Pursley Content With Strong Return To Series
Greg Pursley (No. 26 Gene Price Motorsports/Star Nursery Chevrolet) returned to the NASCAR Camping World Series West full time this season with guarded optimism.
“My goal was to come to the races and try to finish in the top five and maybe win a race through the year,” said the 41-year-old former motorcycle racer, “and really go at it hard next year.”
Those goals were met – and more – when he opened the season with a victory at Kyle, Texas. Four races into the year, Pursley has three top-five and four top-10 finishes, and sits third in the points standings, just 75 out of first.
“It’s really gone great,” Pursley said. “I’m really trying to drive smarter this year and stay out of trouble and be there with a car at the end of the race to try to have something to be in the top five.”
Pursley knew first-hand what to expect in the series. He had raced the full 2002 season in the NASCAR Camping World Series West, finishing second in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings and ninth in the overall points.
But in the seven years since that initial foray, Pursley had turned his focus back to racing his Super Late Model stock car at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale (Calif.). The move bolstered his racing career, as he captured major attention with a couple of titles. He won the national championship in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series in 2004. Then, after working as a crew chief for car owner Gene Price for several years, Pursley jumped in a car at the end of the 2007 season and won the Super Late Model portion of the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown.
After that win, Pursley began planning a return to the NASCAR Camping World Series West.
“I kind of wanted to move up for myself, as a driver in the series,” he recalled. “I got away from all the Super Late Model stuff and bought my own Camping World Series car. I raced a couple of races there and Gene helped me out and pretty much from there it took off.”
With Price as the car owner, Pursley was able to come back to the series full time this year.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Pursley said. “I have a new crew chief, Danny Crafton, and a new team. It seems like everything has come together really well. We’ve all gelled together. Being away for a while and having a few more years under my belt, I’ve learned a little more and gained some more patience. And we’re running really well this season.”
Pursley says he has benefited from the experience he gained while away from the series.
“It’s helped tremendously,” he said. “It’s still a big step going from the lighter cars I’m used to driving into pretty much a (NASCAR Sprint) Cup (Series) car. And weight wise, it’s a totally different driving style. I’m slowly learning that. I’ll tell you what, my crew chief, Danny Crafton, has helped me a ton doing that. His son, Matt, who runs the (NASCAR Camping World) Truck Series, actually spotted for me at Phoenix and helped me out a ton there, too.”
Things have gone so well with his team, that Pursley opted recently to move from Newhall, Calif., to where his team is based in Parker, Ariz.
“Gene built a brand new shop right across the street from his house,” Pursley said. “I live three miles from the shop. A couple of the other guys that work there are right down the street from the shop. It’s working really well.”
Pursley admits the move and setting up a new shop has put them a little behind, but expects they will get caught up soon.
“We’re trying to race and make the shop work and get moved in and get organized and stuff,” Pursley said. “So, it’s a little hectic right now, but hopefully halfway through the year, we’ll be okay.”
The crewmembers they have assembled on the team make for a tight-knit group, according to Pursley.
“Pretty much all the guys have been in racing a long time,” he said. “I’ve known them a long time and they’ve all been on teams together. Everybody gets along great and it’s fun to go race.”
Pursley says it gives him confidence as a driver to be surrounded by a team with so much experience.
“You don’t have to worry about anybody doing their jobs, because they’ve done it for a long time and they know what they’re doing,” he said. “It makes it a heck of a lot easier on me as a driver knowing that everything’s done right. These guys all know what they’re doing, especially Danny. He’s been back in North Carolina. He’s worked for Robert Yates; he’s worked for Michael Waltrip. And I have a ton of faith in him. He knows what he’s doing. So, it makes it a lot easier on me, where I just worry about driving.”
With the one win already under his belt, Pursley is ready for another victory. “I’d really like to win another race before the year is out and Iowa would be a great one to win,” he said of the Long John Silver’s 200, the annual NASCAR Camping World Series East-West combination race on May 17 at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. “Going there with the East and the West, it would be great to win there.”
The combination race, which attracts NASCAR’s top developmental drivers from across the country, was one of four races Pursley entered while running a limited schedule last year.
“I’m really excited about going there, being as we did race there last year,” he said. “We kind of know what to expect now. We’ll be going there with the car that we ran at Phoenix and set the track record and won the pole. I really like that car. I’m really comfortable in it.”
Busch Set To Race At Iowa
Just about every time Kyle Busch has taken to the track this year, he’s been a threat to win. The recently turned 24-year-old has eight wins in 24 starts in the three NASCAR national series. He will look to add another series to his win list at Iowa, as he is entered to run the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.
“We're teaming up with Toyota of Des Moines, they've been good supporters of mine,” Busch said in the national teleconference Tuesday. “We're looking forward to bringing it up there and hopefully winning a race on Sunday so they can sell more cars on Monday.“
Busch will look to continue one trend and end another. Each of the past two years, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver to run at Iowa(Kevin Harvick in 2007 and Kasey Kahne in 2008), has won the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Challenge in Charlotte, N.C., the night before. But they have failed to win at Iowa. In fact, Busch’s current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teammate, Joey Logano, made a big splash as a then 16-year-old when he outran runner-up Harvick.
