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Pursley's return to Irwindale

Posted: July 2, 2009 9:10 p.m.
Updated: July 3, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
Toyota Speedway at Irwindale holds some special memories for Greg Pursley, a Canyon High graduate and driver in the NASCAR Camping World Series West.

It is where he won a NASCAR Whelen All-American Racing Series national championship in 2004. It was one of the most dominating seasons at Irwindale. He won 13 of 18 races that year, including five in a row and nine out of 10 at one point, in the NASCAR Super Late Model division.

Irwindale is also the site of his only win in the now-defunct NASCAR Southwest Series.

But the track has provided its share of rougher moments for Pursley. In his last visit to the track, he crashed in qualifying for the Toyota All-Star Showdown in January and didn’t even start the race.

The NASCAR West Series makes its only visit to Irwindale for the King Taco 200 on Saturday, and Pursley will be back as one of the favorites to win the race. But Pursley doesn’t consider himself a favorite, despite his success at the track in Super Late Models.

“All the racing that I’ve done there obviously has been in Super Late Models and Southwest Tour cars,” said Pursley, who is driving for Gene Price Motorsports. “It’s a huge difference, driving a Cup car, basically. It’s a lot heavier car. You got to be a lot more patient with them. It’s just a totally different driving style. That’s what I’m trying to get used to right now.”

For a driver who claims to still be learning how to race his cars, Pursley has done surprisingly well. He won the first West Series race of the season at Thunderhill Raceway in Kyle, Texas, and has been a top-10 driver for most of the year.

“The win at Texas was totally unexpected. I did not expect to come out of the box and win the race,” said Pursley, who is fifth in the West Series standings.

No doubt the first West Series race was the highlight of his season.

The most recent race, two weeks ago at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, might be the lowlight.

Pursley ended up with a 20th-place finish, his worst of the year, but he said the result was not indicative of his team’s performance. After running in the top five for most of the race, Pursley was collected in a crash with six laps to go.

“We were running in the top five the whole race all laps,” Pursley said. “We were set up for the end and that happened. Unfortunately that’s racing. Luck plays a big part in racing. Obviously we didn’t have any luck there. I can’t say we didn’t run good at Sonoma. Our finish does not do it justice.”

Pursley’s season in the West Series has seen its ups and downs. He has not been able to duplicate his performance in Texas, but he has been one of the top drivers all year. Eric Holmes and Jason Bowles, West Series veterans, have posted victories and are 1-2 in the West Series standings. Bowles won the Fourth of July race at Irwindale last year. Those are the drivers Pursley said will be the ones to beat on Saturday night.

Pursley has only been in one race in his West Series car for Gene Price Motorsports at Irwindale. That came last year in August, just after he bought three cars from Richard Childress Racing. Two of them were NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cars driven by Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton. He said he didn’t have a lot of time to prepare his car for the race and it resulted in a poor finish.

He took the same car to Irwindale for the Showdown in January, but never got to race, wrecking in qualifying. He will be bringing the same car to the track again. It is a car he said he bought specifically for Irwindale. He hasn’t raced it anywhere else.

“I like it a lot. It’s kind of the car that I’ve saved for Irwindale,” Pursley said. “Hopefully it will do us justice.”

Tim Haddock can be reached by e-mail at tim@haddockinthepaddock.com. Go to www.haddockinthepaddock.com for video interviews of drivers in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series and coverage of the series’ first visit to the Lake Elsinore Motorsports Complex. Plus, look for coverage of the NHRA races from Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio, and video interviews with drivers in the Super Late Model, Late Model and Super Trucks division at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale.

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