Greg Pursley admitted after Saturday night’s Southern California Toyota Dealers 200 at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale Speedway (CA) that he's having a career year. He also doesn't want to leave anything in doubt as he chases his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series West title. Pursley added another first to his amazing season on Saturday night. After several close calls in his career he final put it all together and snagged his first checkered flag at the Irwindale, CA half-mile.
"It's a big load off to finally get one here," said Pursley. "We have been trying for so many years to win one here at this level. We have done it in everything else and come so close in these cars and now we finally got one."
The record books indicate that Pursley has two wins in the old Southwest Tour at Irwindale as well as a Toyota All-Star Showdown win with the Late Models, as well as numerous other wins including the 2004 Super Late Model track championship.
"This place is tough," said Pursley. "A lot of the guys have a bunch of laps around here. You can have all the laps in the world and not have thing go your way. We were leading the Showdown and had a flat tire. That hurt, but since then we have been solid all across the board.
The day started from the pole position for Pursley, his second in the last two races and third of the season. To no surprise, he jumped out to a solid lead early in the race. As the field closed in on halfway, a hard charging Michael Self blew by Pursley for the top spot and checked out.
"The 21 (Self) went by me and I told the crew, ‘Let him go. I am not going any faster,’" said Pursley. "That was a planned deal and i knew we needed to save our tires."
Right off the restart after the halfway period, Pursley powered back to the top spot. Self slipped back and never was able to challenge for the lead again. From there on out, it was almost a dream with the exception of one final restart where Pursley had his hands full for a few laps.
“When you're on a roll like this you need to ride it as long as you can," added Pursley. "That last restart I knew they would be good for two laps or so and we were good on the long runs. I just waited and pulled away."
That final restart allowed Derek Thorn to make his way into the second spot to post a solid finish and earning him top rookie honors.
“The track didn't take as much grip from daytime to night time as I thought it would," said Thorn. "We fell back in the first 100 laps and the guys made some adjustments that made it work. We still could have been tighter at the end. We are really happy to be where we are after where we were after the break. Pursley has who-knows how many laps around this place. Even when his car was off a bit in the 100 he was good."
It was almost a clean sweep for Gene Price Motorsports as youngster Dylan Kwasniewski came from the tail of the lead lap to finish third in the final 100 laps.
"The team pulled a lot of stuff out of their bag of goodies," said Kwasniewski. "It really worked and we could have gone more with what we had. We were still loose at the end, but I am sure everyone was. The first 100 laps the car was horrible. Not downing the crew, but we missed the setup a bit. We thought that it was going to tighten up a lot more and it never did."
Despite the third-place finish, Kwasniewski was not awarded the Rookie of the Race award. This is the second time this season he has posted a top-five run and not been given the honor, nevertheless he should be in line for Rookie of the Year. He's all about getting a win to cement the deal.
"I would like to win every race, but it's awesome to see my teammate win,” added Kwasniewski. "Gene Price Motorsports has been great all season and hopefully we can be in victory lane soon too."
Eric Holmes and Michael Self made up the rest of the top five. Johnny Borneman, Chris Holloway, David Mayhew, Andrew Myers and Jason Fensler were the top 10.
Points Race Looks a Runaway
Pursley's success has produced a dud of a point battle. Despite a 278-point lead, Pursley has no intentions of slowing down. He, in all honesty, could miss the next race and still have a sizable point lead. Call him superstitions, but Pursley wants no part of it. He will not rest until the champagne is on ice.
Hometown Kid Does Well
First time was no problem for Chris Holloway. After starting 14th, he worked his way to the front and ran in the top five for most of the middle part of the race. Holloway ended up with a respectable seventh-place finish, a great run for the Bakersfield, California driver.
Borneman With a Solid Sixth at Irwindale
It's no surprise to see Johnny Borneman run well as he has logged three wins in the West series, but it's been a while since he was as good as he was on Saturday night. Borneman ran near the back of the top five and finished a season-best sixth. This marked his highest finish on an oval since 2009. It also marked his ninth top 10 finish at Irwindale.
Off and Running at 15
Dylan Kwasniewski is having a great rookie run in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. The 15-year-old form Las Vegas has posted four top five runs in only eight starts. Kwasniewski had to miss the first race of the year as he was not approved to run the mile track at Phoenix. Despite missing one event he's ninth in the standings with a good chance at moving up. He may be young, but he's not cocky about any of it just yet.
"There are some wild cards," said Kwasniewski. "This next place that we go to (Evergreen Speedway in Washington this coming weekend) I have never heard of and I am still looking forward to it. I am sure I will get some pointers from Greg. I am looking forward to Phoenix as well. It's got some banking now and new asphalt so it should be real fun to race on."
Another Top 10 for Mayhew
With Greg Pursley having finished inside the top 10 every week, it makes him the leader on the year with seven top-10 runs. David Mayhew has still managed to record five top 10’s after he had an eighth-place finish at Irwindale. Mayhew made a late pit stop to help his ailing car. He did manage to rebound, but could have used at least one more caution to get back to the top five.
Win Mark High for Pursley
The five wins in the first seven races makes Greg Pursley the first driver since the 2004 season to win five in a season in the West Series. Back in 2004 Austin Cameron won five events, but did not with the overall Championship. Pursley could be the first driver in 10 years to take home six wins if he grabs another victory before season ends. The overall record for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West in 12 by Hershel McGriff set back in 1972.