Having made the run from Wisconsin all of the way west to western Montana, we were thrilled to arrive in the Flathead Valley, home of the Montana Raceway Park speedway. Just to the east lies the Glacier National Park and some of the most beautiful country we've seen so far.

We combine our coverage of the G.E.T. Rich 212 race at MRP with our visit to Colorado National Speedway, which we actually attended some three weeks later. I wanted to talk about the asphalt side of our Tour in the same issue, just like I combined dirt tracks last issue.

I had heard a lot about both of these speedways for some time before actually coming to them. Although I had been to Colorado to race at Pike Peak Int. Raceway, I never made it to the famous CNS track north of Denver. And I had corresponded with a MRP racer and heard lots of good things from my friend Dick Anderson about that track.

This whole western part of our trip will distinguish itself from the Midwest tracks somewhat. Although there was much to learn back east, the passion I saw in the tracks strung out along the Rocky Mountains was no less intense. So, let's get started.

Montana Raceway Park

Located in Kalispell, Montana, MRP is a jewel of a track. It is not only a good looking facility having been built just 12 years ago in 1990, but it lies in a valley that is surrounded by mountains. Just standing in the pits and looking around at the distant vistas almost takes your breath away.

And we had some time to take a day and travel into, through and around the Glacier National Park. If you decide to take in a race here, be sure to plan an extra day or two to explore. It will be well worth it.

Marie AuClaire was the track manager here for our visit, just like she had been when her parents built and ran the track before selling it to the new owners a few years back, the Thornton family. Giles Thornton's grandparents were the buyers and he races his Late Model here too. Unfortunately, they passed away and the race we were attending was a tribute to Giles grandmother, Gertrude, hence the initials, G.E.T. for Gertrude E. Thornton.

This race not only paid well, $8,000 to win, but the top three finishers were also given 14K gold 1-ounce bars with the name of the race imprinted on them. Once the race was over, all of the participants were lined up on the front stretch and paid in cash by armed Brinks–type guards. These armored car guys also handed out the gold.

The turnout was not what the track had expected due in part to them having one of their bigger races of the year, the Montana 200, just a few weeks before. And, this track is a long way from other tracks and getting teams to travel in this economy is not easy.

Nonetheless, this was a good show and plenty of fans were in attendance. The track spared no expense in putting this on, even hosting a buffet luncheon complete with china dishes and silverware.

We were asked to place our Tour motorhome inside the grandstand gates, right behind the main grandstands and next to the concession stand. I had run through some rain on the way out west and had not been able to find a truck wash before pulling in to the track. So, I had to hand clean the entire bus with a few cloth towels and a bottle of 409. It worked great.

The track itself is about 3/8-mile in length and banked 12 degrees in the turns. It was a bit of a tricky track due to the way it was shaped. It was how a particular car ran their line that determined how well the lap went. And there were distinct transitions from the exit of the turns onto the straights. Having the right shock package would help the car maintain bite and I saw more than a few cars having trouble in this area.

As with most long races, the most consistent handling car was the first to the checkered flag. Several cars were indeed fast, but got caught up in trying to pass too aggressively and ended up having to make their way through traffic time and time again.

Young drivers should not get too disappointed when sent to the rear, they should instead see it as an opportunity to learn how to pass and advance. Where else is that valuable experience going to come from? I have seen very good racers go to the rear and not complain. They have the confidence to be able to come right back to the front.

I just saw on the MRP website that Rick Crawford will be the new promoter/manager for the track for the 2013 season having most recently managed the Mobile Speedway. I'm sure Rick will do a great job and it's refreshing to see a veteran racer run a race track. I really believe he will have a much better perspective for the point of view of the most important element of short track racing promotion, the race teams themselves.