MONROE, Washington — Despite a late race collision that cost them a handful of positions, Utah's Michael Self and the Richard Childress Racing Driver Development supported Golden Gate Racing Team still managed to classify their return to Evergreen Speedway a success in round eight of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West last weekend. After salvaging an 11th place finish in the Evergreen 200, the popular San Francisco based team has emerged into the top three of the series point standings.
"We were on our way to a top three finish in this one and some bad luck took it away late in the race," said Jim Offenbach, owner of the Golden Gate Racing Team. "In the end we still moved ahead in the point standings. I'm proud of this whole team; they have had their share of tough luck this season and have fought their way back into the hunt."
Self entered Sunday's race fourth in the overall NASCAR K&N Pro Series West standings. The event marked his first trip to Evergreen Speedway. The .646 mile oval in Monroe, Washington was added back to the NASCAR West schedule in 2011. In the past, the popular facility was the site of success for the Golden Gate Racing Team who had many strong runs with previous drivers, including Steve Portenga, who is now the Competition Director for the Golden Gate Racing Team and the Crew Chief for the Golden Gate Meat Company-Bay Bio Diesel sponsored #21 Chevrolet Impala.
In qualifying it was evident that the boys from the bay hadn't lost their touch when it came to car set up at Evergreen. After strong runs in practice, Self took to the track and posted a top speed of 99.957 miles per hour. His effort earned him the fifth starting position in the upcoming 125 mile race.
"Once again Steve Portenga and everyone at the Golden Gate Racing Team did an awesome job getting me comfortable and up to speed quickly," said Self. "We came off the trailer and were 2nd fastest in the first session at a track I'd never driven before so it was a huge confidence boost to get the weekend started. We had a plan and we stuck to it and stayed smart and conservative through the whole weekend and especially the race."
Starting on the inside of the third row for the money race, Self illustrated great patience as the green flag came out to early leader and series point leader Greg Pursley, who was looking for his sixth win of the season in this event. After settling back into the sixth position for the early laps of the race, Self powered back into the top five after lap 61 when Pursley went to pit row to change a right rear tire that had gone down.
Following the caution period, Self became the driver to watch as he dropped the hammer on the #21, moving into the fourth position to challenge local driver Jason Fraser for the third position. The entire time Self was seeking a clear advantage on Fraser, he was also defending his position over Pursley who had advanced back up to the fifth position.
After the 10-minute break at the halfway point, Self returned to the track with fresh rubber. He settled back into the fourth position for several laps before challenging defending NASCAR West Champion Eric Holmes for the third position. With 143 laps complete, Self overtook Holmes to move back into the top three and began setting his sights on leader Dylan Kwasniewski and Pursley who had returned to the bridesmaid position.
Entering the last 20 laps of the race, Self made several attempts at passing Pursley for the second position with his closest challenge coming on lap 182. One lap later he was struck with another dose of ill fated luck in the form of a collision with Moses Smith in the first turn and was then forced up into the turn one wall one lap later resulting in a caution period.
"We were right where we wanted to be with 15 to go, so getting taken out for no reason was a huge disappointment for all of us, we had a great points day going and a potential top 3 run but sometimes that stuff just happens, " said Self. "It's a part of racing and everyone out there knows what goes around comes around but it's definitely frustrating for everyone on the side that gets the short end of it."
During the caution, Portenga and the GGRT crew went to work to change the left front tire of the #21 and cut away the damaged sheet metal. Self returned to the track as a man on a mission for the final 15 laps. He finished just one position out of the top ten with an 11 place finish. With the rally back to 11th, Self advanced to third in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Standings.
Now that he is into the top three positions in the point standings, Self will focus on closing the gap between he and Smith, who sits second in the standings. The next event will bring the series back to road course action as the ninth segment of the tour returns to Portland International Raceway on Sunday, July 24.
"We've been more and more of a threat every race, " added Self. "I'm excited to move on to some of my favorite short tracks and another road course and see if we can hold our own in the top 3 in points."
The #21 Golden Gate Racing Team/RCR Chevrolet carries the sponsorship of Richard Childress Driver Development, Bay Bio Diesel and the Golden Gate Meat Company. Associate sponsors that support them are the Richard Childress Institute for Pediatric Trauma, Hill Meat Company, Corte Madera Tow, Harraka Racing Equipment Sales, Foodcomm International, Signco, Praxair and JW Web Design. Self and the team are always looking for additional marketing partners.
For an in-depth look at the Golden Gate Racing Team and additional news, visit their official website at www.goldengateracingteam.com. To learn more about the Richard Childress Racing Driver Development program visit www.rcrracing.com Michael Self's personal website can be found at www.michaelselfracing.com. Like the Golden Gate Racing Team today on Facebook and show your support.