He was prepared to race in the ARCA Series, moving his way up in stock car racing, perhaps setting up deals to race in the NASCAR Truck or Xfinity Series.
But Bob Bruncati, a long-time owner in the K&N Pro Series West with a two-car team, needed a driver. The series was at Tucson Speedway in Arizona for the first race of the K&N Pro Series West. Self was at the track coaching another driver. One of Bruncati’s drivers wasn’t able to race. Bruncati asked Self if he was interested in driving his car.
“I need someone to drive the 9 car full time this year. Are you interested?,” Self said Bruncati asked him. At first, Self refused the offer. “I don’t have any money, I don’t have any sponsorship to bring to this.”
But Bruncati, one of the few owners in all of NASCAR who prefers talented drivers over well-funded drivers in his cars, wasn’t looking for money.
“It’s all expenses paid. It’s a free ride,” Self said Bruncati told him. “I just need someone to come in and do a good job for me and go compete.”
Self said, “Obviously I am interested in it.”
That started a productive union. Self has finished in the top 10 in all eight races for Bruncati and his Sunrise Ford team. Self is in fifth place in the K&N Pro Series West standings after nine races. He missed one race, the race in Tucson because he didn’t take a NASCAR drug test. He passed the drug test to race in the ARCA Series, but Self had to wait a week before he could race in the K&N Pro Series West.
While Self and Sunrise Ford team have plenty of top 10 finishes to celebrate, the K&N Pro Series West has been dominated by Bill McAnally Racing and its three-car team. Todd Gilliland leads the K&N Pro Series West standings. Chris Eggleston and Derek Kraus round out the top three. The McAnally cars have been tough to beat.
Gilliland won the most recent K&N Pro Series race at Iowa Speedway. It was his fifth win in the K&N Pro Series West and his sixth overall this year in the K&N Pro Series. He also won an East Series race.
Self was sixth at Iowa Speedway. It was a respectable result, but one that he wasn’t particularly pleased with.
“Sixth is a fine result, but I’ve won that race before,” Self said. “Run competitively there in the Arca race a week before. I don’t want to go finish sixth and say. ‘Man that was awesome, that was a great night.’ To me winning is a great night. I think it was a really hard-fought night.”
There have been races that Self has finished ahead of the McAnally cars. He was third in one of the twin races at Irwindale Speedway in California and fourth, finishing ahead of all three McAnally drivers, at Sonoma Raceway in California.
“I was proud of that,” Self said about his third-place finish at Irwindale. “I thought we could build on that. Had some momentum there. That’s been kind of one of our better runs this season.”
Self said he wants to win a race or two before the season is over. He likes some of the tracks the K&N Pro Series West will visit in the next few weeks and likes his team’s chances. The next race is at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash., on Aug. 12.
“Looking ahead on the schedule, going to Monroe, going to some of these half miles, we’re going to have to be on our game, figure something out to compete with the McAnally cars,” Self said. “We still got time. I’m not satisfied sitting fifth in points. I think all thing considered right now that’s pretty good.”
Self wants to move up in the K&N Pro Series West standings. The championship is probably out of reach, but breaking up the McAnally’s hold on the top three is not.
More importantly, Self doesn’t want to waste a chance to prove he can win races at this level of NASCAR. He has plenty of confidence in the Sunrise Ford team and resources that are available to him.
“To have this opportunity that I have is amazing,” Self said. “I am racing probably 17 or 18 times this year between K&N and ARCA and that’s great compared to what I’ve been doing the past few years, that’s awesome.I want to bring that over to the West side. I want to do it for Bob and for that team as well for myself.”