Idaho’s Brett Thompson and the rest of the NASCAR Camping World Series West head next to Madera (Calif.) Speedway for the NAPA Auto Parts/Toyota 150 presented by Exclusive Energy Drink on Saturday, April 25. The third-mile track, located on the fairgrounds facility along Highway 99 in California’s Central Valley, last hosted a series event in 2003.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – A certain excitement and confidence is prevalent in his voice when Brett Thompson (No. 61 Rich Thompson Trucking Chevrolet) talks about his championship effort this year in the NASCAR Camping World Series West.
“I probably have the best team I’ve ever had,” said Thompson. “I’ve got a group of guys that are really committed. There’s a lot of knowledge here. Everything as far as teamwork goes, everybody is meshing well. We’ve got a real solid effort for the championship this year.”
Since making his debut in the NASCAR Camping World Series West in 2000 – the 31-year-old Jerome, Idaho, competitor has alternated between running full seasons and partial schedules in the series. He finished as high as sixth in the championship standings in 2005 and expects to surpass that mark this year.
“This is probably one of the best shots we’ve ever had,” Thompson said. “I’ve made tries at championships before – but never had the equipment, never had the crew behind me. This year, I feel like for the first time in my career, I’ve got a real shot at it.”
Thompson and the rest of the NASCAR Camping World Series West head next to Madera (Calif.) Speedway for the NAPA Auto Parts/Toyota 150 presented by Exclusive Energy Drink on Saturday, April 25. The third-mile track, located on the fairgrounds facility along Highway 99 in California’s Central Valley, last hosted a series event in 2003.
Thompson is among a handful of active drivers who competed in that event. “I remember passing a lot of cars there,” he recalled of the race six years ago. “It’s a track that should allow some side-by-side racing and that’s what I look forward to most.”
Nonetheless, as with just about any short track, Thompson says qualifying up front will likely be the key to getting a good finish. “Time and time again, guys prove it,” he said. “They proved it at Thunderhill (Raceway) and they proved it at All American (Speedway). Qualifying is probably the most important thing you do all day.”
Although Thompson cut his teeth on a short track – Magic Valley Speedway in Twin Falls, Idaho – he has often expressed a preference for racing bigger tracks.
“The reason I like the bigger tracks is because most of the bigger tracks we go to, there’s opportunity to pass,” he said. “I don’t get excited about going to single- groove race tracks. It’s not my cup of tea, because I’m never a really good qualifier. But I always have a good race car. It’s frustrating when you have a car better than the guy in front of you, but you can’t get around him.”
“So, going into Madera, I’m going to focus on qualifying,” Thompson said. “We’re going to go out and do some testing. We haven’t quite nailed the qualifying yet. We did decent at Thunderhill. Then we suffered at All American because of our qualifying effort. We’re going to do a lot of testing out at Magic Valley Speedway to prepare for Madera. The two tracks are real similar. So, we’re going to work on qualifying setup.”
As a veteran driver in the series, Thompson knows a championship battle can bring with it both highs and lows. He experienced both in the first two races this year.
“We came away from Thunderhill with a top five and that’s where I wanted to be,” Thompson said. “It’s one of those tracks that’s real easy to get crashed at. To come out of there with a top five, that was our goal.”
“At All American, we had a good night going for us, again one of the top five, and ended up cutting a right rear tire somewhere through the middle of the race and getting a slow leak,” he said. “The car just got worse and worse until the tire finally let go and put us into the fence. We thought we had a solid night going there until that happened. To come out of there 15th and fall all the way back to 10th in points was a real heartbreaker. It’s not where we wanted to be. But I know, looking forward, there’s a chance to make up some points. It definitely doesn’t put us out of the running for the championship.”
He and his family-owned Thompson Motorsports team remain upbeat. “Our hopes are still high,” he said. “Everybody’s still excited about going for the championship.”
Thompson moved to ninth in the points standings, following a ninth-place finish at Phoenix on April 16.
News & Notes
The race … The NAPA Toyota 150 is the fourth event in a 13-race series schedule this year for the NASCAR Camping World Series West.
The procedure … The starting field is 24 cars, including provisionals. The first 20 cars will qualify through two-lap time trials. The remaining four spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 150 laps (50 miles).
The track … Madera Speedway is a third-mile paved oval with blended banking of six, nine and 12 degrees in the corners and banking of six degrees in the straights. The fairgrounds facility, nestled along Highway 99, has hosted six NASCAR Camping World Series West events, most recently in 2003.
Remembering a great champion … Jack McCoy, who passed away last week at the age of 72, will be honored prior to the start of the race. McCoy was the winningest driver in the series, with 54 victories, along with being a two-time series champion. Funeral services for McCoy were held Monday in Modesto, Calif.
Experienced drivers … Only a handful of the active drivers in the NASCAR Camping World Series West have competed in a series race at Madera Speedway. Jack Sellers (No. 15 Greyhound Adoption Center Chevrolet), who is celebrating his 25th season in the West’s oldest stock car circuit, leads the list. He recorded three top-10 finishes in making five starts. Drivers with a single start in series competition at Madera include Mike David (No. 2 Bennett Lane Winery Toyota), Eric Holmes (No. 20 NAPA Toyota), Jim Inglebright (No. 1 ESEF Apparel/Jelly Belly Chevrolet) and Brett Thompson (No. 61 Rich Thompson Trucking Chevrolet).
