For the first time since 2013, Michael Self returned to the pacific northwest over the weekend to Monroe, Washington’s Evergreen Speedway, a .686-mile flat oval known for its abuse of tires but scenic surroundings. Self continued his NASCAR K&N Pro Series West campaign with the Sunrise Ford Racing team, driving the No. 9 Sunrise Ford Fusion.

Self had three prior starts at the historic oval, with a best finish of second in 2012, and relied on his past experience going in to Saturday’s event. In two practice sessions Self placed seventh and fifth on the time charts, but wasn’t concerned about the one-lap speed.

“You have to focus on race runs at this place,” said Self. “It’s so hard on tires, it really doesn’t matter how fast you can go for one lap. You have to have control of the car at the end of the race. We focused on our race runs, and I actually felt really good about where we were at there, despite not being the fastest on the chart.”

After a disappointing qualifying result of eighth-place, Self remained focused on what he knew about the track, and planned for the 150-lap race.

At the drop of the green flag, Self established his presence by moving in to third place by lap 15. He retained the third position until the lap 50 mark when a duo of cautions put him restarting on the undesired inside row, both of which cost him positions, putting him back to sixth place when the caution flew at lap 75 for the halfway break. All cars received four fresh Goodyear tires and were allowed to make adjustment before resuming for the final 75 laps. Self attacked the second half of the race with a much different plan. He fell back to the ninth position on the restart, and lost sight of the leaders as he focused on conserving his tires. Self maintained a slow-but-steady pace, biding his time and waiting for a caution, but the spread-out field never had any incidents that would bring out a yellow. With 25 laps to go, Self decided he couldn’t wait any longer and began a charge to make up as many positions as possible, turning laps close to half a second faster than the leaders at times. At the finish line, Self had been able to work his way back up to the fourth position, capturing his fourth top-five of the K&N West season.

“That last half was a big gamble on my part,” said Self post-race. “I wanted to save a lot of tire, then have a lot more car than everyone else in case we got a late race caution but the caution just never came. We definitely had a car capable of running at least second there at the end of the race, we just needed the opportunity and track position to go do it. I’m happy with another top-five, but am really wanting to get a win, and make up more ground in the points. Overall it was a positive day for the No. 9 team, so we’ll see if we can capitalize on it at Roseburg in a few weeks.”