Four drivers are in a heated battle for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship, which visits Miller Motorsports Park on Saturday.
Michael Self, the only Utah driver in the race, is one of four leading the pack with five races to go in the series. The first of those last five races is set for Saturday at 4:25 p.m.
Derek Thorn leads the standings with 431 points, followed by Cameron Hayley 408, Self 402 and Greg Pursley 400.
Self has won three of 10 races so far, placed in the top five six times and placed in the top 10 eight times. Self won races at Brainerd, Minn.; Iowa Speedway; and at Lebanon, Mo. About 27 cars line up to race at each event.
“I’m very familiar with the course and we’re bringing in a very good car to run this weekend,” Self said. The Salt Lake City driver explained that most of the NASCAR races are on oval tracks, but this race is on a road course so he needs a more symmetrical car to handle the turns.
Self, 22, graduated from Park City High School in 2009 and recently moved to Salt Lake City to attend classes at the University of Utah.
He nearly grew up at the kart track at MMP, and could be destined for big time NASCAR if I finds a sponsor. From 2001 to 2009, he won several western region karting championships, and grabbed his first NASCAR championship in 2010. When not attending classes, he works as a driving instructor for MMP’s Ford Racing School.
“To win we will need to conserve our tires, keep the car clean (free of collisions, mechanical problems) and maintain a position close to the lead,” Self said.
“He basically grew up here,” said John Gardner, marketing communications manager at MMP. “He went through the Utah Kart Championship before moving on to open-wheel cars and then finally to stock cars. He raced in the Miller Park Racing Association here (now known as the Utah Region of the National Auto Sport Association, or NASA) and he also raced in the now-discontinued Ford Racing Mustang Challenge for the Miller Cup.
“He’s done everything the right way to get himself poised to make the big jump to the bigger, national NASCAR series. He’s being groomed to move up the ladder. If he can keep going like he’s been going, he could well be in Trucks or Nationwide next year,” Gardner said.
Self said he would like to move up in the NASCAR ranks.
“What people will see out there on Saturday are guys who will eventually move up. There are a lot of great drivers in the Pro Series West,” he said. “The big thing is to get noticed and find a sponsor.”
Saturday’s race will be the seventh series visit to Miller Motorsports Park. It will go for 50 laps on the 2.2-mile course for a total of 110 miles. The Utah track has hosted six series events — one each year since 2007. The first four were contested on the 3.048-mile Outer Course, while the last two were staged on the 2.2-mile East Course.
Four different drivers accounted for the wins in the first four series races at MMP. Meanwhile, Greg Pursley has won the past three straight.
Five different drivers have won the Coors Light Pole Award at MMP. Patrick Long is the only driver to win the pole twice there (2009 and 2010).
Pursley and Moses Smith are tied for the most top-five finishes at Miller, with four each. They are also tied for the most top-10 finishes, with four each. Patrick Long has led the most laps of competition, running out front for 50 circuits.
Daryl Harr is the only driver to have started all six previous series races at MMP. Two of the six series races at MMP were extended for a green-white-checkered finish — 2008 and 2011. Two of the six races were won from the pole. Eighty-one different drivers have raced in series competition at Tooele.
Two other racing series will add interest to the action Friday through Sunday at MMP. They are the Pirelli GT3 Cup Trophy USA and the Discount Tire/Air Power Invitational.
Ticket prices for the iON Camera Utah Grand Prix are $25 for adults on Saturday, $10 for adults on Sunday or $30 for the weekend. Kids aged 12 and under are admitted free of charge. Tooele County residents receive a 50 percent discount.
Action runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.