When the season began, many people in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West had never heard of Dylan Kwasniewski. The Las Vegas driver, who celebrated his 16th birthday last week, is quickly making a name for himself, however.
He finished fourth in his series debut at All American Speedway in Roseville, Calif., in April and registered another strong finish in last month’s NASCAR K&N Pro Series East-West combination race at Iowa Speedway. He has moved to 12th in the championship standings and has taken the lead in the chase for this year’s Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award, despite not competing in the season opener.
Now the series heads to Kwasniewski’s home turf – The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway – for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 200 on Saturday, June 11. The .375-mile oval is where he raced in the Bandolero, Legend car and Charger divisions before moving up to the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Super Late Models, where he competes this year when not traveling with the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.
“I’m really looking forward to racing the K&N Rockstar/Royal Purple car at my home track,” Kwasniewski said. “I have a lot of laps there and think that definitely gives me an advantage. I’ve won races in just about everything at The Bullring. I think I can win in the K&N car next.
In making his move to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West this year, Kwasniewski teamed with veteran West Coast driver Greg Pursley at Gene Price Motorsports. The expanded two-car effort by the Arizona-based team has met with success for both drivers. While Kwasniewski has established himself in the series, Pursley has become a dominant force – scoring three wins in the first four races and building a sizable lead in the championship standings.
“We were talking to Gene about running five K&N West races after I turned 16, when NASCAR announced the age rule change; so we switched gears and Gene pulled together an amazing team for me,” Kwasniewski said. “The competition in this series is tough and I knew I needed to be with the best team if I was going to be successful on the track. I can’t think of a better place for me to be for the next couple of years while I climb the NASCAR ladder.”
A total of 21 drivers have earned Sunoco Rookie of the Year points through the first four NASCAR K&N Pro Series West races.
Mayhew on the move ... David Mayhew will be on the go this weekend. He is slated to drive the No. 2 MMI Chevrolet for Kevin Harvick Incorporated in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas on Friday night. The next morning he will fly to Las Vegas to compete in Saturday’s NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race at The Bullring.
Fensler aims to extend winning streak ... Both of Jason Fensler’s last two regular season races in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West resulted in a victory. The part-time competitor is hoping to continue that steak with a win in Las Vegas. Fensler won his last time out earlier this year at All American Speedway in Roseville, Calif. He also scored a win in his most recent series start prior to that, in 2008.
Thorn to return to competition ... Derek Thorn is set to return to series competition at Las Vegas. Thorn won the Coors Light Pole Award in his series debut at the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown in January. He finished third in the season opener at Phoenix in his last series appearance.
Borneman back in action ... Veteran driver Johnny Borneman, who has 95 series starts since 2000, is entered at Las Vegas. He has competed in the series on a limited basis the past two years.
Drivers to visit O’Reilly Auto Parts stores ... Several NASCAR K&N Pro Series West drivers are slated to visit three O’Reilly Auto Parts stores in Las Vegas between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Friday to greet fans and sign autographs. The locations being visited are at 1418 West Craig Road, 5780 Spring Mountain Road and 3954 East Sunset Boulevard.
Race: This event is the fifth of 14 events on the 2011 schedule for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.
Procedure: The starting field is 28 cars, including provisionals. The first 24 cars will qualify through two-lap time trials. The remaining four spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 200 laps (75 miles).
Track: The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a .375-mile paved oval with turns banked 12 degrees, six degrees banking in the front straight and eight degrees banking in the back stretch. The series visited The Bullring three consecutive years, 2001-2003.
Records: Qualifying: Mark Reed, March 1, 2001, 87.999 mph, 15.341 seconds; Race: To be established at this distance.
Pursley Continues To Roll This Season
Greg Pursley shows no signs of slowing down this season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.
He finished fourth overall in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East-West combination race at Iowa Speedway on May 21 and was credited with a win as the top finishing West entry in the event. It marked his third win in four races this year and gives him five wins in seven races – dating back to last season.
The former Southern California resident – who now resides in Parker, Ariz., where his Gene Price Motorsports team is based – has opened up a 114-point lead in the championship standings. That is the biggest lead any series driver has been able to establish four races into the season during the past 20 years.
Brunelli Set To Make Series Debut
Jessica Brunelli is set to make her NASCAR K&N Pro Series West debut at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The 18-year-old high school senior is from Hayward, Calif.; but relocated to Mooresville, N.C., to participate in NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program.
Brunelli will be teaming with Naake Motorsports and the Stephanie Bellotti Foundation. The foundation was formed by Stephanie’s parents after they tragically lost their daughter in an automobile accident. Their organization now provides funding for Teen Driving Clinics.
Brunelli has been competing since she was 7 years old – racing go-karts, quads, Modifieds and Late Models. She is in her second year driving for Revolution Racing and competes in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. In 2010, she registered six top-five and 10 top-10 finishes in 19 races in that series.
Final Notes From Iowa
Mayhew extends string of top 10 finishes … David Mayhew extended his string of top 10 finishes by finishing fifth overall, second among West drivers, in the combination race at Iowa Speedway on May 21. He has finished in the top 10 in six consecutive races, dating back to last season.
Second pole for Newberry ... Brennan Newberry has won the Coors Light Pole Award in both starts he has made this year in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. The 21-year-old Bakersfield, Calif., driver set the fast mark in the season opener at Phoenix in February and was the quickest of the West entries in qualifying for the combination race at Iowa.
Teens battle for top 10 ... Two 15-year-olds raced each other in the closing stages of the combination race in Iowa, battling for a top-10 finish. Dylan Kwasniewski came away 10th overall, fourth among the West entries; while Chase Elliott finished 11th overall, seventh among East entries.
Up Next: Infineon Raceway
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West will head to Northern California on June 25 for its annual visit to Infineon Raceway in Sonoma.
It is the second of three road course events on the series in 2011.
Last year’s race at Infineon featured eight lead changes among seven drivers and was won by two-time NASCAR Canadian Tire Series champion Andrew Ranger.