When you speak to him, he looks you straight in the eye and speaks politely. Like a number of young men at the age of 11, he likes basketball and sketch art.
While his studies at St. Andrew School are his top priority, Walter Thomas III also has a quest for speed, one that can only be satisfied by strapping into a race car and getting onto the track, which is where you can find this personable young man on the weekends or just about anytime he gets the opportunity.
If his calm demeanor is any indication, Thomas is indeed positioned for success and he was not shy about explaining it recently at the Indianapolis Speedrome, where he had just finished a practice session under the close eye of his father, who serves as his mechanic, fabricator, and of course his biggest fan. While Thomas is indeed smooth on the track, I found him to be even more so off it, as we discussed his aspiring career to date as well as his goals as a racer.
“While NASCAR is where I want to be someday, I would also like to run pro stock drag racing as well,” said the Indianapolis resident. “I just want to race as much as I can.”
Thomas has a great support system through his family, especially with his father, Walter Jr., who also was hooked on drag racing as a young man. He sees stock cars as an avenue of opportunity for his son, and can be found every weekend himself making adjustments to the car and advising his son on what he can expect from a particular setup or track.
After competing in the Junior Drag series for three years in which he topped out at 75 mph in a one-eighth-mile run, Thomas III has now made the foray into ovals, where he drives a 750-pound, 35-horsepower Bandolero, which tops out at 65 mph. The adjustment to ovals was recently accelerated by his attendance at the highly-respected 600 Racing instructional camp held at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, where he had access to professional instruction both off and on the track.
Thomas also is an associate member of Revolution Racing, which was developed by highly respected businessman Max Siegel, who in conjunction with NASCAR, is advancing the quest for diversity in not just stock cars, but also other forms of racing.
“NASCAR is an exciting sport,” said Siegel in a recent interview. “It’s been my desire for years to bring minority participation to a wider audience.”
But what is striking about this young man is his mature approach to the matters at hand. While the environment he is racing in is relatively controlled, there is still an adherent danger to this sport, even at this particular level. Thomas seemed unfazed by that and seemed much wiser regarding the sport than most young men his age.
That was readily apparent when he made a point to ask what my favorite type of racing was and what drivers I supported.
While attitude and desire are important ingredients, talent is always a determining factor, and Thomas III has that and much more. The commitment racing will take is not lost on him. “This is something I want to do with my life and I am willing to work hard at it,” he said before hopping back into the car for more practice.
Thomas spoke more than once about wanting to be the best. Don’t be surprised if he happens to be just that one day.
In another example of maturity and composure, this young racer asked me not to forget to thank his sponsors, The Indianapolis Recorder and Sherwin-Williams Paint. He also expressed his regards for his grandfather.
Indeed a classy young man.
Danny Bridges, who enjoyed meeting Walter Thomas III more than the various professional athletes he has met over the years, can be reached at (317) 578-1780 or at [email protected].
Follow Thomas’ racinG
Want to follow the success of Walt Thomas III†?
No problem – as you can check him out at WWW.D4D.tv. Just type his name into the search engine and look at his racing page.
You also can watch Walt compete at the Indianapolis Speedrome in his Bandolero car on most Friday evenings.
Go to www.speedrome.com for specific race dates and times or call them at (317) 353-8206.
You can learn more about Performance Racing and their efforts to bring much-needed diversity into motor sports by logging on to: revolutionracing.net.
Darrell Wallace Jr. takes the checkered flag in the K&N Pro Series 125 at Lee, N.H. USA Speedway. It was the second NASCAR K&N Pro Series East win of the season for the 16-year-old Revolution Racing driver from Mobile, Ala. Wallace won the season opener in March, which made him the youngest and first African-American winner in series history.