Phoenix International Speedway: The Race In Pictures

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

The first race of the 2012 NASCAR K&N Pro Race Season took place at the Phoenix International Raceway on March 3rd.  The #61 car of Brett Thompson was a very quick machine which fell victim to a confluence of negative circumstances which resulted in a 12th place finish.

For the 2012 NASCAR K&N Pro season, the races at PIR are set up as 50 lap sprints. They are intense “Green and Go” events which, by their nature, are devoid of any real time race strategies or pit stops. Clearly, the cars must start this race with, #1, a near perfect initial set-up and, #2, a good starting position.  The latter requirement obviously places a high value on achieving a very quick Qualifying time. Following ‘Practice’ Brett Thompson called the #61 car, set up by new Crew Chief Will Harris, a “rocket.” K&N Qualifying was scheduled for the morning of race day and, critically, the K&N cars were the first on the track for that day. Unfortunately, the strong winds of the previous evening had coated the track with a light coat of fine, and slippery, sand.  Brett Thompson was the 2nd car ‘out’ for qualifying and, like the other half dozen early cars out, Brett qualified almost 3 mph slower than he practiced (Note: most of the later cars out, as a group and on a cleaner track, qualified faster than they practiced).  Brett’s qualifying time, disappointingly, was only good enough for 20th on the starting grid.

When the green flag was waved, the #61 proved that it was, indeed, a quick car.  By lap 24 Brett was battling for 11th position.  However, at this point in the race, an on track incident occurred and the yellow flag was waved.  After several laps devoted to track cleanup, the green flag waved again and, unfortunately, a competitor ahead of the #61 missed a gear on the restart.  That created an accordion effect resulting to front end damage on Brett’s, and other competitors, cars. The damage mentioned destroyed the aero on the #61 and, more importantly, shut off cooling to its engine. That loss of cooling took its toll and on the last lap when entering turn #3 the engine finally “seized”.  With clutch depressed, and a little luck, Brett coasted across the Finish Line in 12th place.

Morning on Day #1: PIR is still a very quiet place

At PIR the desert area to the South, and especially to the West, becomes covered with campers during a NASCAR weekend. Astonishingly, this RV parking area is not measured in acres, but in miles!!

Even in this desert environment, support for living is still necessary. If you follow the road signs to Bashas’ Supermarket you can get all you need for a RV stay in “PIR City”. Kudos to this HONORABLE store chain; they do not charge one cent more to shop at this temporary PIR Track location than they do in their downtown locations

It is morning of day 1 and the TMS crew begins setup of the #61 car for its pre-practice NASCAR Tech

TMS Crew Chief, Will Harris, keeps a watchful eye on car prep. Crew Chiefs are paid to do that as a normal expectation associated with their job. However, WORRYING over every little variable ... priceless!

This view of PIR is SE to NW. The race control functions and Start/Finish line, as well as the Media Center are located below the small building on the right. From the adjacent seating (the North grandstands) the backstretch appears to be straight. However, as this picture shows, the driver sees something similar to a “curved dogleg”!!

At virtually every event, the “Haulers” create their own art

The track is ready for Practice

Following some shock changes, and rebound alterations, Brett Thompson was very happy with the #61 car

At the end of practice, Brett referred to the Rich Thompson Trucking Inc. Impala SS as being a Rocket!

There is always a lot of ‘waiting around’ in racing. Here the TMS photographer talks with a good friend following the off-season

NASCAR legend Ken Clapp joined NASCAR Official Owen Kearns for a promotional event at the PIR Media center. The subject was that of their favorite organization, the upcoming banquet in favor of the West Coast Stock Car Drivers Hall of Fame

Others find time to tour the pit area on bicycles, and enjoy a cigarette while riding. Perhaps this combination provides a “Zero Sum” combination for good health??

Rich and Jane Thompson hold the 2011 Spencer Clark Driven Foundation award, a highly appreciated honor

The Spencer Clark award is one given for devotion to the sport and a passion for racing. It is a yearly award given in the name of a fine young driver who lost his life in an automotive accident. Brett proudly displays the award, and in doing so, becomes a part of the “meaning, memory, and, family” that form the foundation behind it

Qualifying Day and The #61 is 2nd to go out. As it turned out, 2nd was a very bad position on Saturday morning!

Although the car was good during Qualifying, fine sand which had blown on the track overnight made the track very slippery. A late Qualifying draw would have been much better since the early-out cars blew the track clean. Unfortunately, this situation was ‘carved in stone’ and Brett would have to start the race 20th on the grid.

There are several tech inspections before any NASCAR race!

Breaden Havens, a new TMS short track driver, patiently waits for race time.

With only a handful of hours left before Saturdays Races, the overall activity level increased rapidly.

Jane Thompson, with family members, enjoys a lighter moment before the race.

The early stages of the race were uneventful and Brett quickly moved up to 12th position. The #61 was very quick.

The race was essentially devoid of restarts; the above picture shows one of those occasions.

On the last restart one of the front cars missed a gear and the result was damage to the cars behind it. Brett was one of those cars. A race to the front was now, by necessity, replaced by an effort to FINISH the race. The engine, without cooling, managed to get within 1/3 mile of the finish before failing: Brett COASTED to a 12th place finish!

The #61 car is loaded for transport back to the TMS ID race shop. Although 12th place was a disappointment, it could have been worse. Racing is a tough sport, but, Team perseverance can always fix a prior outcome.

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