“Hopefully we'll have a good enough car where we can do the same thing,” Busch said of Logano’s win. “I'm looking forward to it.”
News & Notes
The race … The Long John Silver’s 200 is the annual NASCAR Camping World Series East-West combination race. It marks the third event on the 2009 schedule for the NASCAR Camping World Series East and the fifth event of the year for the NASCAR Camping World Series West. It is the only East-West combination event this season for the NASCAR Camping World Series.
The procedure … The starting field is 44 cars, including provisionals. The first 38 cars will qualify through two-lap time trials. The remaining six spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 200 laps (175 miles).
The track … Iowa Speedway is a .875-mile paved oval with compound banking of 12-14 degrees in the corners, 10 degrees in the front stretch and four degrees in the back stretch. The facility, which opened for operation in 2006, is located east of Des Moines in Newton. This marks the third consecutive year for the track to host the East-West combination race.
The records … Qualifying: Kevin Harvick, May 20, 2007, 133.775 mph. 23.547 seconds, Race: Brian Ickler, May 18, 2008, 85.216 mph, 2 hours 3 minutes 13 seconds.
The Showdown … The overall winner of the Long John Silver’s 200 will earn a protected spot in the postseason NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown. Jason Bowles, Matt DiBenedetto, Eric Holmes, Brian Ickler, Greg Pursley have already earned spots with their victories this season.
On point … Championship Points will be awarded based on a driver’s finish versus other drivers in their series. For example, the top-finishing East driver will receive 180 points regardless of overall finish, and same for the West.
Final Notes From Madera
First multiple winner … With his win in the NAPA Auto Parts/Toyota 150 presented by Exclusive Energy Drink at Madera (Calif.) Speedway on April 25, Eric Holmes (No. 20 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota) became the first multiple winner this season in the NASCAR Camping World Series West. It marked his eighth career series win, equaling the career marks of Mike Duncan and Brendan Gaughan. With the win, Holmes was able to pad his lead in the championship standings, where he now has a 66-point edge.
4-for-4 … Holmes is four-for-four this year, with podium finishes in each of the first four races of the season.
Another pole … Jason Bowles (No. 6 Sunrise Ford Ford) turned in a qualifying lap of 76.883 mph to capture the Coors Light Pole Award at Madera. It was his second pole of the season and the eighth of his career. After pitting to change a right-front tire, Bowles battled back from two laps down to finish seventh.
No repeat … The seven NASCAR Camping World Series West events at Madera Speedway have resulted in seven different race winners and seven different pole winners.
Career best … Johnathan Hale (No. 5 Jack Sellers Chevrolet) finished a career-best ninth place at Madera. It marked his second top-10 finish in three races.
Final Notes From Tri-County
Inaugural event … The Tri-County 150 on April 25 was the inaugural event for the NASCAR Camping World Series East at Tri-County Motor Speedway in Hudson, N.C.
Quick developing … Matt DiBenedetto led a race-high 75 laps en route to his first NASCAR Camping World Series East win in just his second series start. DiBenedetto, a developmental driver for Joe Gibbs Racing, battled with Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon through the final 85 laps, as they swapped the lead six times.
Career night for Tardiff … Alan Tardiff nabbed his first career Coors Light Pole Award in qualifying, then recorded a career-best third-place finish to capture the Sunoco Rookie of the Race Award.
Award to hard charger … Jason Patison, who is in his first season competing in the NASCAR Camping World Series East after a runner-up finish in the 2008 NASCAR Camping World Series West Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings, earned the Coca-Cola Move of the Race Award as he finished 11 spots ahead of his 22nd starting position. He has finished 11th in both starts this year.
Leading points … A fourth-place finish at Tri-County propelled second-year series driver Jody Lavender into the points lead for the first time in his career. He was the runner-up to Brian Ickler in the season opener at Greenville (S.C.) Pickens Speedway on April 11.
The Race: Long John Silver’s 200
The Place: Iowa Speedway, Newton Iowa
The Date: Sunday, May 17
The Time: 4:15 p.m. CT
TV Schedule: SPEED May 28, 3 p.m. ET
Track Layout: .875-mile paved
Race Purse: $182,587
2008 Winner: Brian Ickler (Overall/East)
Jim Inglebright (West)
2008 Pole: Austin Dillon (Overall/East)
Jeff Barkshire (West)
Schedule: Saturday: Practice 4:30-6 p.m. Sunday: Time Trials 12:30 p.m.
Track Contact: Mike Beecher
(641) 791-8000 email@example.com
CAMPING WORLD EAST DRIVER STANDINGS
Rk Driver Pts
1 Jody Lavender 335
2 Matt DiBenedetto 324
3 Alan Tardiff 308
4 Patrick Long 305
5 Eddie MacDonald 297
CAMPING WORLD WEST DRIVER STANDINGS
1 Eric Holmes 720
2 Jason Bowles 654
3 Greg Pursley 645
4 Mike David 632
5 David Mayhew 616