The strategy for the drivers in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma on Saturday was risky, but simple.
Pit early and hope to not run out of gas.
Andrew Ranger at the Thunder Valley Casino Resort 200
Andrew Ranger won the Thunder Valley Casino Resort 200 in Sonoma
Andrew Ranger won the Thunder Valley Casino Resort 200 in Sonoma cutting his fuel supply as close as possible. He ran out of gas on his warm-down lap and had to coast around the 1.99-mile road course for his victory lap.
"All race long my crew chief told me to try to save as much fuel as I can," said Ranger, two-time NASCAR Canadian Tire Series champion from Roxton Pond, Quebec. "I saved fuel a little bit, not much. Right there in the last corner, the last lap, I saw the car moving really weird. I saw something wrong with the engine. I thought probably it's the end of fuel. Really lucky, at the same time, I think our strategy was really good. I'm really happy."
Ranger said he tried racing his car in fourth gear at times to conserve fuel. He took the lead from David Gilliland on lap 49 and led the last 15 laps to win the first West Series race of his career.
"It's been an amazing year," Ranger said. "First time here in Sonoma. We did a great pit stop. We stalled in the pit stop, my engine. We came out of there fourth, I think, I don't remember. It was a great race, really happy."
Jason Bowles, winner of the West Series races in Sonoma in 2008 and 2009, was running in second place when his car ran out of fuel 100 feet from the finish line. He sat helplessly stalled as car after car passed him and ended up in 22nd place.
Bowles, the reigning West Series champion, started on the pole and led the first 16 laps of the race.
Paulie Harraka was second, his best finish since winning the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West season opener at All American Speedway in Roseville in March. He moved into third place in the West Series standings with his runner-up finish at Sonoma.
"We came into the season wanting to win a championship," said Harraka, who is 103 points behind teammate Eric Holmes, the leader in the West Series standings. "We've had a little bit of a black cloud over us, had a little trouble shaking it. We kind of shifted our focus. We'll see. Right now we're in this race win mode."
Harraka used the same strategy as Ranger, pitting early and doing his best not to run out of fuel. He said he was shutting down his engine and coasting down the hills on the course during caution periods.
"A couple guys got by me early on," said Harraka, a driver from Wayne, N.J., and a junior at Duke University in North Carolina. "I just wanted to save my stuff. I had a lot left at the end. It was perfect."
Brandon Davis, a rookie driver from Huntington Beach making his second career start in the West Series, was third. It was the best finish in his short West Series career.
Holmes was fourth and took over the lead in the West Series standings. He is 24 points ahead of David Mayhew.
Mayhew, who started on the second row and in the third spot, ran into trouble midway through the race and fell off the pace. He finished 23rd.
Gilliland, a driver from Riverside and one of three drivers in the West Series race who also qualified for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway, led the most laps in the race. He was out front for 19 laps, but the transmission gave out on his car at the end of the race and he came in 28th.
The next NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race is at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale on July 3.
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