Luis Martinez Jr. came out on top in a furious green-white-checkered finish to pick up his first career win in the Bi-Mart Salute To The Troops 125 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race Sunday at Portland (Ore.) International Raceway.
The 21-year-old from Long Beach, Calif., was able to regain the lead as David Mayhew spun off course in Turn 12 on the final lap around the 1.967-mile road course.
Martinez, the 2010 Sunoco Rookie of the Year, was making his 23rd career series start. In qualifying earlier in the day, he had captured his second career Coors Light Pole Award.
“At the beginning of the race, we thought we really had something,” Martinez said of his No. 6 King Taco/Sunrise Ford/Lucas Oil Ford. “Sometime about halfway it kind of went backwards for us. We ended up in the back.”
After falling out of the top 10, he had worked his way to ninth by Lap 40 and sixth by Lap 50.
“We couldn’t really recover that fast,” he said. “Little by little, we started making our way back up.”
Martinez was in second by Lap 60 and charged past Andrew Ranger for the lead going into the chicane a lap later. Ranger’s day ended soon after that when his engine let go in Turn 6. Michael Self, who had led seven laps earlier, spun in the oil – but was able to continue.
Following the cleanup, Martinez led the field to a green-white-checked finish. Brandon Davis, who was second on the restart, slid off course in Turn 6. He looped his car around and managed to return to the action. Mayhew charged after Martinez and moved into the lead through the back section of the course. He could not maintain control, however, as he went for a wild slide off the track in Turn 12.
A concern by Martinez about a possible engine problem may have been a benefit to him, meanwhile.
“We thought the motor was about to blow up,” he said. “So I kind of drove it real easy and that helped us out when Mayhew over drove it. That helped us get by him.”
Martinez won by .352 seconds over Eric Holmes, who had also charged back up through the pack. Derek Thorn, making his first start as a teammate to Martinez with the Bob Bruncati-owned team, followed in third.
Moses Smith followed in fourth, while Dave Smith picked up his first series top-five finish in his just his third start. Brett Thompson finished sixth and Spencer Gallagher seventh. Self recovered from his spin to take eighth. Tom Klauer and Ryan Philpott rounded out the top 10.
Series point leader Greg Pursley, who led a race high 37 laps, was out front on Lap 47 when his engine let go with a big plume of smoke going down the front stretch. He ended up 26th. It marked the first race he failed to finish this season. In fact, it’s the first race this year he has failed to finish in the top four. His teammate, series rookie Dylan Kwasniewski, experienced a similar fate – with his engine erupting in smoke on Lap 18.
Pursley’s commanding lead in the championship standings slipped to 233 points over Moses Smith – 1,550 to 1,317. Martinez is third with 1,244, followed by Holmes with 1,212 and Self with 1,208. Rounding out the top 10 are Thompson at 1,175, Daryl Harr at 1,092, Kwasniewski at 1,084, Mayhew at 1,061 and Philpott at 1,035.
The Bi-Mart Salute to the Troops 125 will air on SPEED on Thursday, Aug. 18 at 3 p.m. PT
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West will next race in the Toyota/NAPA Auto Parts 150 at Colorado National Speedway north of Denver on Saturday, Aug. 6.