Greg Pursley, in a dominating season, clinched the 2011 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship when the Toyota/NAPA Auto Parts 150 presented by Pick-N-Pull got underway on Saturday night at All American Speedway. And about 57 minutes later, Eric Holmes collected the race win.
Pursley of Newhall, Calif., simply needed to take the green flag to nail down his first series title with one race left on the schedule, but that proved to be a little dramatic. At the drop of the green, Pursley, who started the race in the seventh position, was in a tangle of cars coming off Turn 4. The incident left Pursley and Michael Self turned around and damage to other cars, including Jessica Brunelli.
“The green flag flew and we got dumped,” Pursley said. “We didn’t even get into fourth gear. So, we started dead-last and kind of was on a mission after that. We probably had to burn the car down going from last to the top five. We tried to run a little bit and save a little bit. These guys were running hard tonight. We had a good race tonight. We got up to second and battled Eric for the win. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
That little scuffle aside, the 2011 season could not have gone better for Pursley. He picked up six wins in the season’s first eight events to open up a huge 298-point lead in the standings. Despite not having won since July 10 at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash., Pursley has continued to run well. Factoring in his runner-up finish in this race, Pursley has top-five finishes in each of his last four starts.
“The Gene Price Motorsports team did a great job and gave me a great car,” Pursley said. “That’s pretty much how it’s been all year. It’s been a dream season to me, winning six races and five poles and finally winning a championship here. I can’t thank them enough.”
For Holmes of Escalon, Calif., the Toyota/NAPA Auto Parts 150 presented by Pick-N-Pull victory was his second straight series win and fourth in eight starts at All American Speedway, his adopted home track.
His victory did not come easy, however. In qualifying earlier in the day, Holmes had the fastest time for much of the session until the final car went on the clock and 18-year-old Jacob Gomes nabbed the pole position.
Gomes gained the early lead and Holmes hounded the teen through the early stages of the event, until finally getting by on Lap 31. Another teenager, 2011 Sunoco Rookie of the Year Dylan Kwasniewski, had ideas of his own, however, and took command on Lap 68. A fierce battle continued among the leaders throughout the race.
Derek Thorn got past Kwasniewski on Lap 120, but a few laps later the two made contact coming through Turn 4. The incident left Thorn at the back of the pack and resulted in an aggressive driving penalty from NASCAR officials that put Kwasniewski at the back, also.
Fifteen-year-old Cameron Hayley inherited the lead, but had to contend with a pack of hungry challengers on the restart. Holmes took the lead on Lap 140 and then was able to hold off Pursley over the final 12 laps of competition.
“I always look forward to coming to All American Speedway,” said Holmes. “We’ve got a lot of support from NAPA and a lot of local fans. It’s one of my favorite races of the year. We usually win it or something happens.
“Tonight, we had a great car,” he said. “We had to give up the lead there for a little while. We lost the brakes – had a little brake issue. But we got it dialed in and saved the car for the end. The NAPA Toyota is in Victory lane two races in a row. I’ve got to thank everybody on the team. Ty Joiner coming back on board … I missed him. The two races we’ve been together, we’ve won two in a row. It’s great to have him back.”
Hayley closed out the race in the third position followed by Luis Martinez Jr. and Chad Boat in fourth and fifth, respectively. Rounding out the top 10 were Gomes, Ryan Philpott, Daryl Harr, Kwasniewski and Matt Scott – the local track champion who was making his series debut.
With his win, Holmes moved to second in the championship standings behind Pursley – 2,220 to 1,902. Moses Smith is third with 1,868, followed by Martinez with 1,854 and Kwasniewski with 1,792. Sixth through 10th are Brett Thompson at 1,763, Michael Self at 1,740, Daryl Harr at 1,591, Philpott at 1,545 and Carl Harr at 1,429.
The Toyota/NAPA Auto Parts 150 presented by Pick-N-Pull will air on SPEED on Thursday, Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. ET.
The next event on the 2011 schedule for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West will be the season finale Casino Arizona 125 at Phoenix International Raceway on Saturday, Nov. 12.