Irwindale Speedway: The Race in Photos

Photojournalism: R. A. Fariello | Photography by Gina Graham Fariello

The 2nd race of the 2015 NASCAR K&N Pro season took place on 11 April at the Irwindale Event Center Speedway. The venerable, and highly admired, Irwindale track is located about 10 miles east of Downtown LA.  For the 2015 Season the Thompson Motorsports Race Shop is again supporting a second entry, that entry being the #46 ‘Boise State University’ sponsored car of Hannah Newhouse. In addition to being a race car driver, Hannah Newhouse is an 18 year old double major student attending BSU. Coming off a 12th place finish at Kern County Hannah continues to compile an excellent racing and PR resume. That resume also includes her long and extensive association with the Thompson Motorsports organization.

The NASCAR race-day schedule included two practice sessions for the K&N Pro cars. Both Brett Thompson’s RTTI/BluLng #61 car and the Boise State University #46 car of Hannah Newhouse were remarkable during ‘Practice’ and both cars tended to be mid-pack in their lap times.

Following these practice sessions, Hannah’s #46 BSU car qualified 17th and Brett’s #61 car qualified 13th. Though both drivers had hoped for better starting positions, their times were reasonably close to the fastest qualifier, and, both cars were handling very good. The pre-race mood in each of the TMS pits was optimistic.

Immediately after the start of the race, the #61 TMS car immediately drove down to the track apron in both turns. This very technical ‘line’ is a fast way around the track, but it also leads to excessive tire wear. Using this line resulted in the RTTI #61 car moving up to 6th place by lap 15, and then, up to 3rd by lap 28. Brett Thompson ran in that position for about 70% of the race. However, Brett’s concern over tire wear proved to be justified as increased tire wear began to slow the #61 car, the end result being an 8th place finish for the #61.

From the waving of the green flag, Hannah Newhouse was driving according to a different race plan. That plan was to drive within a reasonable distance from the leaders, save tires, and then drive aggressively in the later stages of the race. Hannah was driving this race plan very professionally and her #46 Boise State /TMS car was quick and, in her words, “handling beautifully.”

However, at about the 1/3rd point of the race, Hannah was involved in a very serious incident. While entering Turn #3, at a reported 120+ mph, the car directly in front of Hannah’s, ‘blew’ its engine. Hannah’s car was immediately ‘oiled down’ and so was the track surface just a few feet in front of her. With no effective way to steer, or stop, Hannah’s car slid out of control directly into the ‘hard walls’ of the Irwindale track. Though no fault of Hannah’s, this was obviously a serious accident, and one for which all fans and competitors were rightly concerned.

NASCAR Officials immediately ‘Red Flagged’ the race as EAS and CFR equipment rushed to the scene where they extracted Hannah from her car. There she cleared her head, and in spite of probable injuries such as broken ribs, Hannah waved to the fans, and was then driven back to the pits. In the pit area, after the race, large numbers of fans gathered around Hannah, and in spite of her heavy pain, she made time for EVERY ONE of the people there.

Those who know Hannah also know that she is very much more than an attractive and bright 18 year old Boise State University co-ed. Her extensive popularity with racing fans has been well earned … and now, so has her FORTITUDE!

The Thompson Motorsports arrives early at the Irwindale Speedway.

Generally known as ‘Irwindale’, the facility also includes an NHRA Drag Strip {top center along the billboards} and a Driving School. Thus, the full name is the Irwindale Event Center.

Early morning on the race day and the usual initial setup of the cars begins.

From ‘Hood to Helmet’, it is easy to recognize the Boise State University entry driven by Boise State student, Hannah Newhouse.

With pre-practice Tech Inspection complete, NASCAR Officials take up selected positions around the track … it is all a requirement of NASCAR’s excellent safety culture.

Well …. The race WAS in the heart of the LA Basin!!!

The first practice session begins and additional adjustments are necessary for the TMS #61 car.

Hannah’s #46 car during Practice #1.

Brett Thompson reports that the adjustments made to the car are ‘good’.

Meanwhile, Hannah takes her Boise State University/Thompson Motorsports car back to the pits for additional adjustments necessary to cure a slight ‘push’.

Between Practice sessions the Crew Chiefs for the #46 and #61 cars share info on the two cars. Pictured are Duane Knorr {Left; #46} and Will Harris{Right; #61}.

Hannah is unusually animated as she tries to tell Duane what she thinks her car needs.

During the 2nd Practice session, the #61 car was pronounced as being “neutral” … which is good!!

Hannah, too, was happy with her car.

Following ‘practice’ a few members of the crew immediately began work on what might be called “activities NOT related to cars or racing”.

No … there was no UFO involved!! This is Dennis, the concessionaire who makes the astonishingly great Kettle Corn Popcorn at Irwindale. Dennis is truly “everyone’s friend” at the track … and yes, when he takes the mask off this handsome guy no longer looks like the “bad psycho” in a scary movie {grin}

The Pre-Qualifying NASCAR Tech line provides an opportunity for a group picture of the #61 Crew.

The same situation also applies to the picturing of Hannah’s car and Crew.

Hannah Newhouse on her Qualifying laps. She would start in 17th position.

Brett Thompson was the last qualifier as evidenced by all of the already Qualified cars being parked and seen in the background. Brett would start the race from 13th place.

The cars are lined up for the 8:30 PM start time.

Exhibiting the happy and effervescent nature that makes her a fan favorite, Hannah shows that she is anything but “up tight” about the race.

An expression of a long term bonding of special friends that overrides any issues associated with being competitors.

Hannah awaits the command to Start Engines.

Lining up for the Start.

1/2 lap to go!

By Lap #26 Brett is 3rd {as indicated on the scoring pylon} and rapidly closing on the two cars in front of him.

Meanwhile Hannah is driving very well and is perfectly executing her race team’s ‘race plan’.

Meanwhile, Brett had caught the leaders. This placement of the top 3 cars was to persist for roughly 70% of the race.

Then disaster struck for both TMS teams; Hannah crashed hard into the Turn #3 wall. This was the result of the car in front of her ‘blowing up’ and “oiling” the track. Hannah’s perfect night came to an end thru no fault of her own. The big issue, however, was a very serious worry over Hannah’s well being.

The race was red flagged … and after what seemed forever {it was not!} Hannah was extricated from her car and, although suffering multiple injuries of various severity, was thought to be free of serious injury.

Late in the race, with tires worn by a need to run on the low line to be competitive, Brett’s lap times slowed. The picture above defines close racing as Brett tries everything to achieve a good result. He finished 8th, a good result considering the tire condition as the checkered flag waved.

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