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Keeping Pace

First Montana Race Marks 238th Start For Jack Sellers

Jack Sellers heads through a turn during a practice session in action earlier this season. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR) (Jeff Gross)
Jack Sellers heads through a turn during a practice session in action earlier this season. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR) (Jeff Gross)

The Montana event will mark Jack Sellers’ 238th series race. The Sacramento, Calif., driver is closing in on the record for the most races in the modern era of the series (1971-present). Asked his thoughts on setting such a mark, Sellers responded with the same humor he has been known for throughout his career.

By Kevin W. Green, NASCAR

The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West will make its inaugural visit to the state of Montana this week for the Toyota/NAPA Auto Parts Bonus Challenge 150 at Montana Raceway Park in Kalispell on Saturday, Aug. 7.

The event, the eighth of a 12-race schedule this season, is slated to be televised to a national audience on SPEED at 3 p.m. PT on Aug. 12.

It’s an event that has generated a lot of excitement in the series. For some competitors, it will be their first visit to Montana. For long-time series veteran Jack Sellers (No. 15 Greyhound Adoption Center Chevrolet), however, it will be a return to a state he visited many times as a hunter.

“I hunted up there off and on almost every year for about 10 years,” said Sellers, who celebrated his 66th birthday last week.

It’s a picturesque area that Sellers anticipates everyone will enjoy seeing.

“It’s called ‘big sky country’ and it’s got big sky,” he said with a chuckle. ”You look at those mountains and the sky is so big. It’s aptly named.”

The Montana event will mark Sellers’ 238th series race. The Sacramento, Calif., driver is closing in on the record for the most races in the modern era of the series (1971-present). Asked his thoughts on setting such a mark, Sellers responded with the same humor he has been known for throughout his career.

“I’m not sure if it’s a compliment or just a sign of not giving up,” he said. “It’s not something I set out to do, that’s for sure. It just kind of happened that way. It fell into place.”

Sellers, whose family owns the Coca-Cola plant in Sacramento and who was seldom without his cowboy hat in his early days of racing, became known as the “Coca-Cola Cowboy.”

When he ran his first series race at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., in 1985, Sellers said he had no idea what was ahead in the years to come.

“It was just something that I was starting to do,” he said. “I enjoyed racing. I had run (late model) races at Roseville, Altamont, Anderson, Ukiah and Carson City. I had about five or six tracks under my belt before I got into this series.”

Sellers ran five races that first season in 1985, finishing as high as 11th on two occasions. He quickly became a regular competitor in the series, which was then known as the Winston West. By his third season, Sellers had landed a top-10 spot in the championship standings and he went on to finish in the top 10 in points six more times. He considers the 1993 season, when he finished fifth in the standings, among his favorite memories in the series.

Sellers also has fond memories of competing in the prestigious 500-lap races held at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash., each year between 1985 and 1993.

“I did have a lot of fun doing the 500-lappers at Monroe,” he said. “Those were the days when you brought every tire you had in your shop. You brought them and you ran them and ran them. I didn’t finish anywhere near on the lead lap, but I finished. That was an accomplishment in itself. Those 500-lappers were grueling.”

In addition to being a driver, Sellers has played a significant role as a car owner in the series, often fielding additional entries.

“When I started, the series was short on cars,” Sellers recalled. “If I had an extra car or two in the garage, I would bring it and put a driver in it.”

One of the drivers he gave a ride to was Ron Hornaday Jr., who made his first series start at Saugus (Calif.) Speedway in 1989.

“That was the first time he got a ride in a Cup-type car,” Sellers said of the driver who would go on to win four championships in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. “I remember he qualified ninth and I qualified 11th. He was going to the front and got up to about sixth when somebody stuffed him into the wall.”

Sellers has also been known for stepping in to help other drivers in need – including a young Bill McAnally, when he was attempting to establish himself in the series. After vandals destroyed McAnally’s only car on the eve of the season opener in 1994, Sellers provided him a ride in that first race.

For his role in the series, Sellers was honored with the Sportsmanship Award in 2005.

Known also for his love of animals, Sellers has used his racing team to promote awareness of the Greyhound Adoption Center, which finds homes for retired racing greyhounds. His team has also donated winnings to the San Diego area-based organization.

Race Notes

The race … This is the eighth race on the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West schedule for 2010. It marks the inaugural visit by the series to the state of Montana.

The procedure … The starting field is 24 cars, including provisionals. The first 20 cars will qualify through two-lap time trials. The remaining four spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 150 laps (37.5 miles).

The track … Montana Raceway Park is a .25-mile track with turns banked 12 degrees.

The records … Records are to be established in this event.

Six different winners … The first seven races this season have resulted in six different race winners. Two-time series champion Eric Holmes (No. 20 NAPA Toyota), who has a 74-point lead in the championship standings, is the only driver with multiple victories so far.

