NAPA “Sandia” NM Speedway: The Race In Pictures

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

The 13th race of the 2012 NASCAR K&N Pro season was contested at the NAPA Speedway which is located about 15 miles west of Albuquerque, NM. The Speedway is a multi use facility; for the NASCAR K&N Pro cars a fairly flat oval track of just under ½ mile was the site of the 150 lap NASCAR event.

Thompson Motorsports transported two cars and two teams to this event. The well known #61 car would be driven by Braeden Havens while the #60 car would be driven by the highly talented, 15 year old, Hannah Newhouse. Braeden is well known for his excellent racing results within the Northwest area Super Late Model divisions. Hannah has become recognized for her late model racing results as well as her being the youngest female to win a NASCAR sanctioned event.  Both young drivers have compiled winning records, and equally important for TMS, they interact as sincere and respected friends.

Of special note is that this was to be Hannah’s first race in one of NASCAR’s high performance divisions, a fact that had families, crew chiefs, mechanics, and Braeden all working as friends in a cooperative effort to help her on this special day.

As if by design, both TMS cars qualified within 1 position of each other.  This led to an 11th & 12th ‘side by side’ TMS race start. However, the race strategies planned for the two cars were very different.  Braeden’s driving style tends toward being very strong late in the race, and, he is also quite comfortable on worn tires. For him, the plan was to be moderately aggressive during the first part of the race and then move forward as tire wear became a major issue near the end.  Hannah’s strategy was more tailored for her as a ‘first race’ driver.  Crew Chief Lonnie Rush instructed her to drive ‘moderately’ for the first 60% of the race.  This would give Hannah more time to adjust to the K&N car during race conditions and, more importantly, to have good tires during the later stages of the race.

Braeden’s Race: From his 12th place starting position Braeden tended to hold position for the first half of the race.  At that point in time he began a determined move forward in what could only be called a superb bit of driving.  Nearing the end of the race the #61 car was turning some of the fastest laps on the track and a third place finish – or possibly victory – seemed within reach. Then disaster, in the form of being twice hit from behind, resulted in the not one, but two, spins. Although Braeden fought back in the waning laps of the race, the two ‘bump caused spins’ resulted in a 7th place finish.  While 7th place was a respectable result, it was obviously a big disappointment and, it certainly was not an expected reward for such a well driven race.

Hannah’s Race: As per pre-race plan, Hannah started the race with what might be called a non-aggressive methodology.  By the 30 lap mark she was running in 18th place and was also one lap down. For Hannah, this was a frustrating period of time, but she remained fully committed to following Team orders. Thus, while other cars were burning their tires off, she was preserving her tires for later in the race. The first chance for Hannah to begin hard racing came at about the 60% point in the race.  Following an accident and a resulting caution period, the #60 car was the recipient of the Lucky Dog rule. This put Hannah back on the lead lap and behind many cars whose tires were, by now, used up. It was then that the team gave Hannah the green light for her chance to race aggressively. Indeed she took advantage of her favorable situation and, in passing car after car, impressed absolutely everyone with driving that lived up to her rapidly building reputation! The final result was a very impressive 6th place finish as well as several ‘fastest laps’ being recorded.

Tire strategy; which plan worked best?  That answer is hard to determine – even though everyone knew tire wear was a serious issue.  TMS post-race inspection revealed that the #61 car’s tires were worn to, or slightly below, its wear marks.  By comparison, the #60 car’s tires still had about 30% of their wear left. After the fact, it is easy to construct scenarios whereby each driver could have benefited by minor changes in race planning.  But the reality is that the variables of a race can defeat any pre-race plan – and that is one of the elements that makes the sport of auto racing so interesting.

For Thompson Motorsports, it was a very rewarding night: their position was that ‘both of their young drivers were winners’.  TMS also feels that, in helping to bring this young talent into the sport, they too were winners.

Both Braeden Havens (#61) and Hannah Newhouse (#60) will be in action again at the All American Speedway {Roseville CA} on 10.13.2012.

The NAPA Speedway is located on flat terrain about 15 miles west of Albuquerque, NM

The ‘oval’ is roughly ½ mile around and very flat. It is without fences except for the front stretch – a welcome plus for team owners who often face costly repairs on damaged cars! The track is wide, quick, and well received by both the teams and drivers.

The race was preceded by a very good area PR campaign on the part of the NAPA Track management. Here Hannah and Braeden, in conjunction with local radio, take part in a PR event located at the track president’s business. {A former Indy-Car driver and owner of ‘Car Crafters’, Jim Guthrie}

NASCAR scheduled “Hauler Entry” for 2 PM on Friday. The #61 Hauler of Thompson Motorsports was followed by John Newhouse towing the #60 car.

