It's North by Southwest at Irwindale

Last season, Greg Pursley competed regularly at Irwindale Speedway and did a pretty good job of it.  He won the track championship and collected enough points to also capture the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Racing Series national title.
So when he rocketed from third on the grid to the lead in the first two corners of the first lap in the first Elite Division qualifying race, people were impressed, but not surprised.

Pursley continued to lead all but one of the remaining laps.  Unfortunately for him, the one that he didn’t lead was the one the mattered the most.  Nick Lynch beat him to the finish line on the 50th lap by .003 of a second in a finish that took several minutes to sort out.

“I didn’t know who won,” said Lynch.  “I closed my eyes when I crossed the finish line so I didn’t even see it.”
Lynch led a sweep of the top three positions by Southwest Series competitors.  Pursley was second and M.K. Kanke was right in their tires tracks finishing third.  Also in the four-car breakaway pack at the finish was Southeast Series driver J.R. Norris.


The second of the two Elite Division races was also dominated by the NASCAR Southwest Series.  The top four finishers were Rip Mihaels, Thomas Martin, Burney Lamar and Augie Vidovich.
This capped off a pretty long couple of days for the series regulars.  They raced at Phoenix International Raceway on Thursday, headed up the road and were at Irwindale as the work day began.  Losing a day of practice didn’t hurt much as proven by their dominance.

And getting here might have been half the fun.

“The biggest race this weekend wasn’t here or at Phoenix, but between the hauler drivers to see who got here first,” said Michels.  “It was one hell of a hauler race.  There were guys doing 90 or 95 miles per hour locked on

caution.  He [McCarthy] didn’t like it too much, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”


The Busch North Series dominated the second Grand National division qualifier as well.  They were primed to sweep the top five before a late race charge by West Series driver David Gilliland to finish

The best and brightest of the Busch North guys in this race was rookie Sean Caisse, who took the lead on lap three and survived a wild late race restart to take the final checkered flag of the night.
Greg Pursley came so close to putting the #70 in victory lane.  (51 Photos)
cruise control.  They were drafting, they were hauling ass, they got here before I even got home.”

But listening to Michels, there should be another good race on Saturday when the Elite division hits the track.  He predicts that on the first lap, guys will be running three or four wide entering the corners.

“We hear every week that you can’t win the race on the first lap,” said Michels.  “Well, yes you can.  At least that’s what I’m going to try and do.”

Michaels also predicts that experience will win out over youthful enthusiasm in the main event on Saturday.

“No young gun is going to win tomorrow night,” laughed Michels.  “It’s not going to be some 20-year-old winning, it’s not going to be a 25-year-old even.”


After the dust had settled for the Elite division teams, the Grand National teams took to the track.  Like the Southwest Series before them, they dominated this 50 lapper.  They also kicked up some dust of their own as well.
While battling for third with two laps to go, Dale Shaw and Mike Stefanik got together and went for a synchronized spin in turn two.  West Series driver Mike Duncan  got caught up as well.  This set up a green, white, checkered finish.

Joey McCarthy had led most of the way and at one point had a lead of more than a zip code over his competition.  The final caution didn’t help his cause though.  Mike Olsen started right outside of him and that led to a two-lap drag race to the finish.  Olsen got a leg on his competition at the line and took the victory.

“I wasn’t sure what was going to happen there,” said
Olsen.  “I had pretty much settled for second before that
The victory was not only Caisse’s first victory in one year
of Busch North racing, but also the first for car owner Barney
McRae in over a dozen seasons of competition on the tour.

“Barney’s really happy,” said Caisse.

Both driver and owner could even be happier tomorrow night around the same time.

Starting Lineups

NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown
NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division
Irwindale Speedway    November 12, 2005

