Golfers might think blazing down a dirt race track straightaway at almost 100 mph and sliding through the turns at almost at that speed in a late model stock car is like playing golf in a thunderstorm.
Not for Tom Thompson of Brainerd, who is among the late model stock car racers in the Mills Automotive Paul Bunyan 30 Late Model Challenge at North Central Motor Speedway on Tuesday night.
Instead this 41-year old in his 17th year of racing late models described it as "fun and as a relief."
"Otherwise, if you didn't (race) you would work all the time," he said.
Racing also has paid off for the owner of Tom's Backhoe in Brainerd. Last year he tied with Jeff Henkelmeyer for the NASCAR Late Model Series points title. The year before he won the title.
Thompson, who won two races and finished among the top 10 racers 25 times last season, also made a questionable move this season to even better his racing. He bought a car with a different chassis three weeks ago.
Before, in the last 15 races, he only had finished second once and among the top 10 seven times.
But since racing his new car, he said he hasn't finished any lower than fifth place, but said it is taking him time to get used to it.
Thompson definitely knows about time, especially "seat time."
He began racing hobby stocks at NCMS at 17 years old, but he did have a lapse.
"I was out of (racing) a little bit," Thompson said. "When you get married that does it."
But in his 23 years of racing, he also has won two NCMS Super Stock points championships.
He also at one time raced both late models and super stocks in the same season. Thompson finally chose late models extensively because of their speed, horsepower, better parts and "less work."
This decision also has allowed him to race for thousands of dollars in winning purses.
"There is more money in dirt car racing than there is in asphalt racing," Thompson said.
This money is in unlimited series like the Haba Tampa Racing Series. Thompson said these series also allow some unlimited engine and tire compound rules.
For example, the only restriction in one of these series is the engine must have a four-barrel carburetor. Unlike other series where the engine cylinder heads must be steel, this series allows aluminum heads.
As far as tires, Thompson noted there are 25 different tire compounds. Some series restrict racers to certain compounds, but these unlimited series offer unlimited compounds. Racers could use a high heat, high abrasion compound if they raced on a sandy track.
Thompson said that the winning purses in these unlimited rules series can be anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000. The points champion could earn a million dollars. He added that the racers compete in these series shows five to seven days a week.
Thompson recently competed in one of these unlimited non-sanctioned series (similar to the Haba Tampa) in Superior, Wis. He was among the nine racers in a field of 24 that did not finish on a rough track.
"That's unheard of but it happens," Thompson said.
He added that this race did draw "the big guys."
So what kind of racers can Tuesday's special at NCMS with a winning purse of $1,800 draw?
Thompson noted that he expects 30 good cars to attend, including defending champion Joel Cryderman of Thunder Bay, Ontario. He will be racing with a 362-cubic-inch Ford engine.
Thompson said that at the Viking Speedway in Alexandria on June 19, 43 late models raced.
-- Gates open at 5 p.m. Hot laps start at 7 p.m. with racing slated to begin at 7:30 p.m. Wissota Street Stocks and Midwest Modifieds also will race.
-- As of June 16, Cryderman was the points leader in the Wissota Late Model class.
-- This special race also is the eighth round of the 13-round Wissota Late Model Challenge Series.
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