By Bill Sullivan, GGRT-RCR Media Relations
STOCKTON, CA (5-5-12) –The Richard Childress Racing Development supported Golden Gate Racing Team rolled into Stockton 99 Speedway Saturday with everything in their favor for a top finish in NASCAR’s return to the historic track for the first time since 2006. The #21 RCR Chevrolet sponsored by Rockwell Watches and Bay Bio Diesel was a top runner all day long. The only one thing the team lacked in the Pick N Pull 150 Saturday night was - a little bit of good luck.
“I have to ask myself, when it will finally be our turn for a victory in this series,” said team owner Jimi Z. Offenbach. “We have one of the best young drivers in the seat, the best team and staff I could ask for and the support of Richard Childress and we just keep getting struck with these misfortunes. This team was looking great tonight and I want to commend them on all their hard work before the race and during it. We’ll get there.”
After strong runs in practice, Self illustrated he was ready to get back to short track racing in the fourth segment of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. In practice on Friday the team made adjustment after adjustment to get the car perfected for Saturday’s race. In the final practice of the day both driver and car were stronger than ever with quality laps on the historic quarter-mile in the heart of the Central Valley.
In qualifying, Self turned a top speed of 64:396 miles per hour which earned him fifth in the Pick N Pull 150. The starting spot was ideal for the team, putting them on the inside groove of the third row for the waving of the green flag that saw Dylan Kwasniewski take the lead from the pole position while Self went to war with sixth place starter Derek Thorn for an early look at the top five.
After fading to sixth place, Self never let Thorn out of his sights as the two young talents raced side by side for lap after lap. With 29 laps complete the race went under yellow flag conditions and it was on the ensuing restart that Self proved that time can fly as he muscled the Rockwell Watches #21 around Thorn on the restart. Ten laps later, Thorn answered back to take over the position in a battle that was as heated as the one for the lead with Kwasniewski and defending Champion Greg Pursley out front.
With 54 laps in the history book, Self over took Thorn once again for the fifth position and began to distance himself from Thorn who was then being challenged by Jason Fensler and unable to keep up with Self while trying to protect his position. With 59 laps complete lady luck turned her head away from Golden Gate’s man in black as he was collected in a multi car incident that broke out in the second turn. The incident occurred when lapped traffic spun in front of the leaders, leaving Self with no place to go and resulting in front end damage on the #21.
After remaining out for several laps under the yellow flag, Self was summoned to the pit area by crew chief Steve Portenga as the boys of the bay were poised to make the necessary repairs. On small tracks such as Stockton, pit strategy is very challenging but Portenga is one of the most experienced crew chiefs and former drivers in the sport and knows the tricks of the trade. The GGRT crew made their repairs in segments, sending Self back to the track lap after lap just in front of the pace car to avoid losing laps under yellow. After three successful drag races with the pace car, NASCAR penalized Self for “blowing the paddle” on his final attempt and docked them two laps in the race.
“NASCAR has an official at the end of the pit lane with a stop and go sign, they call it a paddle and they flip it to stop when the pace car reaches a certain point,” explained Portenga. “We were pushing it pretty hard and cutting it close and they called us on the last time out. It’s a chance you take. These small tracks are really tough when it comes to lengthy pit stops even under a yellow. Michael and this team all did an excellent job tonight, this was unfortunate and wasn’t their fault at all. We had the car to beat in this race.”
Once he returned to the track with a battered and bandaged front end, Self was a man on a mission to make up lost ground in the form of positions and laps. Racing his way through numerous mishaps and taking a few more hits from some of the less experienced drivers that were racing in the back, Self drove his way into the 20th finishing position when the checkered flag waved.
"I really have to thank all the guys on the team for their hard work going into this race and their hard work getting me back out on the track," said Self. "We hard a great car tonight, I think we had a car that could win and unfortunately we got caught up in the wreck."
After charging his way back through the field to finish 20th, Self kept himself in the top ten ranks of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West point standings. He is currently tied for the ninth position with Austin Dyne. Now the series will head to Newton Iowa to the highly competitive Iowa Speedway for the fifth segment of the 15 race campaign. The Graham Tire 150 is Saturday, May 19 and Self and the Golden Gate Racing Team will look to rally back towards the front of the championship point standings.
The Golden Gate Racing Team/RCR Chevrolet carries the sponsorship of Richard Childress Racing Driver Development, Rockwell Watches , Pat O'Keefe's Bay Bio Diesel and the Golden Gate Meat Company. Additional associate sponsors that support them are the Richard Childress Institute for Pediatric Trauma, RCR Street Performance, Hill Meat Company, Corte Madera Tow, Harraka Racing Equipment Sales, Foodcomm International, Signco, Praxair, JW Web Design and Sullivan Images Media Specialties.
For an in-depth look at the Golden Gate Racing Team or to inquire about sponsorship opportunities, visit their official website at www.goldengateracingteam.com. To follow Michael Self on twitter you can find him @mself-21. You can also find Michael Self as well as the Golden Gate Racing Team on Facebook, like them and show your support today.