  1. (2)Nick Lynch, Burley Idaho, Chevrolet
  2. (12)Rip Michels, San Fernando Calif., Chevrolet
  3. (70)Greg Pursley, Canyon Country Calif., Chevrolet
  4. (28)Thomas Martin, Auburn Calif., Chevrolet
  5. (33)M K Kanke, Frazier Park Calif., Chevrolet
  6. (1)Burney Lamar, Kernersville N.C., Chevrolet
  7. (5)J.R. Norris, Mulga Ala., Ford
  8. (11)Auggie Vidovich, Lakeside Calif., Chevrolet
  9. (45)Nick Joanides, Woodland Hills Calif., Chevrolet
10. (0)Eddie Hoffman, Wheaton Ill., Chevrolet
11. (18)John Bender, Snohomish Wash., Chevrolet
12. (41)Chris Davidson, Pearland Tex., Chevrolet
13. (87)Kevin Prince, Wilmington N.C., Chevrolet
14. (42)Jeff Jefferson, Yakima Wash., Chevrolet
15. (8)Wilbur Bruce, Tacoma Wash., Chevrolet
16. (29)Justin Diercks, Davenport Iowa, Chevrolet
17. (66)Steve Carlson, West Salem Wisc., Chevrolet
18. (88)Brent Kirchner, LA Crosse Wisc., Chevrolet
19. (19)Eddy McKean, Jerome Idaho, Pontiac
20. (39)Pete Harding, Surrey B.C., Chevrolet
21. (15)John Dillon, Boise Idaho, Chevrolet
22. (9)Greg Voigt, Santa Barbara Calif., Chevrolet
23. (69)Brandon Riehl, Boring Ore., Chevrolet
24. (40)Dusty Williams, Garden City GA., Chevrolet
25. (25)Dexter Bean, Westby Wisc., Chevrolet
26. (21)Tim Schendel, Sparta Wisc., Chevrolet
27. (54)Jeff Fultz, Cincinnati Ohio, Chevrolet
28. (64)Garrett Evans, East Wenatchee Wash., Chevrolet
29. (20)Andrew Morrissey, Deforest Wisc., Chevrolet
30. (63)Greg Pope, Monroe N.C., Chevrolet
31. (01)Josh Bauer, Random Lake Wisc., Chevrolet
32. (71)Greg Fowler, Erie Colo., Chevrolet
33. (23)Terry McMahan, Asheville N.C., Chevrolet
34. (73)Gary Lewis, Bothell Wash., Chevrolet
35. (3)Robert Richardson, II, Chevrolet
36. (27)Jeff Bailey, Kennewick Wash., Chevrolet
37. (03)Jim Pettit, II, Prunedale Calif., Ford
38. (98)Justin Wakefield, Woodstock GA., Ford
39. (46)Jeff Barkshire, Auburn Wash., Dodge
40. (06)Eddie Stivers, III, Chevrolet

NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown
NASCAR Grand National Division
Irwindale Speedway    November 12, 2005

  1. (61)Mike Olsen, North Haverhill N.H., Chevrolet
  2. (5)Sean Caisse, Pelham N.H., Chevrolet
  3. (8)Joey McCarthy, Randolph N.J., Chevrolet
  4. (96)Mike Johnson, Salisbury Mass., Ford
  5. (16)Steve Portenga, Sparks Nev., Chevrolet
  6. (74)Ryan Moore, Scarborough Maine, Chevrolet
  7. (17)Dale Shaw, Center Conway N.H., Chevrolet
  8. (88)David Gilliland, Chino Hills Calif., Chevrolet
  9. (9)Mike Duncan, Lamont Calif., Chevrolet
10. (40)Matt Kobyluck, Uncasville Conn., Chevrolet
11. (2)Mike David, Modesto Calif., Ford
12. (44)Andy Santerre, Cherryfield Maine, Chevrolet
13. (77)Eddie MacDonald, Rowley Mass., Chevrolet
14. (54)Tim Woods, III, Chino Hills Calif., Ford
15. (71)Daryl Harr, St. Albert Alberta, Chevrolet
16. (81)Brett Thompson, Jerome Idaho, Chevrolet
17. (99)Bryon Chew, Mattituck N.Y., Chevrolet
18. (63)John Salemi, Nashua N.H., Pontiac
19. (7)Tim Smith, Roseville Calif., Ford
20. (23)Andrew Lewis, Corona Calif., Chevrolet
21. (55)Mike Stefanik, Coventry R.I., Chevrolet
22. (0)Joe Masessa, Franklin Lakes N.J., Chevrolet
23. (18)Johnny Borneman, Ramona Calif., Ford
24. (09)Takuma Koga, Nagoya Japan, Chevrolet
25. (30)Jeff Anton, Russell Mass., Chevrolet
26. (51)Rich Ruzbarsky, Tracy Calif., Chevrolet
27. (15)Jack Sellers, Sacramento Calif., Pontiac
28. (20)Sarah Fisher, Indianapolis Ind., Ford
29. (14)Andrew Myers, Newport Beach Calif., Chevrolet
30. (6)Kip Stockwell, Braintree Vt., Chevrolet
31. (00)Scott Gaylord, Lakewood Colo., Chevrolet

Sean Caisse's #5
With 13 laps to go, Mike Johnson and Matt Kobyluck kept Caisse honest and ran three-wide for the lead for one lap.  But it didn’t take long for Caisse to motor ahead of the duo and go to the front again.

Strangely enough, Caisse was longing for another late race caution, one that never came.

“I was actually hoping for a restart so that I could size myself up for tomorrow,” said Caisse.  “That was a lot like the 50-lap dash at the end of [tonight’s] race.”

The #12 team of Rip Michels unloads their car after racing to Irwindale.
Mike Olsen (L) talks with his fellow New Englander, Matt Kobyluck (R).