The Wheelman Racing Series made their series debut outside the state of Florida on Friday night when they took to the Crisp Motorsports Park for their season opener. A last-lap pass decided the race, as central Florida ace Patrick Thomas got by Travis Roland on a green-white-checkered restart to win his first career Wheelman series race in just his second start.
The Oveido, Florida native made the long haul to Cordele in an open hauler and immediately showed speed, setting fast time in qualifying. He lurked at the back of the top five through most of the race before using a series of restarts to get to the front row for the final restart of the race. From there, he was able to clear Roland and pick up the win.
“It was a great race, it was a great race car,” Thomas told Speed51.com. “We showed up and when we unloaded it, it was very fast. We just worked on it a little bit today, got it a little better, a little faster. We set fast time and I think we were fastest in every practice.”
“I hit the wall on the frontstretch on the restart by myself,” Thomas said of the late restarts. “I kept running on the outside on him. I got run off the backstretch once and caused that wreck, which put me back on the outside to give me that opportunity to get back up there. I was just really good. Thanks to Crisp County for letting up come up and play with the Sportsman cars and thanks to Wheelman and all the Wheelman guys for giving us this opportunity also.”
Travis Roland took the lead with 20 laps to go and held Thomas and others at bay through the late stages of the race. However, he was unable to hold the lead on the final restart and came home in second.
“It didn’t start off too good but then it came around throughout the race.” Roland said. “I thought we had the car to beat. Patrick got to us there a little bit. I was trying to be conservative and save it but you can really only go through three or four restarts. I saw the white flag twice leading by a car length, but they just couldn’t hold it together back there in the back. I was a sitting duck on that last restart. We got to the restart zone and I felt like I got jumped by about a half a car length and that’s what it took. And second’s what we got.”
It was the first career Wheelman Racing Series win for Thomas. Though it was the series’ first visit to the Georgia 3/8-mile oval, it was not Thomas’s first visit to Crisp. He competed at the track on the track’s first night as an asphalt track in 2000.
Often at his home track of New Smyrna Speedway, Thomas is mentioned as a one-track wonder. After winning at Crisp Motorsports Park on Friday night, he had something to say about those comments.
“If you read the top of the car, it says One-Track Wonder,” Thomas stated. “Maybe we can take that off now?”
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51.com State Editor (IN & MI)
-Photo credit: Speed51.com / Melissa Strahley