Miller Motorsports Park: The Race In Pictures

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

The 3rd race of the 2012 NASCAR K&N Pro Race Season was contested at the huge and scenic Miller Motorsports Park road race venue. For TMS, the weekend started out on a positive note, but a series of highly unlikely racing events produced a rather negative result: Brett Thompson finished the race in 20th place.

During practice Brett Thompson was driving well and the #61 car was very quick.  It was obvious that Brett’s rapid improvement as a road racer, as noted during the 2011 season, remained on an upward trajectory. At the completion of practice, the “TMS Pit” was very satisfied with the overall Team performance.

But, unfortunately, that satisfaction was short lived.  During Qualifying, the #61 car developed an engine misfire and the qualifying effort was terminated after only one full lap. After much hard work, the problem was diagnosed as a small air leak in the fuel line. However, working on the car after Qualifying relegated Brett to a last place start.  As it turned out, this was to be the least of the #61car’s problems.

After the Green Flag was waved, Brett Thompson’s driving was impressive. On the first lap the TMS Impala SS passed 5 cars and, by lap 14, Brett Thompson was fighting for 13th place. But at that point in time, disaster struck.  Another car seemed to be unaware of the presence of the #61 next to him, and it accidentally turned into Brett, spinning the #61 and forcing it off the asphalt and onto the dirt. Brett was able to restart the car and rejoin the event, but the #61 Impala SS would have to race with the huge disadvantage of 4 badly flat spotted tires and left front body damage.

Although the body damage was of little consequence, that was certainly not the case for the tires. This race was designated by NASCAR as one to be run on just one set of tires.  Thus, unless a tire failed, no tire changes were allowed. This rule had very serious consequences for the #61 which, following the contact and spin, was racing on damaged tires – and those tires had a high probability of failure.

And fail they did!

After fighting his way forward from a last place restart up to 15th place, the first of 4 tires failed and a costly pit stop was necessary. In spite of his superb driving, Brett continued to find himself repeating this “move forward/flat tire/pit stop” scenario until ALL 4 Tires were replaced!

The improbability of this situation, the failure of EVERY tire on the car, was summed up by another pit lane employee who later commented that “You deserve a Goodyear Award!” For other observers there was universal amazement that a race car actually experienced all 4 tires going flat during a race. But, for Brett Thompson, it was a disappointing 20th place finish.  That disappointment was, however, tempered by what was a very good on track driving performance.

Brett Thompson will race the TMS #61 car again at the Iowa Speedway on May 19 and at the excellent Brainerd International Raceway, MN, on May 26.

The Haulers park at the race tracks prior to race days, but must wait (usually overnight) to enter the pit areas until an official ‘entry time’ designated by NASCAR

On Friday morning, the cars are unloaded from the haulers; though the weather was better than at the 2011 MMP race, it was unusually cold for this time of year.

With the car ready for practice, it is pushed over to NASCAR Tech for its initial inspection.

As the #61 waits for its NASCAR Inspection the Yokohama tent is representative of most of the weekends racing. In addition to NASCAR it was also a championship level event for sports car racing – with 14 scheduled races! The snow covered mountains tell their own story about the temperature at the track!

The #61 is next into the NASCAR Tech tent. It passed – and that was the end of the workday for the TMS Team. K&N practice, qualifying, and the race, was all scheduled for Saturday.

Before the end of the Friday workday the family of the new TMS Crew Chief, Will Harris, came to support him at the track. The Harris Family has strong roots in the Salt lake area.

Early Saturday morning, race day, practice for the NASCAR K&N Pro cars began. The image above shows the view of the track as seen from the MMP Media Room/Broadcast area.

Practice for the NASCAR K&N Pro cars began at 8:30 AM

Although the MMP track is void of large climbs and drops, there are a considerable number of undulations that can easily upset the balance of the race cars.

Entering a section of the track known as “The Attitudes” creates a need to round off the corners in order to maximize the speed through that section.

Exiting “The Attitudes” requires a 90 degree left turn as well as light compression during the turn. The #61 Rich Thompson Trucking Inc. {RTTI} Impala SS was set up very well as evidenced by the slight body roll necessary for proper weight transfer.

Bryan Sauer (L) & Tom Thompson, both dispatchers at RTTI, were the “Barbecue Specialists” at MMP. RTTI held a Hospitality/Guest afternoon affair for their friends and business associates from the Salt Lake Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) members.

Some of the RTTI friends and guests at MMP

Later in the day the RTTI guests helped support the #61 car from what seemed to be its own grandstand cheering section.

Brett Thompson also enjoyed the presence of his “family cheering section!”

Brett Thompson is shown during his Qualifying attempt. A bad engine misfire halted his on track effort early in the “timed” session.

After Qualifying the cars are impounded by NASCAR. However, the #61 had to return to the garage area to find the cause of the engine misfire. By rule, any work done after Qualifying relegates the car to the back of the pack and Brett would now have to start the race in last place.

The cars are lined up for the start of the race.

Crew Chief Will Harris gives Brett a good luck ‘fist bump’ prior to the race. Shane Prince (L) waits to set Brett up in the driver’s cockpit.

After pre-race ceremonies, the cars are lined up and ready for the “Start Engines” command.

The early laps of the race saw the #61 car move up quickly toward the front group of cars.  Shortly thereafter, Brett was accidentally run into by another car and, subsequently, the #61 car suffered from 4 badly damaged tires. For TMS those damaged tires actually became the story of their race.

Early action; entering the Turn named “Release”

Later in the race the nose damage to the front end of the #61 was clearly visible. However, it was the tire damage that was so devastating: as each tire went flat, time was lost to yet another costly pit stop. Under these circumstances, finishing as high as 20th seemed to be a victory in itself!!!

With the race complete, Rich Thompson gets to say goodbye to his DFA friends and guests.

Meanwhile, the TMS Team gets to take home 4 flat-spotted, and flat, race tires. But they also get to take home the knowledge that Brett Thompson is adapting to road racing very well! The misfortunes of this race will fade away; but the TMS driver’s improved road race performance will be permanent.

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