Photo credit: Austin Ginn/NASCAR via Getty Images

Michael Self’s 2017 racing season was closed out on Saturday night at Kern County Raceway, in Bakersfield, California, and though Self wasn’t able to finish the year with four straight wins, he was able to bring home another top-five finish, crossing the line in the fourth position.

Self started the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West season finale race day off with two 45-minute practice sessions in the No. 9 Sunrise Ford Ford Fusion, in which he timed in sixth, and seventh overall, respectively. Posting times outside the top-five wasn’t ideal for Self and the Sunrise Ford team, and they weren’t shy about putting in the work to fix the situation.

“We had a bad set of tires in that first session,” said Self. “It was super frustrating. We just couldn’t get the car to respond to any changes and the car was super, super tight. Then at the end of the session we were looking everything over and saw that the right front tire had started to blister and come apart. We put a new set on early in the second session and the car was way too loose, so we just spent that whole session taking out all the changes we made in the first one. That practice time is valuable, and unfortunately we weren’t really able to capitalize on it.”

In qualifying, things remained consistent for the No. 9 team as Self laid down a lap only good enough for eighth-fastest. Self would start on the outside of row number four for the 150-lap event.

When the green flag flew, Self relied on previous knowledge and settled in to a slow, conservative pace in attempt to not wear out his tires and car too early. Teams were only allowed one set of tires over the course of the race, and the high-banked half-mile is known to be particularly abusive on the Goodyear tires. Self fell back to 10th position early on and maintained the position until the lap 60 mark when a caution flew just 15 laps before the halfway break. On the ensuing restart, Self upped his pace and was able to maneuver up to the fifth position when the caution flew again at lap 75. Teams were allowed to come to pit road to add fuel and make adjustments, but were not allowed new tires. When the race went back to green, the pace of the field was maximized as everyone stepped out of conserve mode and began racing for positions. Self raced hard to continue climbing in to the top five throughout the remainder of the race, and without any more cautions Self went on to cross the line in the fourth position. The finish was Self’s seventh top-five, and 13th top-ten in 13 races NASCAR K&N Pro Series West races in 2017. After missing the season opener, Self still managed to finish fourth in championship points.

“After everything we went through in practice, I’m happy with a fourth-place finish, but obviously I really wanted to end the K&N season with three wins in a row,” said Self post race. “Tonight was an indication of how this year went, in terms of me and this team fighting and never giving up, learning from each other, and racing hard. It was an honor to work with these guys, and I can’t thank Bob Bruncati and everyone on the team enough for their support and for the opportunity. It was a blast to come back and compete in the K&N series after a few years away, and we accomplished a lot. I’m proud of our two wins, and very proud that we were able to finish fourth in points even after missing a race.”