After an afternoon of banging, pushing, shoving and hard driving, Jim Inglebright shouted, "That was awesome!"
The Fairfield driver was in the hunt for his first victory at his home track in Sonoma since 2002, but he didn't have the gas for a late-race challenge and finished fourth in Saturday's NASCAR K&N Filters Pro Series West race.
Veteran David Gilliland won his sponsor's race in the Pick-n-Pull/Racing To Stop Hunger 200. Youngster Derek Thorn, making his first start at Race Sonoma, finished second.
"There was a lot of pushing and shoving," said Gilliland, who inducted his brother Butch into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame earlier this month. "I had a great car. This is an exciting track. It means a lot to win here."
Polesitter Greg Pursley, who fell off the pace midway through a contest filled with spins, spills and thrills, climbed back through the pack and passed Inglebright on the front straightaway with three laps left. He hung on for a third-place finish.
"He wouldn't have caught me, but we were running out of fuel," Inglebright said. "I could feel it, especially on the high-speed areas. We gambled. We pitted early and tried to conserve fuel."
Inglebright started he bright yellow Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet from the back of the 30-car pack after his car suffered damage during Friday's qualifying. He wasted no time, though, and passed 10 cars on the first lap.
He was aggressive through the curves, especially Turns 2 and 7 — both right-hand turns — where he could shoulder the competition out of the way.
"We were aggressive, but we had to be," he said. "But we didn't mess the car up too much."
Other drivers who tried to be aggressive found themselves spinning through the grass on the 10-turn, 1.99-mile road course. Novato's Dave Smith stalled early in the race, but was able to get back on the track — for a little while at least. He finished only 22 of the 64 laps before his transmission gave out. Idaho's John Wood, surrounded by black smoke, had to leap from his car when it caught on fire on Lap 48.
Sonoma was kind to Inglebright, however.
The adrenaline rush had Inglebright acting like a kid again. He looked like he'd be ready to race against the NASCAR Sprint Cup stars in Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350, but his next — and last — scheduled race of the season isn't until July in Portland, Ore.
"I feel so comfortable here, being behind the wheel at my home track," he said. "I really feel good."
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