posted Oct 17, 2012, 8:24 AM by John Mandabach

Thomas Cox is a gambler.

He gambles with his life, his money and his car, every time he rolls into the starting box on the 1/8-mile drag strip at Houston Motorsports Park.

And to this point, it has paid off for Houston native.

Hillbilly, as he is known at the track, has been drag racing since the age of 21, but he has been around racing for as long as he can remember.

Well, racing has been all in my family,” Cox said. “My dad with roundy-round, my uncle invoked with bracket racing and my cousin with street racing. So putting together a machine to compete and beat a fellow racers puts a grin on my face.”

Now, 17 years after his first race, he is a local legend.

But just recently the 38-year old made the move from grudge racing to class racing, and has already picked up his first win.

Cox dominated the X275 class during Xtreme Meltdown held recently at Houston Motorsports Park and took home the winners check of $5,000.

Too much drama (in grudge racing),” Cox said. “I like to race not fight.

(Plus), you're not going to lose a bunch of money in class racing.”

But you can certainly win a lot, and that is what Hillbilly Thomas has been doing since he began drag racing – including doubling what he made at Xtreme Meltdown.

I won a grudge race for $10,000, it was insane,” said Cox, who also likes four-wheeling, shooting pool and playing Texas Hold'em when not drag racing. “The team wouldn't tell me how much was at stake until after the race, too worried that it would mess with my head.”

But it takes a lot to get him off his game, something not easily done because of his focus.

I really feel there is a lot of luck involved,” said Cox, who has been married to his wife Anna for nearly four years. “I mean, any minor item that is missed could cause you to lose. On the other hand, skill plays a role in winning as well. Being able to make the decision to set a record or tune the car so it will advance to the next round, while under pressure, is not an easy task.”

Cox will have another chance to put those skills to work and grab another $5,000 victory when the X275 Class will be the main attraction at Xtreme Meltdown on Nov. 10 at Houston Motorsports Park.