.
The Junior Knepper 55 will be an early start of Thomas’ 2016 season. He’ll leave next week to race in New Zealand for Bill Buckley’s BSL Racing, fly home to Oklahoma to race in Tulsa’s Lucas Oil Chili Bowl and then return to Australia for another international series.