Tim Russell has had some high profile drivers strap in behind the wheel of his race cars during the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna Speedway (FL), including NASCAR Sprint Cup Series star, Kyle Larson. In 2015, Russell had Tyler Thomas and Sheldon Creed pilot his machines. For 2016, one seat has already been filed by a driver much like Larson who is looking to transition from slinging dirt to pounding the pavement.
"This year we will have Kevin Thomas Jr. race one of my cars during Speedweeks and in the Zack Donatti Memorial race," said Russell. "We still have one seat left available for next year as of now as well."
"I feel like this is a good way to reach the next stepping stone," said Thomas. "I'm really excited to have an opportunity with Tim. He's put together a great operation and I can't wait to get it started."
Thomas is a Sprint Car and Midget car racer, originally from Alabama, but now living in Indiana. He has made attempts at the Chili Bowl Nationals multiple times in Midgets, but he's only been racing since he was a sophomore in high school.
"When we moved from Alabama to Indiana the day after I graduated high school I really started racing," said Thomas. "I raced as much as I could and it took me wherever. Now it seems like there's really a path."
The 24-year-old driver said he's always wanted to be a stock car driver, but he said he felt like starting on dirt was the best way to get there because that's how his heroes got started.
"The way I always thought about getting (to stock cars) was basically through open-wheeled racing," he said. "You see Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart do it and that was something that intrigued me and was something I always wanted to do."
Thomas said he connected with Russell through a mutual friend and felt that racing with Tim Russell was the best way to begin the transition to pavement racing.
"Lorin Ranier is basically like my mentor," said Thomas. "He guides me on the right path. I talked to him and he put me in Tim's direction. Tim had Kyle Larson a couple years ago. He seems to get people to transition from dirt to pavement a lot quicker than most."
Thomas said when he gets to the race track and gets behind the wheel of Russell's Pro Late Model in January and February he will have two goals in mind.
"I plan to win. I'm not going down there to run second," he said. "I'm a very competitive person and there's not many things I like to finish second in. But I know it's going to be a tough transition going from dirt open wheel cars to pavement and fenders. I need to make my learning curve as short as possible and I'm going with people that are good at what they do so hopefully that can be accomplished."
Russell and Thomas are already off to a good start in their partnership because Russell also has the same goals in mind.
"He just needs to go out and run the best he can," said Russell. "Maybe he can knock down a win or two, but it's all about learning as much as he can.
"It's going to be different for him, but I think he'll be able to get up to speed pretty quickly."
Thomas will race the Zack Donatti Memorial race at New Smyrna Speedway on January 3, and will race for the Pro Late Model World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing championship at New Smyrna Speedway in February.
- 51 Sports Press Release. Photo Credit: KevinThomasMotorsports.com