Sunday, July 18, 2010

NASCAR In Portland: ALMS & History Are In The Mix

The Garage/Paddock of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Bi-Mart Salute to the Troops 125 at Portland International Raceway. Image Credit: Kevin W. Green/NASCAR

NASCAR In Portland: ALMS & History Are In The Mix


The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Bi-Mart Salute to the Troops 125 at Portland International Raceway was a stock car race for the ages. For only the second time since 1986, a NASCAR sanctioned automobile race was held on the dragstrip straightaway and Festival Corners of Portland International Raceway this last weekend on Sunday, July 18, 2010. Twenty-Seven former NASCAR "Cup" (not to be confused with the Car Of Tomorrow) and Nationwide Series specification full-bodied 600 HP stock cars took the 12 corner, 1.98 mile road course for what turned out to be a very historic and eye-opening race that ended in a NASCAR "Green/White/Checkered" rule Yellow Flag parade.

David Mayhew after he won his second straight Coors Light Pole Award at Portland International Raceway Sunday, topping his own track record with a lap of 75.426 seconds (94.503) around the 1.98-mile road course. This was Mayhew's third pole of the season and fifth of his career. He held the previous mark at Portland with his pole time of 76.328 (93.386) last year. Image Credit: NASCARHomeTrack

As for history, one could not overlook the fact that Hershel McGriff showed up, qualified, and ran the complete scheduled 125 mile/63 lap (extended to 65 laps on the G/W/C) race as he had in 1986 (where he won the race), 2009 (where he defended his championship finishing 13th and set the record for the oldest person to compete in a NASCAR sanctioned event), and now in 2010 where he re-set the NASCAR record for the oldest person to compete in a sanctioned event at 82 years of age.

Hershel McGriff climbs out of his K&N Pro Series West Park Corporation Chevy after 65 laps of strong competition at Portland International Raceway. Image Credit: NASCARHomeTrack

Hershel did not qualify all that well at P23 in a field of 27 cars, but this did not stop him from working his way up through the field of drivers who could have been his grandsons. The race featured four caution periods for collisions, oil on the track for transmissions letting loose, and stalled cars but by LAP 32, McGriff worked his way up nine positions through to P14 where he was ready to pass and exceed his previous race finish of P13. This would have been the case if it were not for a right-front flat tire on LAP 38, after a Green Flag Restart on Lap 36, bringing Hershel into the pits and dropping him back to P17 where he held station throughout the rest of the race.

Patrick Long (45) leads David Mayhew (17) and Blake Koch through the corner. Image Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images - Clairity Media

As for the American Le Mans Series influence on this NASCAR event, one could not miss the standout performance of the red #45 Speed Wong Dodge, once fielded by Chip Ganassi's NASCAR Sprint Cup team, driven by Patrick Long.

Long is best known for his teammate skills driving for the Flying Lizard Motorsports team behind the wheel of a Porsche 911 GT3-RSR against exotic sports cars of the American Le Mans Series. What is he doing in a Dodge? ... let alone shaking down a field of stock car specialists with a dominating performance that actually had a few heads turning in that he looked like he was in a different class. It was reminiscent of watching Tiger Woods, in his heyday, ripping through a field of top class golf pros in a major tournament.

Green/White/Checker ... Yellow Flag finish for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Bi-Mart Salute to the Troops 125 at Portland International Raceway. Image Credit: NASCARHomeTrack

At one point, on this somewhat short, 1.98 mile course, Patrick Long pulled away from his P2 starting position and led the track record breaking pole-sitter, David Mayhew - 75.426 seconds (94.503), by over 10 seconds (10.98 seconds) before his first pitstops. At one point, Long was shuffled all the way back to P15 during a Yellow Flag caution period ... and on the first lap of a LAP 36 Restart, Patrick pulled the red #45 Dodge up nine places in just one lap!

Patrick Long showed off his road-course expertise, dominating the BI-MART Salute to the Troops 125 at Portland International Raceway Sunday. Image Credit: NASCARHomeTrack

“I wanted to have a really good balance in the car,” Long said of his No. 45 Speed Wong Racing Dodge. “We went very different, or unconventional, in our set-up. I think it was really the edge that we needed. With that, we had unbelievable tire wear. That Speed Wong car [owned by Daryl Wong who also fields cars to race in the ALMS from his shop in Orange County] was just hooked up.”

Post-race tech commences on David Mayhew's car with the tire Brian Wong's Speed Wong Racing #89 car (race winner Patrick Long's team mate) in the foreground at the BI-MART Salute to the Troops 125, Portland International Raceway. Image Credit: NASCARHomeTrack

It is not known which 2010 NASCAR K&N Pro Series race Patrick Long will race in next but the win earned Long, who led a race-high 51 laps, a secure starting position in the postseason NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown.

As for the ageless Hershel McGriff, he is expected to show up with his blue Park Corporation #04 Chevy Impala SS, qualify, and race in the Toyota/NAPA Auto Parts Bonus Challenge at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah, the weekend of September 11-12, 2010.

... notes from The EDJE

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