Over the past five years, Shun T. Thomas has climbed the Dirt Late Model ranks, now competing in Super Late Models. However, the journey has not come without its struggles for the black race car driver competing throughout the Southeast.
Thomas, who goes by the nickname “Oreo,” has enjoyed a strong start to his 2021 season, which has his team in high spirits.
“We are running Super Late Models this year,” Thomas said. “We have competed in seven races, and we have six top-10s. We qualified on the outside pole at North Georgia this week. We’ve been really good this season, we’ve been really blessed.”
In 2020, Thomas became the first black driver to win a race at the historic Talladega Short Track.
However, it has been a difficult journey to get to where he is now. As a minority, it has taken several years for the South Carolina driver to gain the respect of his peers at the race track.
“My toughest struggle coming into the sport has honestly been as a black driver, as a driver, not as the color of my skin. It’s now finally getting accepted as a race car driver in the past year instead of just this black guy. Now I’ve got a name behind me.
“I had to overcome a lot of obstacles. The racism part, I’ve been called names, had stuff threw at me, been called every name under the sun. I knew what kind of person I was and how I carried myself and my character. I didn’t let their negative get to me. I didn’t let it defeat me, as a competitor.”
Thomas says that maturity and faith have been crucial to his development, both as a racer and a person.
“You’ll be surprised what people will do just to see you react. I grew as a child, but as I got older I started putting away my childish ways and started saying, ‘This is who I am.’ They don’t define who I am, I define who I am. If I start believing what they believe, then I’m one of them.
“Without God, I wouldn’t overcome that. All the obstacles, all the troubles, all the name-calling, I wouldn’t trade that, because it made me a better person and made people respect me a lot more because I stood firm by what I wanted to do.”
As for his on-track performance, Thomas gives a lot of credit for his improvement to Brad Carvin, better known as “Urkel.”
“Me and my nephew and Urkel, Brad Carvin, he’s the crew chief of Riley Hickman, Ronnie Johnson and Casey Roberts. it’s an all-black team. To be where we are in this sport, we’re stoked to be where we are. We can’t see what more will happen the rest of this year and the rest of my career.”
“I’ve been in Late Models going on five years. When I first started, I knew Urkel, but he thought it was just a show. He knew I could showboat to sell race cars. I had to prove that I could race and wanted this bad. When he came aboard my racing program, I went from running 20th to winning races.”
To hear the entirety of Thomas’ interview on The Bullring, click here.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Shun Oreo Thomas Facebook Page