The cars were immediately unloaded and set up for an extensive ‘open’ (i.e., non-NASCAR) practice session. It was time well spent for all drivers, but especially for Hannah since it was her first introduction to the powerful and heavy NASCAR K&N Pro cars.  Her team worked very hard to keep her car on the track for about 120 practice laps.

Meanwhile, Rich Thompson (Right), Braeden and, Hannah, take a short walk to survey the NAPA Speedway layout.

Without the normal race day pressures, the principals of both teams find time for a group picture. Top row, left to right: Braeden Havens; Brett Thompson; Rich Thompson, Jane Thompson; Hannah Newhouse. Front row: Todd Havens and John Newhouse.

Braeden waits for the evening practice session to begin., In combination with Braeden’s driving, and the setup used by Crew Chief Will Harris, the #61 was very quick during practice in the evening hours.

The image above represents a very unlikely scenario for racing teammates; ‘heartfelt camaraderie’.  It was not about the mountains, or the city, in the background. Nor was it about the cars or the track. It was about one driver driving with his friend during her first laps in a vastly different car – and it is an example of the support that should be part of the word, ‘teamma

Maybe Hannah thought Braeden was holding her back on the track! Or, perhaps, she wants to box with Braeden … feeling that female drivers have to fight a little harder. But the look on Braeden’s face reveals that these two friends are simply having fun!

Hanna’s mother Susan (center) is joined by her grandmother Marilyn, and, friend Mark; the idea was to beat the hot mile-high sun.

The inside a trailer also affords protection from the sun – and a de facto meeting room.

Crews were warned about the possibility of some ‘unwanted spectators’; those being rattlesnakes and scorpions! (above; a “rattler” that was hit by a hauler). One crewmember laughingly told his driver that if he crashed out in the dessert he “should stay with the car until a lift helicopter came to get him – especially after dark!”

The #61 in turn #3: Friday evening open practice.

Friday night open practice; the #60 car enters turn #1.

Brett Thompson in the role of ADVISOR; Brett says he likes the roll of DRIVER much better!

It is Saturday, and, it is Race Day morning. Both teams have to prepare their cars for NASAR Tech and then for the first of two scheduled practice sessions. It is a daunting task involving 30 people, some of whom are family members of the two drivers.

Hannah and Braeden wait at the NASCAR Hauler for the rookie drivers meeting to begin. The meeting was conducted by NASCAR Race Director, Larry Harper.

Pre-race practice; Braeden was 7th quick after the second session.

Hannah poses with the crew chief who, for many years, brought her to where she is today. With a measure of both pride and remorse Brian commented that, now, he would have to watch her move forward. Brian will remain part of the Newhouse racing family; he is still the Crew Chief for the 2007 Rocky Mountain Challenge Champion … Hannah’s father, John Newhouse.

Hannah is shown exiting turn #4 during pre-race practice.

The #61 goes through pre-Qualifying NASCAR Tech

Braeden Havens qualifies the TMS #61 “Hilliard/UNIPAR” Impala SS.

Hannah Newhouse qualifies her TMS #60 “Car Store/Brashers” Impala SS in 11th position.

Again, teammates Hannah and Braeden are side by side at the drivers autograph session.

Pre-race driver introductions: Braeden Havens.

Hannah at driver introductions; Track President Jim Guthrie is also pictured (center)

Braeden’s stepmother, Jessica, watches from the grandstands.

The track is cleared following the National Anthem

Parade laps

The Thompson Motorsports cars, #60 & #61, start side by side.

Late in the race, Braeden is shown executing a very difficult pass on Greg Pursley, the 2011 K&N Series Champion. Unfortunately, a handful of laps later the #61 car was hit in the rear bumper on two separate occasions, which resulted in 2 spins.  Somehow, with only a handful of laps remaining, Braeden still managed to fight his way forward to a 7th place finish!

By the last lap Hannah made maximum use of her favorable tire situation with very good driving and fast lap times. She finished a hard charging 6th.  Meanwhile Braeden had recovered from the previously mentioned spins and, with some very intense driving, finished right behind Hannah. For TMS it was a great night; the performance of both drivers was viewed as a TMS Victory!

Rich Thompson looks over the #61 car while Todd Havens and Crew Chief Will Harris confer on race issues.

Meanwhile, Hannah has captured the hearts of many younger fans.

It is always the most difficult part of an event; loading up and then the 1,000+ mile drive back to the Jerome ID TMS Race Shop. But on this night, the memory of a very special weekend certainly makes the long drive home much easier.

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