The Toyota Speedway: The Race in Pictures

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

The 7th race of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series season was contested as part of the 2011 4th of July celebratory weekend. For the TMS #61 Team, there were two recurring themes throughout this event.  The first was the heat which saw pit temperatures exceed 108 degrees and track temperatures soar above 140 degrees F.  Additionally, the #61 RTTI Impala SS was incredibly resistant to running fast.  That situation made a very frustrated TMS Team feel like the temperature was 120! Brett Thompson ran the entire time allotted to both practice sessions. After each set of practice laps, the car would be returned to the pits for further adjustments. In spite of a metaphor used by one crew member (‘we changed everything but the steering wheel’), the car simply refused to improve its performance. Qualifying proved the point as the car was positioned just below the half-field point. The Team was left to hope that, as the temperatures lowered for the after dark race start, the car might ‘come alive’ for the race.

That was not to be. It simply turned out to be one of those rare events where a car just will not respond to the extensive changes made to it. This condition happens to all race teams, at sometime, but that is of little solace to the team it is affecting. At race end Brett, somehow, still managed to finish 16th.  The TMS Team expects to do much better at Monroe WA on 07.09.11

A NASCAR Official signs off on the fuel cell for the #61. Early morning temperatures were still moderate.

The temperature rose rapidly as the day wore on: at one point in time, the pit temperature was 108 + and the track surface was measured at 141 F.

Jane Thompson records practice times for the #61 … in the shade!

NASCAR Official “Becky” takes a moment to explain a few of the fine points of ‘Timing and Scoring’

Brett Thompson waits to enter the track for the first practice period

After the first on-track laps, Brett returns to the pits for adjustments to the setup

This was a common scene for the #61 RTTI Impala SS: a dedicated crew working in 100+ degree heat trying to find a setup solution that would build some speed into the car

This truck had “speed to burn” – but it was not very good in the corners!

Jane Thompson (C) talks with NASCAR Officials Cindy and Toni; the subject matter was not disclosed

The track is very slippery when the asphalt is 140 F

From the pulled pork sandwiches on one end, to the popcorn in the foreground, Irwindale has some very good food.  A 100 year old ‘Kettle’ certainly helps in the making of excellent KETTLE Corn!

In spite of the heat, practice for all classes, continues.

With some high effort driving, Brett Thompson managed to be ‘10th quick’ in the 2nd practice.  There was some optimism that a good setup had been found as the car went through pre-qualifying Tech.

Positioning for Qualifying

Everything looked good as the car qualified. Sadly, its performance was still not where it needed to be.

Yes – the flagman does have the best seat in the house!

The TMS #61: awaiting the pre-race ceremonies,

Autograph Session and Driver Introduction are done in the Irwindale tradition

Brett Thompson always has time for children – and, he always has a knee to lean on as he meets young fans on eye level. That gesture is always appreciated by those young fans – and noticed by their parents!

A local Motorcycle Club led the parade laps on this Independence Day Celebration and Race

Parade Laps with American Flags waving from each car was a wonderful visual display – and it touched the heart of everyone that observed this special moment of Pride and History.

TV Time; let the race begin!

It was not to be the #61 car’s night. Brett later said that at the start of lap #2, “I dove for the inside to make a pass and I lost 2 positions; it was then that I realized it was going to be a really long night”.

At the 100 lap pit stop the Crew tried everything they could to “wake the car up” but nothing worked.

The second half of the race was a copy of the first 100 laps. However, with a professional effort, Brett was still able to salvage a 16 place finish and a minimal loss of points.

With the race complete it was time for the “Jet Truck”.  And yes it was loud, especially when it compressor stalled. It also had tremendous acceleration. Cornering, however, was another matter.

After the Jet Truck display of ‘sight and sound’ a more conventional form of that type began: Fireworks!

And, when it comes to fireworks, Irwindale’s are some of the very best.

***

For TMS, this race could have been far worse.  On a bad night, one that almost everyone has or will have, a 16th place finish was salvaged.  With that result, the damage to the TMS Team, relative to season points, was minimized.  Now the Team is off to Monroe Washington, and a much better result is expected in that event.


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