15-Year-Old Thomas Stars At Belle-Clair
BELLEVILLE, Ill. — Cale Thomas drove to a convincing feature victory in the opener of the third annual National Speed Sport News 66 Mike Phillips Memorial on Friday, out-running runner-up Chris Andrews by seven car lengths at Belle-Clair Speedway.
The 15-year-old Thomas earned the pole position for Saturday’s $10,000-to-win 66 Mike Phillips 40-lap finale. It was the third victory of the season in the POWRi Speedway Motors 600cc Outlaw Micro Series for Thomas and his most impressive. The field of 97 entrants included many of the best Micro drivers in the nation. It also was Thomas’ fourth victory in his past five events overall, including a $5,000-to-win against a strong field in the HighBanks Hustle at Southern Illinois Raceway in Marion on July 13.
“It feels great,” Thomas said of winning four out of five. “It’s awesome.”
The top six finishers are locked into tonight’s feature, which has a total purse of $35,000, and will start in the 24-car race in the same order they finished. It puts Andrews, the 28-year-old, on the outside of the front row. He won the 66 Mike Phillips a year ago.
Todd Kirkman finished third, followed by Joe B. Miller, Andrew Peters and Nathan Benson.
Thomas started on the outside of the front row and took the lead exiting turn two on the fifth lap by passing pole sitter Jason Lair. Thomas was in command in his Suzuki-powered Suzuki the rest of the 30-lap distance.
“I was able to finish second (to Arnold) in my heat and win my qualifier and get a good starting spot up front,” Thomas said. “The track was so racy I could run bottom to top and switch about every corner. Doing that was especially good when I got into traffic.
“I went to the top early in turns one and two and it got better. I mostly ran the bottom in turns three and four.”
Andrews started 14th, the outside of the seventh row.
“We didn’t have a good qualifier (third) and we regrouped after it,” Andrews said. “Justin Blevins, my crew chief, made the right adjustments and gave me a rocket. We’ve been together six or seven years and I always trust what he gives me.”