Tight points battle continues … A tight points battle continues this year, with drivers in the top 10 of the championship standings shuffling positions with every race. Only 141 points separate the nine drivers from third to 11th in the standings.

Plenty of festivities planned in Kalispell … Montana Raceway Park will be kicking off its big weekend with a Race Party on Thursday, Aug. 5. The party, which is open to everyone, begins at 5 p.m. and will include a free barbecue dinner. An autograph session is scheduled at 7 p.m. For more information, contact the track office at 406-257-7223.

Final Notes From Portland

Long logs another win … Patrick Long (No. 45 Speed Wong Racing Dodge) scored his second career win in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West with a victory in the Bi-Mart Salute to the Troops 125 at Portland International Raceway on July 18. The Porsche factory driver from Thousand Oaks, Calif. — who was making his first series start this season — won in his last road race in the series last August.

Another pole for Mayhew … David Mayhew (No. 17 MMI Services/Ron’s Rear Ends/KHI Chevrolet) set a track record in winning the Coors Light Pole in qualifying at Portland. His lap of 76.426 seconds (94.503 mph) eclipsed his pole lap on the 1.98-mile road course a year ago. It marked the third pole award this year for Mayhew, the only driver with multiple poles this season, and his sixth career series fast time.

Career marks … Luis Martinez Jr. (No. 6 King Taco/Sunrise Ford/Lucas Oil Ford) , the leading candidate for this year’s Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award, finished fifth at Portland to match his career-best mark from the season opener at Roseville. Stan Silva Jr. (No. 65 A&S Metals/Stan Silva Jr. Trucking Chevrolet) finished seventh, to equal his best career finish, which he turned in earlier this season at Phoenix.

Strong series debut … Tom Klauer (No. 25 Steel Racing by Schnitzer Steel Toyota) had a strong run in his series debut at Portland, charging from 22nd on the grid to finish 10th. His Toyota was one of five cars entered by Bill McAnally Racing.

Successful food drive … Tom Klauer’s competition on track was in conjunction with a food drive, “Racing to Stop Hunger,” that was spearheaded by Schnitzer Steel, Pick-n-Pull Self-Service Auto Dismantlers and event sponsor Bi-Mart. The drive collected 7,997 pounds of food donations, along with cash donations at the race event of an additional $20,821, for the Oregon Food Bank.

Career stats … Hershel McGriff (No. 04 Park Corp Chevrolet) made his 239th career series start since 1971, a record for the modern era, and Jack Sellers (No. 15 Greyhound Adoption Center Chevrolet) made his 237th start, which ties him with Bill Schmitt for second on the list.

Manufacturers well represented … Cars finishing in the top five at Portland consisted of a Dodge (Patrick Long), two Toyotas (Eric Holmes and Paulie Harraka), a Chevrolet (David Mayhew) and a Ford (Luis Martinez). 

Up Next: Colorado National Speedway

The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West next heads to Colorado for its annual visit to Colorado National Speedway, just north of Denver, on Saturday, Aug. 14. Paulie Harraka scored his first career win with a victory at the .375-mile high-banked oval last year.

This Week’s Leaders
Through 7 races of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West season:
Points leader – Eric Holmes, 1,107
Money won – Eric Holmes, $50,285
Laps led – David Mayhew, 152
Laps completed – Jonathon Gomez, 942
Average finish – Eric Holmes, 6.9
Victories – Eric Holmes, 2
Poles – David Mayhew, 3 
Top-five finishes – Eric Holmes, 5; David Mayhew, 5
Top-10 finishes – Eric Holmes, 6
Races led – David Mayhew, 3; Greg Pursley, 3

David Mayhew, 3
Jason Bowles, 1
Paulie Harraka, 1
Andrew Myers, 1
Greg Pursley, 1

Wes Banks, 1
Troy Ermish, 1
Johnathan Hale, 1
Paulie Harraka, 1
Timmy Hill, 1
Gary Lewis, 1
Stan Silva, 1

Blake Koch, 2
Paulie Harraka, 1
Eric Holmes, 1
Travis Milburn, 1
Paul Pedroncelli Jr., 1
Michael Self, 1

David Gilliland, 1
Jonathon Gomez, 1
Eric Holmes, 1
Patrick Long, 1
David Mayhew, 1
Brett Moffitt, 1
Auggie Vidovich, 1

Luis Martinez Jr., 56
Michael Self, 51
Josh Combs, 50
Todd Souza, 47
Travis Milburn, 38
Greg Rayl, 34
Taylor Barton, 32
Troy Ermish, 27
Justin Funkhouser, 13

Keeping Pace

Motorsports correspondent Doug Pace keeps up with motorsports news and notes from around the region.