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Pursley starts anew in 2009

Posted: March 14, 2009 1:46 a.m.
Updated: March 14, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 

Editor’s note: Tim Haddock has an extensive motor sports background and is a former staff writer at The Signal.

The last time Greg Pursley raced a full slate in any division of NASCAR was in 2005. It was a year after the Canyon High graduate was a regular in the NASCAR Super Late Model division at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale. Back then, the track was known simply as Irwindale Speedway and Pursley was second to none in the nation.

Pursley won the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series national championship, the best short-track racer in the country. It should have been the launching point for a rising NASCAR star.

Instead, it was the beginning of a rocky road for Pursley.

He spent a year racing in the old NASCAR Southwest Series, but sponsorship dollars quickly vanished and Pursley went from touring the region to working as a crew chief for one of the drivers at Irwindale.

He ran a few races in the Camping World Series West, made visits to his old stomping grounds in Irwindale, and raced in the Super Late Model division. But Pursley hasn’t raced a full season since 2005.

He intends to change that this year.

Pursley has teamed up with Gene Price and plans to run the entire NASCAR Camping World Series West season, which opens Saturday night at Thunderhill Raceway in Kyle, Texas.

“It’s going to be my first time. I can’t wait to go there,” Pursley said. “I’ve heard it’s a great track.”

Pursley and Price have four stock cars, including two Cup cars from Richard Childress Racing, one of the old Hendrick Motorsports NASCAR Busch Series cars, and a road course car from Kevin Harvick Inc. To prepare for the West Series season opener, Pursley and his Gene Price Motorsports team have been testing at the Bullring in Las Vegas.

“One of the reasons we went to Vegas, it’s also a three-eighth mile like Kyle, and it’s kind of similar banking,” Pursley said. “Corner-wise, one end is banked, one’s not. I just can’t wait to get there. It sounds like a fun track.”

Pursley is going to race the Hendrick Busch car at Thunderhill. It’s the team’s short track car and one the team has been working on over the winter specifically for this race.

“I’m looking forward to running the car,” Pursley said. “We redid the car through the winter time and it came out really nice. It tested very well. I’m really excited about it.”

The race at Thunderhill Raceway in Kyle, Texas, is the first of 13 West Series races.

Ventura Raceway opens today

Ventura Raceway, a tiny seaside dirt track at the Ventura County Fairgrounds, opens its season today. The Ventura Raceway Association Sprints, IMCA Modifieds, Sport Compacts, USAC Junior Ford Focus Midgets and California Lightning Sprints are scheduled to race.

Luis Espinoza of Castaic, a former VRA Sprints track champion, is expected to race in the season opener in Ventura.
He will also be looking to rebound from last season, when he finished 12th in the VRA Sprints standings and didn’t win a race. Kevin Kierce of Reseda is the reigning Sprints champion at the track and is also expected to race in the season opener.

Toyota Speedway at Irwindale opens March 21

The NASCAR Super Late Models, Super Trucks, Mini Stocks and Outlaw Figure 8s are scheduled to race on opening night at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale on March 21.

Travis Thirkettle of Newhall, the runner-up in the Super Late Model standings last year, won five races in 2008.

There are a number of drivers from the Santa Clarita Valley in the Super Trucks division.

Canyon Country’s R.J. Johnson, the rookie of the year in the Super Trucks division, won the last two races of the season in 2008.

Valencia’s Connor Cantrell won six Super Trucks races last year, but he is undecided if he will return to Irwindale to race.

Jimmy Rickart, of Castaic, finished 13th in the Super Trucks standings last year. Valencia’s Joe Anderson made six starts. Rich DeLong III of Santa Clarita, John Watkinson of Canyon Country and Bill Sedgwick of Acton made a handful of starts in the Super Trucks division last year.

Sedgwick used to race in the old NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. He is the crew chief on the Camping World Series West team for Jason Bowles of Ontario.

Hornaday moves up, still down on new rules

Ron Hornaday Jr., driver of the No. 33 Chevrolet Silverado for Kevin Harvick Inc. in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, is having a hard time embracing the new rules in the Truck Series.

Hornaday’s most recent race at Atlanta Motor Speedway resulted in a seventh-place finish. He actually moved up a place, to fourth, in the Truck Series standings, but the new pit stop rules have been giving him fits.

“I’m pretty frustrated with this pit strategy deal,” said Hornaday, a former Saugus Speedway champ from Palmdale. “It isn’t about who has the fastest truck anymore, it is about who can beat you on fuel mileage or with tire wear. We easily had a top-five truck, maybe even top three and ended up seventh. It is really disappointing for our team, who had great pit stops all day long and worked on the truck to make it the best it could be.”  

Next up for the Truck Series is the Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia on March 28.

Tim Haddock can be reached by e-mail at haddockts@aol.com. For more on the NASCAR Camping World Series West season opener, Kevin Harvick’s recent races and Jimmie Johnson’s new beard, go to www.haddockinthepaddock.com.

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