The first three races in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West this year feature competition in three different arenas of stock car racing - including a speedway, a short track and a road course.
The season was launched with a race on the one-mile speedway at Phoenix International Raceway in February. The next event on the schedule was on the tight .333-mile oval at All American Speedway in Roseville, Calif., on April 16.
Now drivers and teams are preparing to shift gears as the series heads to the road course at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah for the Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix on Saturday, April 30.
Visiting different types of venues first thing in the season is something that second-year driver Michael Self welcomes.
"For me, it's a good thing," said the 20-year-old from Park City, Utah. "I'm not accustomed to driving on one type of track, nor do I feel like I'm better on one type of track than the other. So, it's a really good chance for me to change things up and not get too adept to driving one type of track."
"I also think it's good thing for me, because I'm getting the three types of tracks out of the way early in the year," he said. "So, as those races come up, we'll know later what we have going into the short track races, the big track races and the road courses."
It will mark the fifth straight year the series has visited the massive MMP complex, located west of Salt Lake City. But unlike past seasons when drivers competed on the 3.048-mile outer course, this year's race will be contested on the track's 2.2-mile layout.
"I think the shorter track will be better for us and better for the fans," said Self, who drives the No. 21 Shining Monkey/GGRT/RCR Chevrolet of veteran car owner Jim Offenbach. "I think it will make for a lot closer racing and not so spread out. As far as the fans, they'll be able to see the whole race better and get a better picture of what's going on and be able to keep up with everything."
Hailing from nearby Park City, Self calls Miller Motorsports Park his home track.
"I consider it my home track because it's in my backyard," said Self, while pointing out that he has only competed in big cars on the track four or five times. "All my friends and local fans can come out. For me, that's what the home track is all about, having the local support."
Practice for the event gets underway at 8:45 a.m. on Saturday. Qualifying is set for 1:30 p.m., with the race slated to begin at 4:30 p.m.
First start of 2011 for legendary driver: Hershel McGriff is set to make his first start of the season at Miller Motorsports Park. Since coming out of retirement in 2009, the 83-year-old former series champion has opted to just focus on running road course events in the series.
Daryl Harr set to make 80th series start: The MMP event will mark Daryl Harr's 80th series start. He made his series debut March 1, 2001 at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The 28-year-old from Edmonton, British Columbia has finished a career best fifth on three occasions, most recently at MMP in 2008.
Smith looks to continue string of top 10 finishes: Moses Smith has five consecutive top 10 finishes, dating back to last season, and hopes to extend that to six at MMP.
Mayhew going for fifth straight top 10 finishes: David Mayhew has four straight top 10 finishes, dating back to last season, and will be looking for a fifth at Utah.
2 Drivers Racing Across The Country This Week
This looks to be a busy week for Greg Pursley and Andrew Ranger, as they plan to compete in Virginia on Thursday, April 28, and then travel to Utah to race on Saturday, April 30.
They are both entered in the Blue Ox 100 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway on Thursday. It will mark the first appearance in the K&N East for Pursley. Ranger, a two-time NASCAR Canadian Tire Series champion, will be making his eighth start on the circuit.
Pursley is also slated to race a late model in the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown charity event at RIR that night. Both drivers plan to fly to Utah on Friday in preparation for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race at Miller Motorsports Park on Saturday.
First of 3 Road Course Events On Tap For 2011
The Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix at Miller Motorsports Park marks the first of three road course races on this year's series schedule. The series visits Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., on June 25 and Portland (Ore.) International Raceway on July 24.
Although several drivers have won on multiple road courses in the series, no driver has won on all three of these tracks. Those with wins on two of the tracks include Jason Bowles, who won at MMP (2007) and Infineon Raceway (2008 & 2009); Patrick Long, who won at MMP (2009) and Portland (2010); and Hershel McGriff, who won at Infineon Raceway (1983, 1985, 1987) and Portland (1986).
Final Notes From Roseville
Success continues for Fensler: Jason Fensler had only run a handful of select events in the series prior to his win at Roseville on April 16 - two races in 1993, one in 2007 and one in 2008. He has had success in nearly every appearance, however. He had top 10 finishes in both races in 1993, as a teenager. And he won his two most recent series starts.
All American Speedway streak continues: Moses Smith finished second at All American Speedway, matching his career-best series finish. He has finished in the top 10 in all seven series visits to Roseville, since the series made its return there in 2008.
Top five in series debut: Dylan Kwasniewski, the first 15-year-old to compete in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, finished fourth in his series debut at Roseville.
Career best finish: Ryan Philpott scored his first top10 finish at Roseville, finishing a career-best ninth.
Last Year's Event
Greg Pursley overcame a mistake in the pits during last year's event to score his first of two wins in 2010 in the No. 26 GPM Performance Parts/Star Nursery Ford.
Pursley charged into the initial lead from third on the grid and remained out front for the first 10 laps before green-flag pit stops began. During his stop, however, Pursley left his pit stall with the gas catch can still attached and had to come back down pit road on the subsequent lap. The miscue put him back to 17th.
He made his way back up to third on Lap 33 and was ready to challenge Paulie Harraka for second. They were both more than five seconds behind race leader Patrick Long, who slowed suddenly with a flat tire. After overtaking Long, Pursley then went by Harraka several turns later. Pursley radioed to his crew on the final lap that he thought he also had a tire going down, but was able to nurse it across the line .650 seconds ahead of Eric Curran.
Curran, a regular in the Grand Am Series who was making just his second start in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, also had to overcome problems at MMP. He had to drop to the back of the pack for the start of the race due to an engine change after practice and then during the race had pit to change flat right rear tire.
Harraka held on for third, while Moses Smith took fourth and Kyle Kelley finished fifth to register his first career series top five. Long, the defending race winner who won the Coors Light Pole Award with a record lap earlier in the day, wound up 22nd.
Eric Holmes finished sixth, followed by Tony Toste, Troy Ermish, Daryl Harr and Travis Millburn.
Up Next: East-West Combination Race At Iowa
Next on the 2011 schedule will be the Goodyear Dealers of Iowa 175 presented by Tompkins Industries. The annual NASCAR K&N Pro Series East-West combination race at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa will be on May 21.
It will mark the fifth year for the East-West drivers to face off on the .875-mile high-banked track in the only combined championship race of the season.
Past winners of the race include Kyle Busch and Joey Logano.