Rookie Paulie Harraka held off a fierce charge by Jim Warn in the closing laps of the Toyota/NAPA 150 at Colorado National Speedway on Saturday to capture his first career win in the NASCAR Camping World Series West.
It marked the first win in the NASCAR Camping World Series by a Drive for Diversity participant. Harraka – who also delivered the first track title for the D4D program last year when he captured the Late Model championship at All American Speedway in Roseville, Calif. – is a 19-year-old from Fairlawn, N.J., who will be entering his sophomore year at Duke University this fall.
With the victory, which came in just his 14th series start, Harraka delivered his registered car owner Mike Curb a win in the series and also earned a secured spot in January's postseason NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown in Irwindale, Calif.
“To move up through the ranks with Bill McAnally and the Drive for Diversity program and to bring NAPA a win in front of a hometown crowd is awesome,” Harraka said of his victory in Colorado in front of a large contingent of representatives from the Western Division Headquarters for NAPA, which sponsors his team and sponsored the race. “The car was good. We weren’t the best car at any one point, but we were the best car for the 150 laps.”
It was an all-NAPA front row for Bill McAnally Racing – with Harraka in the No. 12 NAPA AutoCare/Adaptive One Brakes Toyota on the outside, starting beside his teammate Eric Holmes in the No. 20 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota. Holmes, who won the Coors Light Pole Award in qualifying, dominated the first half of the race.
“We saved our stuff for the first half of the race,” said Harraka, who trailed Holmes in second. “We were in a conserve mode. We just gradually worked into a race mode. When it came to the last 30 (laps), it was 100 percent race mode.”
It was not Harraka, but rookie rival Blake Koch who was the first to wrestle the lead from Holmes. Koch used the high groove to charge by Harraka for second and then sail past Holmes on the outside on lap 82. But that was just the beginning of some major shuffling for positions among the leaders, as drivers began taking advantage of the multiple grooves around the .375-mile oval. Jason Bowles took first from Koch on lap 99, only to have Harraka get by him 10 laps later. Harraka then held off repeated challenges by Warn to take the victory by a margin of .219 seconds and net $7,825 in prize money and posted awards.
With his runner-up finish, Warn of Aurora, Ore., nailed down a career-best finish in his No. 10 MJ2 Racing/GPI Performance.com Chevrolet. Harraka’s third teammate at BMR – Moses Smith of Tempe, Ariz., - finished third in the No. 16 HASA Pool Products/White Flyer Toyota. Greg Pursley of Newhall, Calif., was fourth in the No. 26 Gene Price Motorsports/Star Nursery Chevrolet. Recovering from an early incident to finish fifth was Jeff Jefferson of Naches, Wash., in the No. 42 ESI Construction Chevrolet. Rounding out the top 10 were Travis Milburn, Jamie Dick, Johnathan Hale, Holmes and Phil Dugan.
The pace of the race was slowed by just three cautions for 17 laps. It featured three lead changes among four drivers.
Bowles and Holmes, who were one-two in the championship standings coming into the event, both encountered problems. Holmes finished two laps down in ninth place after making a pit stop for a fresh battery after his alternator went bad. And Bowles finished four laps down in 13th after making a pit stop for a flat right front tire. Holmes was able to narrow the lead by Bowles to 37 points, with two races remaining to decide the title.
Pursley remains third in the standings with 1,667, while Harraka moved to fourth with 1,634. David Mayhew, who finished 16th at Colorado after being involved in an incident, is fifth with 1,609. The balance of the top 10 are Smith at 1,526, Brett Thompson at 1,517, Koch at 1,502, Warn at 1,332 and Dick at 1,199
In the tight duel for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award, meanwhile, Harraka has edged ahead of Koch – 103 to 102.
The next event on the schedule for the NASCAR Camping World Series West will be the Central Iowa Building & Construction Trades 125 at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa on Sept. 4.