Other experience … Eric Holmes has other experience at Madera, having competed at the third-mile track on a regular basis in the former NASCAR Southwest Tour. In addition to winning there in that series in 2001, he finished second in 1996 and 2000; and fourth in 2002. He finished fifth at Madera in the NASCAR Camping World Series West event in 2003.
Six races, six winners … The six series races at Madera resulted in six different winners – Jack McCoy, Bill Sedgwick, Doug George, Lance Hooper, Butch Gilliland and Mike Duncan. All six of those drivers went on to win the series championship sometime during their career. Three of them – McCoy, George and Hooper – won the title the same year they won at Madera.
Six different pole winners, too … The six series visits to Madera also resulted in six different drivers winning the Coors Light Pole Award. They were Jack McCoy, Bill Sedgwick, Doug George, Mike Duncan, Mark Krogh and Scott Gaylord.
Top marks … Butch Gilliland has the most top-five finishes in series competition at Madera Speedway, with three. He is tied with Scott Gaylord, Rich Woodland Jr., and Jack Sellers for the most top-10 finishes on the third-mile track, with three each.
Running out front … Hooper has led the most laps of series competition at Madera. He was out front for four laps in the spring race in 1996 and then returned later in the year to dominate by leading all of the 250 laps of competition in that event.
Successful crew chief at Madera … Two-time series champion Bill Sedgwick, crew chief of the No. 9 Sunrise Ford Ford, nabbed his first of career victory at Madera in 1989. He was also the crew chief for Mike Duncan when he captured his first career win at Madera in 2003.
Various distances … The NASCAR Camping World Series West races at Madera Speedway have varied in distance. The first visit by the series in 1973 was 100 laps. Three of the races were 200 laps, while a second visit in 1996 featured a 250-lap event. The most recent series visit was a 150-lap event.
Stat of the race … Four of the six series events at Madera were won from the Coors Light Pole.
Etc. … Seventy-seven different drivers have competed in the six series races at Madera Speedway.
This Week’s Leaders
Through 3 races of the NASCAR Camping World Series West season:
Points leader – Eric Holmes, 535
Money won – Eric Holmes, $23,550
Laps led – Eric Holmes, 174
Laps completed – Eric Holmes, 456; Greg Pursley, 456; David Mayhew, 456
Average finish – Eric Holmes, 2.0
Top-five finishes – Eric Holmes, 3
Top-10 finishes – Eric Holmes, 3; Jason Bowles, 3; Greg Pursley, 3; Mike David, 3
Races led – Eric Holmes, 3
Final Notes From Phoenix
Seventh career win … Jason Bowles (No. 6 Sunrise Ford Ford) scored his first victory of the season in the NASCAR Camping World Series West and the seventh of his career in winning the Jimmie Johnson Foundation 150 Presented by Shamrock Farms at Phoenix International Raceway on April 16. His previous best finish in two starts at Phoenix was 11th last year. The win boosted the 25-year-old Ontario, Calif., driver to second in the championship standings. Bowles became the 18th different winner in series competition at Phoenix International Raceway.
First career pole … Greg Pursley (No. 26 Gene Price Motorsports/Star Nursery Chevrolet) won his first career series Coors Light Pole Award with a record lap of 129.571 mph around the one-mile D-shaped oval at Phoenix. Pursley went on to finish fifth in the race.
Consistent Run … His runner-up finish at Phoenix gave Eric Holmes (No. 20 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota) his third consecutive podium finish in the first three races this season. Dating back to last season, Holmes has only had one finish out of the top 10 and two finishes out of the top five in the past 12 races. Holmes, who has won the series championship in two of the past three years, currently leads the championship standings by 32 points.
Park contends for win … Steve Park (No. 35 Waste Management Recycle America Chevrolet) was one of three drivers from the NASCAR Camping World Series East to compete at Phoenix. After starting fifth, Park went on to lead 39 laps and battle for the win in the closing laps, eventually finishing third. Also from the East Coast, Austin Dillon (No. 31 Mom & Pop’s Country Ham Chevrolet) finished 15th and Kristin Bumbera (No. 00 Bumbera’s Performance Associates Chevrolet) finished 22nd.
Another top Sunoco rookie … The first three races of 2009 featured three different drivers in their freshman year taking the Sunoco Rookie of the Race Award. Blake Koch (No. 21 GodSpeaks.com Chevrolet) was the top finishing rookie at Phoenix, taking seventh overall. Paulie Harraka (No. 12 NAPA AutoCare/Adaptive One Brakes Toyota) was the top finishing rookie at Roseville and Jonathon Gomez (No. 34 Heritage Cattle/RTD/D4D Chevrolet) was the top finishing rookie at Texas.
Familiar faces return … Former series regulars Andrew Myers (No. 77 Jan’s Towing/Toyota of Escondido Toyota) and long-time series car owner Joe Nava were back in action at Phoenix. Myers battled back from being a lap down to the leaders to finish on the lead lap in sixth place.
Top 10 … Terry Henry (No. 19 MMI Services/ Ron’s Rear Ends Chevrolet) was back behind the wheel at Phoenix, coming home 10th.