SONOMA — It was vintage Jim Inglebright.
Inglebright always seems to have some kind of problem when racing at Sonoma Raceway, then finds a way to fight back through the field.
That’s what happened Saturday, when after making an unscheduled pit stop, he raced his way back to eighth place in the K&N Pro Series West Carneros 200.
Kyle Larson didn’t have hardly any problem at all, starting first and finishing first to claim the checkered flag. Greg Pursley was second and Dylan Lupton was third.
But the story was Inglebright again.
The race had a scheduled yellow flag midway through, and the driver of the bright yellow No. 1 car was solidly in eighth place. Then his car started acting funny, so he brought it it.
Crew chief Rodney Heygood made a track bar adjustment, but it wasn’t the right way, bringing Inglebright back to the pits on the very next lap.
Things got better and after restarting 16th, Inglebright raced through the field in the final laps to grab his eighth-place finish.
“It was the handling,” Inglebright said. “That, with tire pressures, and shocks. We just went the wrong way (on trying to change the handling). I was like we’re not going to lose that many places. We were just out there floundering around. We needed to pit. Then the thing was great. I was fast.
“I wasn’t going to finish eighth staying out there. Guaranteed, I was not going to finish eighth. My hat’s off to my crew. They did a great job. Valerie (his wife and spotter) did a great job keeping me clear (of other cars).”
He was fast enough to go from 16th to 12th, then 10th and then eighth over the final eight laps.
“That’s what’s fun. I love racing,” Inglebright said of his fast finish. “It’s just a good time. I knew we were going to get tore up right there at the end. You always do, every race here. I think I got out of it everything that I could get out of it.”
Inglebright almost made it through the whole race without contact, until the final restart with two laps to go.
Contact in Turn 2 forced the field to hit the brakes hard, and Inglebright made a decision to go left and weaved his way around several cars. But the final one in front of him made contact with another car and Inglebright bumped bumpers.
“Up in Turn 2, everybody was sideways and you couldn’t see anything,” he said. “I just picked a bumper and followed the guy. He hit somebody in front of him. It’s just one of those deals. I’m happy.”
Then another thing crossed Inglebright’s mind: He can’t wait to get back here next year.
“Were going to work on things for next year, maybe get a new car,” he said. “We did our homework and the car’s great. The only thing about this car is that it’s 8 years old and it’s a lot heavier than the cars in front of me. We might put a new body on it, give it a diet or see if we can pick up another one.”
For the rookie Larson, who also qualified third for Sunday’s Sprint Cup race, it was more of a learning experience than anything.
“The race is so long,” the Elk Grove native admitted. “I spent three-quarters of the race just riding, trying to save my tires in case we had lots of restarts, like we did there at the end. I think I had more tires than Pursley. I could see that when he got in front of me that time, he was loose and I was able to get back by.
Now it’s time for Larson to see if he can hang with the big boys Sunday.
“I learned some rhythm stuff, how to carry speed (through the corners) and how to maintain your tires throughout a run,” Larson said. “This was way longer than we’ll run on a set of tires (Sunday), but I still got to gain experience on saving your equipment.
“It’s pretty hard to take a good vibe into the Cup Series because it’s so tough.”
Reach Brian Arnold at 427-6969 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/barnolddr.