BRAINERD, Minnesota — One week ago Michael Self and the Golden Gate Racing Team were working their way through one of the toughest weekends they could remember in Iowa. One week later they were celebrating in victory lane. Park City Utah's Michael Self has not only driven the Richard Childress Development supported NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Team to a long overdue victory, but the 21-year-old wheelman has captured his very first career NASCAR victory.
"This is so special to be part of this win for the Golden Gate Racing Team, its been a few years since they have had a win and we have been working so hard for the last two years," said Self. "This season alone I have felt like we have been duped out of several races we could have won. Today it all came together for us. I can't thank Jim Offenbach and everyone involved with this team for their support. They have deserved this win for along time and we finally did it."
Saturday's victory came at a Brainerd International Raceway in Brainerd, Minnesota. The Brainerd 125 was a brand new venue for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West and the 2.5 mile road course that began as a dreaded playing field in early practice quickly became a favorite track for Self and the entire team as they found their niche in set up that ultimately led them to shake the decade old monkey off their back in the way of their first victory in the West Series since current GGRT Competition Director Steve Portenga drove them to the winner's circle in 2001.
"Lately I have been asking myself when will it be our turn to get back in victory lane in this series because we have the driver, the team and the equipment to do it," said Jimi Z. Offenbach, owner of the San Francisco based Golden Gate Racing Team. "Today I got my answer. Patti and myself are so proud of Michael and this entire team. Everyone on this team plays a big role and today their hard work, persistence and determination finally got them what they deserve. GGRT/RCR is back in the victory circle."
For Self, initial practice in Brainerd proved challenging much like it did for the majority of the field. Brainerd International Raceway is a very tight, narrow track. Following the first practice, many drivers including Self, found themselves off the track surface and shaking their heads in the garage area. Little did they know that 24 hours later they would be celebrating in victory lane.
"When I first went out on this track I didn't like it at all, just about everyone went off the track including me," said Self. "After we worked on the set up then I really liked the place. If gave us a real challenge and we accomplished it."
Due to inclement weather, qualifying for Saturday's race was cancelled and the Brainerd 125 was lined up by current positions in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series point standings. This placed Self eighth on the grid which was a solid starting position for the driver that has vast road course experience due to his young career in karts and his position as a driving instructor at Miller Motorsports Park near his hometown.
With the drop of the green flag, Self and the team had a game plan to save the best for last. By using great patience and conserving their tires and equipment the veteran team that is known for their stellar crew, equipment and integrity in the tour held the trump card to out hand two of the strongest drivers in the west, defending champion Greg Pursley and current point leader Dylan Kwasniewski.
"I had them in my sights early in the race and communicated with Steve Portenga the whole way, they were using up their tires pretty fast," said Self. 'My spotter kept me calm and patient so we had something left at the end and it was exactly what we needed to do to win. Once I got around Pursley I was just waiting for Dylan to make a mistake and he gave me that opportunity."
Pursley and Kwasniewski led the most laps in Saturday's race but Self led the most important two around Brainerd's 13-turn road course. After passing Pursley with ten laps remaining in the race Self overcame more than a three-second margin to close in on Kwasniewski for the lead. As they entered the ninth turn Self maneuvered his way around the 16-year-old driver who's tires had worn considerably more than that of the Rockwell Watches/Golden Gate Meats/RCR #21 Chevrolet. Once he worked his way into the lead, Self extended his margin by 4.859 seconds.
With the victory, Self advanced to seventh in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series point standings. Additionally, with the victory he locked a starting positions in the prestigious NASCAR K&N Pro Series race at the UNOH Battle at the Beach at Daytona International Speedway next February.
Following Saturday's win, the Golden Gate Racing Team has no time to lose their momentum as then busiest month in the series continues. This Saturday, June 2, the series competes in round seven of the 15-race tour at Las Vegas Motorspeedway.