"This is tremendous,” said Long, who netted $15,000 in prize money and posted awards. It’s a long time coming. These guys have made me earn it."— Pat Long
He won the 41-lap event on the massive 14-turn road course by more than five seconds over series rookie Paulie Harraka, who started the race last and ended up with a career-best finish. Long’s teammate in the series, Jason Bowles, was third.
It was the second time this year Long, a full-time Porsche factory driver, has tasted victory at Miller Motorsports Park. He won the GT2 Utah Grand Prix there in May.
The 28-year-old driver from Thousand Oaks, Calif., raced in select events in the NASCAR Camping World Series East early this season on off weekends from his sports car racing schedule. He was making just his third start in the NASCAR Camping World Series West.
“This is tremendous,” said Long, who netted $15,000 in prize money and posted awards. “It’s a long time coming. These guys have made me earn it. I came in here and found success right away as far as speed and dominance in races at Watkins Glen and then Sonoma, but today the car was very, very good,” he said of his No. 9 Sunrise/AASCO Motorsports/UIS Ford.
Long and Bowles had the dominate cars from the drop of the green flag, pulling away from the field in the similarly painted cars of car owner Bob Bruncati. Although Long, who had won the Coors Light Pole Award in qualifying, led initially – they were soon swapping the top spot back and forth.
About the only time one of the two cars was not out front was while the field was cycling through pit stops. Long relinquished the lead on lap 16 and Bowles gave up the lead two laps later to pit. An early pit stop by Harraka’s Bill McAnally Racing team, meanwhile, helped him gain track position and get to the front of the field.
When the pack lined up for a restart just before the midway point of the race, Long was back out front, Harraka was fifth and Bowles was seventh. Harraka made his way to second, with Bowles closing in on his back bumper. Although Bowles pressured Harraka for the runner-up spot, he eventually faded with a tire leak and had to settle for a distant third.
Greg Pursley crossed the line in fourth – while Moses Smith finished fifth, giving Bill McAnally Racing a second car in the top five. Rounding out the top 10 were Brian Wong, Todd Souza, Eric Holmes, Blake Koch and Kyle Kelley. A flat tire two laps from the finish relegated 81-year-old Hershel McGriff to a 19th-place finish.
The podium finish by Bowles allowed him to extend his lead to 56 points over Holmes in the championship standings – 1,694 to 1,638. Pursley moved to third in the standings, with 1,507. David Mayhew slipped to fourth with 1,494 points after engine problems in Utah left him to finish 23rd. Harraka remains fifth in the standings with 1,449.
Harraka and Blake Koch are tied in the chase for this year’s Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award as the NASCAR Camping World Series West heads toward its final three events of a 13-race schedule for 2009.
With his Utah victory, meanwhile, Long secured a spot in the prestigious NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown postseason event, which will be run Jan. 29-30, 2010 at the Toyota Speedway at Irwindale (Calif.).
The next event on the schedule for the NASCAR Camping World Series West will be at Colorado National Speedway just north of Denver on Aug. 15.