Tucson Speedway: The Race in Photos

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

The 3rd race of the 2015 NASCAR K&N Pro season took place on 05 May at the Tucson Speedway. Tucson Speedway is located about 12 miles south east of Tucson and is situated a few miles south of Interstate 10. The immediate area is one of flat desert with moderate sized mountains dotting the more distant landscape.

The Tucson track is an older, banked and weathered asphalt 3/8 mile oval that is quite challenging for crew chiefs trying to get a setup for the multitude of variables encountered in a lap around the track. The nature of the weathered track surface left the crew chiefs with yet another concern; the inevitable speed loss associated with accelerated tire wear.

However, this track with its progressive corner banking, is one of the ‘raciest’ oval tracks anywhere. Three cars can, and generally do, go through a turn side by side and actually come off the turn without any advantage conferred by the particular line used. Thus, all teams were faced with yet another variable; what ‘line’ should the car be set up for.

Unlike the previous NASCAR K&N West races this season, Thompson Motorsports was without its second team car, the #46 Boise State University sponsored car of Hannah Newhouse. Hannah was in attendance at the Tucson race but, due to a serious accident incurred when Hannah’s car ran into an oil slick during the previous Irwindale race, both Hannah and her car needed time for human, and mechanical, repairs!

Practice for this race was extensive. Although Saturday was race day, Friday night offered an ‘open’ practice session of over 5 hours duration. Unfortunately the #61 RTTI Chevrolet of Thompson Motorsports rolled off the hauler as an exceptionally recalcitrant race car. In fact, the first 3 hours of Friday’s practice session saw the TMS Crew changing everything from transmissions to rear ends. In summary, this race started out as “one of those times” where the only thing in abundance was frustration.

In spite of much hard work, the car continued to be a handful on the track. On Saturday, race day, this pattern of car behavior continued. A frustrated crew finally had to sit back and watch the car ‘practice’ at around 15th ‘quick’ in both scheduled practice sessions. Unfortunately this lack of speed in the car resulted in a 16th place qualifying effort and related grid position for the start of the race.

With an excellent driving effort Brett Thompson was able to drive the #61 car to a 13th place, lead lap, finish. In making ‘something out of nothing’ Brett Thompson was able to retain an acceptable series points position: After 3 races Brett is 9th in points and, more importantly, only 22 points out of first place.

Iowa Speedway, a track where TMS has compiled a very good record, is the location of the next NASCAR K&N Pro race; it is expected that Brett Thompson and TMS will have a good result there.

History; Symbolic of “Old Tucson” is the beautiful Mission San Xavier de Bac. Dating back to 1692 and located on the Tohono O’odham Reservation, it is considered the finest example of Colonial Spanish Architecture in the USA.

Friday @ 11AM; The TMS Hauler drives through the 100 degree heat and arrives at the Tucson track.

After about 14 hours on the road, this is the turn that the crew was waiting for.

Much of the Friday evening ‘open’ practice was spent in fixing a variety of major ills. Here it can be scene that the rear differential is out of the car. That work followed the installation of a new transmission. Perhaps 3 hours of practice session was used in trying to get the car to perform at an expected norm. Back to the hotel @ Midnight!!

Saturday, race-day, started out clear and warm … and with the TMS crew pondering what changes were necessary to get the best out of a very recalcitrant # 61 car.

Before practice the cars have to go through NASCAR Tech Inspection. Although the job the Officials do contains an element of enforcement, the ‘West” crew is like family … even including a bit of levity for the oncoming competitors.

Two practice sessions were scheduled. In spite of the TMS crew efforts, the car remained difficult to adjust and Brett’s practice time only positioned him as being 14th ‘quick’.

The “Tower Crew” takes a break since the NASCAR K&N Pro cars are not currently on the track.

Following the second practice session, there is a little time to relax. Here Series Director, Kip Childress, enjoys a laugh with two of the Series Officials.

Following the practice sessions the skies darkened as massive thunderstorms built to the NE of the track.

At the Drivers Meeting, Kip Childress introduces a 70 year racing legend – the 87 year ‘young’, Hershel McGriff.

By the end of the day the sky darkened as the thunderstorms neared the track. The good news was in the form of a light rain on the track; it quickly evaporated in the warm and dry Tucson environment. Order was again returned!

NASCAR Vice President George Silvermann is charged with managing all of NASCAR’s Regional and Touring Series. George’s management ‘style’ is both dignified and hands-on as can be seen by his driver greetings – and his posing for a picture with Brett Thompson.

In a 15+ year racing career Brett has always had a favorite type fan meeting, that being with children, and, always at THEIR eye level.

When teammate Hannah Newhouse is around there is always a smile to brighten the day.  Here she decides, Go-Pro in hand, to do an on track interview with Brett Thompson.

Prior to the race start the cars are impounded in the Pit area.

After the race start the #61 car quickly moved forward to 10th place. However, by lap 20 the car began to slow and fell back to 15th by the halfway break. With only a few laps on the tires, the cause of this behavior was unknown.

Nearing the 75 lap mandatory pit stop and Brett Thompson was in 15thplace.

The mandatory pit stop, at 75 laps, was carried out in the pit area. While the location seemed unusual the process followed the same NASCAR methodology, safety protocalls and scrutiny as usual.

Following the mandatory pit ‘stop’ the #61 car came back on track and was very fast as it went from 15th to 6th in only 12 laps.  Then, as it did in the prior race segment, the #61 car began to slow noticeably. In spite of an excellent but difficult drive, the #61 RTTI Chevrolet crossed the finish line in 13th place.

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