A race car to remember

Published on June 13, 2012 in the Sigourney-News Review, Keota Eagle and Freemont-What Cheer Vine

The eight track racing circuit stock class has a rookie driver that is turning heads through the first six races of his career.

Andy Thomas is a 20 year old driver who graduated from Tri-County High School in 2010 and is making the transition from being a four-sport athlete in high school to focusing on racing during the summers.

Although Thomas has had some success on the track early in his career, he has been noticed less for his racing, than for the design on his car. On the hood of Thomas' car is a memorial to his late friend and high school classmate Michael Armstrong, who committed suicide last year.

"My best friend in high school committed suicide last year and we were really struggling to figure out a way to remember him as a community and as a class," Thomas said. "He was such a big part of all of our lives and his family is really close to my family.

"We wanted to figure out a way through racing and through the car to keep his memory alive and to keep people supporting his family. It has been really difficult, what they have had to go through and we figured that the least we can do is put a memorial about him on the car."

Thomas put a lot of thought into what the memorial would look like, coordinating with Armstrong's family and his own to come up with something that would be a tasteful memorial of Michael.

"I had a guy out of Knoxville do the detail work and I don't even how many phone calls I made to him, sending him ideas and emailing him pictures," Thomas said. "I knew that track and field was such a big part of Michael's life and I knew that I wanted to incorporate a wing design, we ended up with the late 70's Trans Am design for the hood and I think that really incorporates the speed aspect. Michael was lights out fast on the track, so I wanted to put that in there. He was also a die hard Hawkeye fan, so we went ahead and put the Tiger Hawk in there and then at the bottom, there is a classic style outline of a runner, then we put his name, the year he was born and the year he passed."

Thomas thinks the finished product turned out really well and the family has appreciated the gesture. It has also generated a lot of dialogue amongst the people who come to see the races.

"People ask me more about Michael and the hood than they do about the car, which is great," Thomas said.

Although the hood of his car is getting most of the attention, Thomas has also enjoyed some success in the races this year. Although it is his first season, he is far from a stranger to the world of figure eight racing.

"Figure eight racing has been in my family for quite a while," Thomas said. "My dad started when he was in high school. He raced for 15 or 20 years then ran hobby stock over in Oskaloosa. He kind of got out of it when I was in high school, I played four sports in high school and we got pretty wrapped up in that."

Andy has called on his father, Roger Thomas, for a lot of help in getting his car up and running and keeping it is shape throughout the season.

"I didn't know what to expect," Thomas said. "We are running in the stock class. There is a wide range of talent, ability and equipment. We are scraping the barrel running a stock Chevy 350 out of an old pick-up. My dad and close friends have been a really big help. It takes a lot of people to put a car together. That has been the biggest shock to me, just week in and week out the amount of work that it takes."

Of all the people that have helped him with his car over the course of the year, Thomas is most thankful that his girlfriend Kinsey Buckley has been there to support him.

"Anybody who has ever raced, understands how much time it takes," Thomas said. "Whether it is a spouse or a girlfriend, they really have to be supportive and I would really like to thank her for that. There are a lot of long nights. Going from a sports athlete to a race car driver is different because the time and money is put into the vehicle and it is more hours than it is physically preparing your body. I know it is not the most exciting thing in the world to sit out in the garage and watch us work on the car, but I really appreciate the help and the support."

Thomas will take to the track again on Saturday, June 16 at 6:30, when he heads for the Expo Track in Sigourney. He is excited to get back to Sigourney, which he said is one of his favorite places to race.

"Sigourney is a little different than the other tracks," Thomas said. "It is a little bit longer and it is definitely a faster track, so we have to change the car setup a little bit and run a little bit different car set-up. It is a fun track to race at, but the people that you race with makes a big difference and there is a huge group of people in Sigourney that are willing to do anything to help a driver out. The track is always well prepared, there is always a good crowd, it is just such a nice track to go to. We really look forward to going to Sigourney."

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