When racing and farming collide


YOUNGSTOWN – When Mark Thomas was in sixth grade, he had to write a paper about his perfect day.
The essay he created talked about a day on the farm followed by an evening of drag racing.
While Thomas isn’t in sixth grade anymore, his idea of a perfect day hasn’t changed a bit. Besides milking 500 Holsteins on his family’s 2,300-acre farm in Louisville, Ohio, this race car driver has found the time to win five International Hot Rod Association Funny Car World Championships.
So what could these two worlds possibly have in common?
To many, the answer is “nothing,” but the lifelong dairy farmer knows there is a strong connection. Since 1990, Thomas has been driving cars that run on ethanol, a renewable fuel made from corn grown on farms just like his.
The decision to support the ethanol industry wasn’t difficult for Thomas – he grew up knowing the importance of agriculture’s role in the world.
“I just always believed in anything that promotes agriculture,” he said.
The corn on his farm goes to the cows, but Thomas doesn’t miss a chance to tell the world why ethanol is part of the solution to reducing fuel prices.
Recently, he spoke to Congress about the benefits of ethanol and displayed his funny car and rig in front of the Capitol. His presentation in Washington D.C. helped pass the energy bill in 2004.
And while he acknowledges ethanol won’t solve all of the country’s fuel problems, he thinks it’s a good start.
“Maybe ethanol isn’t the whole answer, but it’s a big part of it,” he said.
Thomas began racing professionally in 1984 with the International Hot Rod Association in the alcohol funny car division. Since then his list of accomplishments has grown to include 23 national event wins and 57 final-round appearances. He’s had more wins than any other team in the association’s alcohol funny car history.
But Thomas doesn’t let that success deter him from his mission to promote ethanol through racing. In fact, it makes him want to do even better.
“When you take it personally, when you’re passionate about it, it drives you harder,” he said.
As a farmer and a consumer, Thomas has a unique view of the ethanol industry that gives him confidence in the industry’s future.
“Not only are we expected to feed a world, we can fuel a world, too,” he said.


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