2006 World of Outlaws Season Review: Brooke Tatnell Concord, NC--Nov. 27, 2006 -- Team chemistry is very important in racing, and Brooke Tatnell showed this in 2006, as he competed with the World of Outlaws Sprint Series, driving for Rush Racing.
2006 World of Outlaws Season Review: Brooke Tatnell
Concord, NC--Nov. 27, 2006 -- Team chemistry is very important in racing, and Brooke Tatnell showed this in 2006, as he competed with the World of Outlaws Sprint Series, driving for Rush Racing. While the team endured many obstacles, they did not falter, and put together a very strong and consistent season.
For Tatnell, a native of San Souci New South Wales, Australia, it was a season in which he experienced just about every kind of emotion. He had the joy of winning races, as well as the elation of getting married in late July. On the other side of the coin, he felt emptiness and uncertainty after hearing his father George had suffered a stroke earlier in the season. He wanted to return to his native Australia, but his father urged him to continue racing and complete the season.
Then in September Brooke received a phone call from home that his father had pancreatic cancer, and he quickly headed back to his native land to be with his hero, the man who taught him everything he knows about racing. He would return for the final four events of the season. Through all of this, the team persevered and showed how important families truly are in the racing community.
Tatnell wrapped up the year sixth in the championship standings on the strength of four A-Feature wins, as well as a preliminary feature win and 26 Top-Five finishes.
"It was an interesting year," said Tatnell, driver of the Race Outfitters machine. "We had some highs and lows. I think we are definitely a better team than a fifth-place team. 'Would have's, should have's and could have's' can go a long way in how to justify a year. 'Would we have liked to have had more wins? Yeah,.definitely.' As a team we stuck together through some tough times, and look to be strong next year."
Though Tatnell missed five events, when he returned to the cockpit, his Rush Racing team with the help of Jeff Shepard, Jason Johnson, and Mark Dobmeier remained in the fifth spot in owner points, the same position they would wrap the year up in. Dobmeier also scored his first World of Outlaws win in a dramatic last lap at Wilmot (Wisc.) Speedway in October.
"We were fifth in team points, and that is what it's all about," said Tatnell, when reflecting on the team's performance. "It's not about any one guy."
Paired with veteran crew chief Troy Renfro, Tatnell started the year off on a very positive note. He finished sixth on the opening night of the season at Volusia Speedway Park in Florida, and in the third race of the campaign at the historic Manzanita Speedway in Arizona, he was the runner-up.
After some bad luck in Las Vegas in early March, Tatnell and the team gained plenty of momentum, as they reeled off eight straight Top-10 finishes, including a third at Batesville (Ark.) Speedway and their first win of the year at Huset's Speedway in South Dakota in early May. The always optimistic driver showed he would be a forced to be reckoned with on all types of tracks, as he claimed a victory on Memorial Day at Orange County Fair Speedway, the largest track on the circuit, a sprawling 5/8-mile oval.
In the middle of the summer, the team fully hit their stride, bringing home 10 straight Top-10 finishes, including their third win of the season at I-55 Raceway in Missouri.
After finishing second on the opening night of the two-day event at Skagit (Wash.) Speedway in late August, Tatnell was more determined than ever to pick up a victory. His main motivation was that his car owners Tim Hanson and Bob Campbell call the Burlington, Wash., area home and had many of their employees from their businesses at the track to cheer the team on. Also his crew chief Renfro, had been battling pneumonia all week, including a stint in the hospital.
On top of all this, Tatnell suffered a broken left front brake line early in the race. An open red flag gave the team an opportunity to cap the line, which included Tatnell climbing out of the car and sprinting to the pit area to retrieve some parts needed for the repairs.
When the checkered flag flew, Tatnell had held off eventual series champions Donny Schatz for a very emotional $25,000 win.
"The win at Skagit had to be the highlight of the year," he said. "To bounce back from a disappointing Knoxville Nationals to win in their backyard. Anytime you can win a race it is important to someone on your team. Everyone has their different races. That race could have paid $1,000 to-win, forget the $25,000 prize money. Winning in the owner's backyard was what it was all about. Tim (Hanson) and his wife Shelly and Bob (Campbell) and his wife Tina didn't make it to too many races this year due to work commitments. It was definitely a highlight for us as a team. As a driver it is just awesome to be able to give something back to our car owners. This sport is a very selfish sport and you have to give something back to them."
After an emotional second-place finish at Eagle (Neb.) Raceway, that saw him lead 38 of the 40 laps, Tatnell knew it was time to return home. He finished that weekend at Jackson (Minn.) Speedway and then flew back to his native land to be with his father and family.
"From the time my dad had the stroke, Tim (Hanson, car owner) said, 'I want you to go home and be with your dad, race cars don't mean anything.'" Tatnell said. "My dad wanted me here, but once we found out about the cancer, it was a real simple decision. My mom wanted me to stay here as long as I could this year and as long as I could keep my mind on my job. She told me that when she said it was time to come, then it was time to come home. When we got the phone call at Jackson (Minn.) about the cancer, I knew it was time. I called Tim on Monday and he told me that I had better have my butt on a place by the end of the week. He wanted me home to spend some time with my dad. It wasn't a hard decision to go home. It was probably a harder decision to come back, leaving my dad."
While he and Renfro receive most of the credit when the teams does well, Tatnell is always quick to point out that it is a full team effort that makes it all possible. It's the crew guys putting in countless hours away from the track, such as washing the car in the wee hours of the morning after a race, as well as the car owners making sure the team has the right chemistry and the tools they need to be competitive on the track, and everything in between.
"Everyone on this team is very fortunate," stated Tatnell. To have the "owners that we have, we are very lucky."
When Tatnell returned to the driver's seat in Arizona as the season wound down in October, the team did not miss a beat. He was running second and battling for the lead at Manzanita Speedway before suffering a flat tire. He then charged his way back to an eighth-place finish. The following night he was the runner-up at USA Race Park in Tucson.
"When you have the support behind you like I have with this team and they have with me, decisions are pretty easily laid down," commented Tatnell, when referring to his decision to return home and put substitute drivers in the car. "Everyone that is part of this team is part of my family. I hope to have that for many years to come."
Tatnell was most pleased at how the entire Rush Racing team and made it past every obstacle that confronted them in 2006. While the results on the track were some of the best of his career with the World of Outlaws, it was the chemistry and family atmosphere away from the track that kept Tatnell's spirits up, and what he is most proud of.
"The biggest thing is that you can get lost within a team," explained Tatnell. "Everyone can have their own separate directions in which things are going. I gurantee that Troy (Renfro) and I have one or two moments a year where we want to kill each other, but the biggest thing is that there is respect there. He is like a brother to me, and brothers are going to have disagreements. The confidence factor is not only Troy, but everyone in this deal. Even last year (2005) when Troy had to go home to be with his wife and kids, I had the confidence in the guys that were around me."
While he turns a few extra laps in his Australia during the off-season to stay sharp, it is the 2007 World of Outlaws season that Tatnell is really looking forward to. With the solid foundation they built this year, and the momentum they had at the end of the year, including a preliminary feature win at The Dirt Track @ Las Vegas Motor Speedway and a runner-up finish in the season finale, the team is geared up to make a run at the title in 2007, beginning at Volusia Speedway Park in February.
"You don't put people in a position unless everyone is working together," he said. "That's the one thing, we all work together. When we tear a car up or lose a motor, Tim and the guys have confidence in us. The biggest factor is respect. The package we have right now, I don't think there is a better combination out there right now."
Next Up: The series of season reviews for the Top-15 in the World of Outlaws Sprint Series continues with Jac Haudenschild.