DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Every year there is a driver who is honestly surprised with their success and this year’s NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division III national champion fits the bill.
Patrick Thomas started the season at New Smyrna Speedway – just down the road from the Daytona Beach, Florida, home office of NASCAR – just wanting to have fun and drive his sportsman car with no idea what was potentially in front of him.
The first-time NASCAR license holder can now call himself a champion.
nwaas15_champAfter he finished his daytime job of designing blue prints to build screen enclosures for Florida residents to enclose their pools and backyards, the Oviedo, Florida, native would jump into a hobby of his since he was a kid. He just never thought the hobby would lead to a championship.
“I never thought much about the NASCAR points structure for weekly racing because I never knew much about it,” Thomas said. “We didn’t even realize that we had a chance to win the Division III title until we were about halfway through the season.”
Thomas traveled to different tracks competing in the Southern Sportsman Series from 2004-08 and captured the series title during his final season on the tour.
“This was the first year I’ve ever competed full-time in a weekly racing program,” Thomas said. “I won a lot of races in the past but this year everything just fell into place for us.”
Thomas finished the season with 11 wins and 14 top fives in 15 starts. Thomas outdistanced Brent Kane of Minnesota’s Elko Speedway by just 10 (513-503) points for the Division III national crown and he also won the New Smyrna title over Earl Beckner by 43 points (832-789).
The 38-year-old driver started his career in 1985 in quarter midgets and moved up to street stocks about a decade later and eventually moving to sportsman cars.
The second-generation driver is appreciative of his most recent accomplishment behind the wheel.
“I want to thank NASCAR and Whelen Engineering for making this championship available to racers and winning this title has already opened doors for me to continue driving,” Thomas said. “After I won the NWAAS Division III title I had another car owner approach me to drive his car next year.”
Thomas damaged his car after the end of the NWAAS points season and was able to fix his car in time for a special event race. That is when the car owner, Jim Harris, met with him and the two put together a deal to finish out this year and all of next year.
“I really appreciate New Smyrna Speedway partnering with NASCAR with their NASCAR Whelen All-American Series,” Thomas said. “What they do for short track racing at the local level is really special.”
Thomas has a small crew of helpers and he said he wouldn’t be the champion without their help.
“My wife Kristi spots for me and Brad May is my crew chief who helps with my setups, and we are the only ones who were there every week and we did the best we could,” Thomas said. “The great thing about partnering with Jim next year is we’ll have more resources and double the crew members to try and win another title.”
Thomas is also slated to change is his car number. In 2015 he drove the No. 25, and next year it will be the No. 111 Chevrolet sponsored by Harris Oil/Harris Mini Storage.
Thomas will be honored for his NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division III championship along with other division, track and state/province champions from across North America as part of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards on Dec. 11 at the Charlotte Convention Center and NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Established in 1982, the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series is NASCAR’s national championship program for weekly short track auto racing. In all, 58 paved and dirt tracks throughout the United States and Canada participated in 2015.
Connecticut-based Whelen Engineering is the series’ title sponsor. Whelen Engineering is a leading manufacturer of automotive, aviation, industrial and emergency vehicle lighting. NASCAR tracks and pace cars are among the many showcases for Whelen products.
-NASCAR Integrated Marketing Communications Press Release. Photo credit: Jim Jones