Michael Self Top Finishing West Driver in the K&N Pro Series East-West Combination Race
Corey LaJoie may have been the one holding the big trophy and celebrating in Victory Lane at Iowa Speedway, but in a back corner of the track's darkened garage area Michael Self was downright jubilant.
Self's ninth-place finish in the Pork Be Inspired 150 was, in fact, a win in its own right – as the highest-finishing NASCAR K&N Pro Series West driver in the combination race with the K&N Pro Series East on Friday night, Self was credited with his second career victory.
“It feels great. A win's a win,” Self said. “That's exactly what we came out here to do. We came out with a goal this weekend to finish Top-10 overall and win (against) the West cars. I feel like we were strong enough to run right where we ran.
“I'm just thrilled we ran with the East's best guys and outran the best West guys. It may not be an actual win, but believe me – it feels like it. I'll take it any day.”
Self's history at Iowa Speedway hasn't been kind.
In two races at the track prior to this season, he didn't finish either one. Here in May, Self started 35th and finished 17th after a flat tire left him with a torn-up race car.
“Considering today was the first time I've actually qualified on time and didn't take a provisional here, that felt good to begin with. I felt great about that,” Self said. “We should have had this win (in May) when we were here. We were passing for the lead and we got a flat tire and ended up crashing the thing.
“But the last couple races, ever since Brainerd in (one week after the first Iowa race) when we got our first win, it seems like the luck and everything has just kind of clicked. These guys have been giving me unbelievable cars every weekend, and we're showing every single weekend that we're a car to compete with.”
Self began the weekend almost 100 points behind leader Greg Pursley in the K&N Pro Series West standings. With Pursley, Dylan Kwasniewski and David Mayhew all having trouble, Self cut a big chunk out of his deficit.
The championship picture, though, isn't where Self is focused. The Park City, Utah, native and Richard Childress Racing development driver is looking at an even bigger picture.
“Our goal is to lead laps and win races, which is exactly what we did tonight. We understand that we're not a huge threat for the points right now – but if we do this two or three more races, we absolutely could be,” Self said. “Coming into this season, to looking at having two wins so far is absolutely huge for us.
“We're looking to step up next year into a Truck or a Nationwide car for a couple of races with RCR, and this is what we need to show those guys.”
Self also wants to prove to the rest of the series that he's for real. A second win Friday at Iowa may have done just that.
“Right now, it's just performing, consistency and getting all that bad luck out for good,” Self said.
HOME NOT SO SWEET: Brett Moffitt finished fifth in the Pork Be Inspired 150, but he certainly wasn't happy about it.
When asked if he looked at the bigger picture as the K&N Pro Series East point leader, he was succinct in his response.
“No,” he said.
Moffitt, of nearby Grimes, Iowa, led 144 laps at Iowa Speedway to win the Graham Tire 150 at the track back in May and had his sights set on a repeat of that performance. Instead. He barely kept a three-car breakaway of LaJoie, Kyle Larson and Sergio Pena in sight in the closing laps.
“I'm pretty disappointed,” said Moffitt, who unofficially has a 20-point lead over Larson with four races remaining. “I love to come here in front of my friends and family and try to win, but we definitely didn't have the race car to do that tonight. LaJoie did, so congratulations to them.
“This was definitely not the night we wanted. It was still a good points night – but other than that, it stunk.”
Moffitt had trouble pinpointing just where it had gone wrong. He was among the fastest cars in both morning practice sessions and qualified a solid sixth – despite going out early during the qualifying session.
“We just got off a little bit. I don't know if it was that the race track changed a little bit, with a different temperature or what,” Moffitt said. “But it was definitely not the same race car we had in the beginning of the year here. It just was not in the race track, losing all-around grip, really loose off the corner, really tight in the middle.
“I don't know where we got off, but I hope we can go back to the shop, research it and find it, and be dominant in the next races.”
All is not lost for Moffitt, who still has plenty to look forward to at Iowa Speedway this weekend. On Saturday, he will make his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut with RAB Racing in the U.S. Cellular 250.
He was third on the speed chart at the conclusion of final practice Friday evening.
“I'm really excited about tomorrow,” Moffitt said. “We ended up third in the second practice, which was pretty cool. Ryan Blaney and Darrell (Wallace Jr.) were also running pretty good (in Nationwide practice), and I think that says a lot about the East series and the competition we have.
“Hopefully we can run up front and finish better than we did tonight, even. I don't see that being out of the picture.”
PENA ON REBOUND: Moffitt's Hattori Racing Enterprises teammate Sergio Pena didn't leave the Pork Be Inspired 150 with the same feelings as Moffitt.
Pena finished third, and he said he was thrilled to finally have finished a race this season where he felt he was capable after a string of bad luck. He finished 19th after running in the Top-5 at Bowman Gray Stadium in June and then qualified fifth before finishing 17th at Clearfield, Pa, a few weeks ago.
“With all the luck we've had this year, it's good to get a third-place finish,” said Pena, who finished fourth two weeks ago at Columbus. “We've had some strong runs the last couple of races.
“I'm just excited to be back here in Iowa. Had a blast racing here – on the top, on the bottom – and I'm happy for everyone at HRE to get a third-place finish.”