By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
Thomas speeds to first win
Cumming driver claims victory in season opener
BimmerWorld/GearWrench driver and Cumming resident Seth Thomas poses for a photo while accepting honors for winning the 2009 SPEED Touring Car opener on March 21 at Sebring International Raceway. - photo by Jim Sykes/BimmerWorld
If there’s been a list of World Challenge drivers who have been most overdue for their first win, Cumming resident Seth Thomas has been near the top for the past few years.

After second-place finishes, front row starting spots and numerous fastest laps, Thomas took himself off that ‘most overdue’ list with a commanding March 21 win at the 2009 SPEED Touring Car opener at Florida’s Sebring International Raceway.

The race kicked off the Sports Car Club of America’s Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car circuit for the year.

“It was pretty exhilarating, pretty exciting, to have been close so many times and now finally bring the win home,” Thomas, 32, said.

“Honestly, I never expected the first win to be like this one. Leading from lap one to the final lap is what everyone hopes for and that’s what happened this weekend. For the last six years, I have been looking for this win, and there have been great battles getting here.”

After being close on so many occasions, Thomas wasn’t counting his Sebring win prematurely.

“I felt comfortable with my lead, but as the race progresses you always start to imagine noises going on in the car, and the rough Sebring surface is notorious for shaking the cars up. I thought, ‘Please don’t fail me now,’” he said after the race.

Thomas started second and quickly took the lead, expanding his advantage to 1.28 seconds by the third lap. Throughout the 18-lap, 66.6 mile race along the 17-turn, 3.7-mile road course, Thomas stayed in front, recording the fastest lap in 2:22.044 while averaging about 92.5 mph. He ultimately topped the field by 2.563 seconds, beating out Pierre Kleinubing of Florida, who was second.

Thomas’s parents have been a fixture at his World Challenge races and after years of support, they were able to watch their son cross the finish line a winner.

“My wife and my parents have been the most supportive people of my racing habit. Having all of them here with me today made this day extra special. My family is my life and I would not want to experience my first win without them.

“And ... hearing my wife tell me our unborn child was turning flips during the race is very exciting. I can’t think of a better way to start out this new chapter of my life,” Thomas said.

With the win, Thomas leads the tour’s driver championship points standings by 17 points, with 132 to Kleinubing’s 115. BMW tops the manufacturer’s championship, with nine points to Acura’s eight and Mazda’s five.

The weekend was capped off by strong finishes from Thomas’s two teammates, all driving BMW E90s for the BimmerWorld/GearWrench team. Nick Esayian (Encinitas, Calif.) drove a spirited race to claim fifth, while team owner/driver James Clay (Blacksburg, Va.) secured sixth place.

The race will air on SPEED at 1 p.m. Tuesday, March 31, and will be rebroadcast at 3 a.m. on April 2 and 1 p.m. on April 15.