Seth Thomas has been involved with professional racing for more than a decade, but today marks a first for 35-year-old driver from Cumming — and the sport itself.
Thomas and his No. 82 CRCBrakleen BMW will participate in the Brickyard Sports Car Challenge ST Class, the first ever sports car race held at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Ind.
Though Thomas is excited simply to be competing at the historic track — famous for hosting the Indianapolis 500 — he also feels good about his chances of success.
"I think I have a good shot of standing at the podium popping champagne everywhere," Thomas said.
"[Racing there is] going to be like the first time someone plays baseball in Yankee Stadium, you’ll never forget it."
Thomas has a second and fifth place finish to his name through the first eight competitions of a 10-race season.
The 75 cars in today’s event will navigate part of Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s oval track and drive on an infield road course, which combine to form a 2.6-mile lap.
Unlike NASCAR, the Brickyard Challenge is strictly a timed race where drivers race for 2.5 hours at around 150 mph.
The Brickyard Challenge will be the fastest course of the season for the drivers.
"It’ll be controlled chaos out there," Thomas said.
"It’s not as bad as you would think. If you’re driving down the highway at 75 mph, and everyone else is doing the same speed, it’s not a big deal.
"We know what to expect. It’s kind of like a pitcher having a few good pitches; you know what his best pitches are so you know what to look for. It’s not as nerve racking as some people may think."
In the GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Street Tuner Class, drivers share a car with another driver.
Thomas shares the No. 82 car with Dan Rogers, 51, from Anchorage, Alaska. According to the rules, a driver must race for a minimum of 30 minutes before swapping drivers.
The time when he’s not in control of the car, Thomas said, is when he is most nervous.
Thomas, the more experienced driver of the two, plans to let Rogers start the race before taking over at a pit stop. Thomas will have a radio in hand to provide encouragement and advice on strategic maneuvers.
"I tell him to maintain pace and be careful," Thomas said. "You don’t know what others are going to do."
Thomas credits much of his success to the pit crew. The No. 82 car is scheduled to stop for fuel four times on Friday, when his crew will change tires and do any quick maintenance needed in 38 seconds.
Thomas and the No. 82 car have encountered their share of bad luck during the season, including one race where they moved from 25th to fifth place before being rear-ended and forced out of the race.
But the three-car BMW team has earned points in six of seven races this season and sits in first place in the manufacturer’s standings. If BMW is still in first at the end of the season, Thomas will be part of the prize winnings, though he’s not sure exactly what the reward will be.
"I’ve got to hand it to my teammates," Thomas said. "They have always had my back.
"If I have a chance to move up, they are there helping me out. We work as a team and do what we can for each other."
To watch Thomas on the live webcast today at 1 p.m., log on to www.livestream.com/indianapolismotorspeedway
A replay of the race will be shown on SPEED at noon on August 5.