Patrick Long might not have much experience in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. He used what he learned in last year's West Series race at Portland International Raceway to win Sunday's Bi-Mart Salute to the Troops 125.
NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Racer Patrick Long
Patrick Long and the No. 45 Dodge for Speed Wong.
Long, making only the fifth West Series start of his career, won the pole and led 51 of 65 laps of the race in Portland. It was his second career West Series win.
"We were very prepared," said Long, driver of the No. 45 Dodge for Speed Wong. "We sat down (Saturday) night at the hotel and we just went over and over all our scenarios. We were determined not to make the mistake that a few had made last year, where they stopped very early and had great track position, but ran out of fuel at the end. I knew how good this car was and I knew that we didn't have to be heroes on the strategy. We were going to be there at the end if we could keep our noses clean."
Patrick Long wins Bi-Mart Salute to the Troops 125 in Portland
Long didn't have much trouble staying out of trouble. He led the first 30 laps of the race before making a pit stop for fuel under green-flag conditions. He returned to the race in 14th place, but quickly regained positions and took back the lead on lap 45.
"It was really about having a good set-up and saving the tires," said Long, a Porsche factory driver in the American Le Mans Series. "We made that call for tires late. It was basically down to how the chips fell with the yellow flag. We made our fuel under green. We didn't pay attention to any of the other cars' strategies. We were racing our own race."
Greg Pursley took over the lead on lap 31 and led 14 laps. He was the only other driver to lead the race.
The race was extended two laps when Brian Wong crashed on lap 63. Long won the race under caution. His only other West Series win came at Miller Motor Sports Park in Utah last year.
"It's a great series," said Long, a two-time GT winner in the 24 Hour of LeMans. "These kids and veterans keep me so honest. They've taught me a lot. They've brought a lot of game to my day job in sports car racing. It's one of my few weekends off. Hopefully I'm going to have the weekend free for Miller and we'll come back and try to keep this streak alive."
David Mayhew won the pole and started on the front row with Long. Long led the first lap. Mayhew ended up in fourth place.
Eric Holmes, the leader in the West Series standings, finished second. It was his fifth top-five finish in seven races. He is 74 points ahead of Mayhew.
"We didn't have best car," Holmes said. "The NAPA team did a great job making adjustments and great pit strategy. It got us up there. I just drove a points day race, is what I call it. I knew we couldn't compete with the 17 (Mayhew) and 45 (Long). We just hung in there and ended up finishing second. So, it ended up being a great day for us."
Paulie Harraka, Holmes' teammate at Bill McAnally Racing, finished third. It was his fourth top-five finish of the season. He was spun out early in the race and had to work his way through the field to finish third.
"We were set to go win this race with the NAPA Gold Filters Toyota," Harraka said. "We proved how tough this car is, how tough this team is and battled back."
The next West Series race is at Montana Raceway Park on Aug. 7.
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