Greg Pursley, the 2004 NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series National Champion, capped his career year with another dominating performance Saturday night at Irwindale Speedway. After setting fastest qualifying time during the afternoon, he started on the...
Greg Pursley, the 2004 NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series National Champion, capped his career year with another dominating performance Saturday night at Irwindale Speedway. After setting fastest qualifying time during the afternoon, he started on the pole and remained in front of the 29-car starting field all 200-laps of a non-point season closer for Irwindale's premier Lucas Oil Super Late Model Series.
The 36-year old Canyon Country resident won the $4,000 winner's paycheck in his David Hays-owned No. 13 King Taco Chevy Monte Carlo. It was their 14th main event victory this season in 19 starts and 18th top ten finish. Pursley, the eight-track Sunbelt Region $45,000 champion, won NASCAR's Dodge Weekly Series $125,000 national title by 0.0228 over Heartland Region champion Andy Bozell, of Kalamazoo (MI) Speedway (0.8889 to 0.8661).
What made Pursley's 200-lap triumph remarkable is the fact his car only had 200-laps in it Saturday. On his cool-down lap, Pursley's car slowed as he pulled from the fourth turn into the infield and trailed oil from a broken rear end. "I felt a vibration on the backstretch and my car stopped abruptly as I was about to do donuts in the infield," the winner said.
The entire pinion and the front of the rear-end housing was found lying on the ground afterwards as Pursley accepted congratulations from well-wishers and fellow competitors. His entire family watched his victorious ride from one of the track's 12 suites.
Pursley reiterated his intention of leaving short track racing and Irwindale competition. "I've raced here since the track opened in 1999 and I will miss it," the winner told the media. Pursley, who shares his racing set-up knowledge freely with other teams, said he hopes his national championship will lead to an offer to race nationally in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck or Busch Series next year. His family is ready to move to the South to further his racing career aspirations.
Three other divisions shared the spotlight Saturday before about 4,000 fans in a night with 320 feature laps. Eric Reed won the 35-lap Mini Stock main on the third-mile. Then fastest qualifier Andrew Phipps clinched his second consecutive Grand American Modified championship by starting from the pole position and leading all 35-laps on the half-mile. The all-green flag race took 11:06.212 and all 14 starters finished.
The GAM race took place during the 35-minute half-time break between the two 100-lap segments of the SLM feature. In the final feature, fastest qualifier Dean Kuhn started sixth in a 50-lap West Coast Pro Trucks race and won his eighth 2004 main event, including five on the IS half-mile, two in Bakersfield and one in Tucson.
The only races the Oceanside driver hasn't won this year in the touring series are races he skipped. Kuhn took charge on lap three and won by two-lengths over Chris Johnson, who battled the winner closely for the final 20 laps and trailed by 0.428 seconds at the checkers.
The annual "Champions Night" honored all past Irwindale Speedway track champions. Eleven champion drivers and their guests were present. In fact, six of the 11- champions raced in one of the four divisions Saturday and three of them-Pursley, Phipps and Kuhn won their main events. Champions Fred Adams, Bob Reed and John Watkinson also raced. Other IS champions present were Darren Cheek, Jeff Green, Rod Johnson, Lee Ladd and Doug McComb.
The first 100-laps of the SLM 200 went smoothly for the 29-starters, including five Las Vegas Speedway 3/8-mile drivers. The initial caution flag flew on lap 66 for a stalled car and to inspect for fluid on the track to lap 74. Todd Southwell (from third starting spot) and Dan Moore (from fifth) traded second place at the 65, 75 and 80-lap mileposts. A lap 91-100 caution flew to check and clear fluids on the track after third-place Southwell's engine smoked entering turn one and retired. Simultaneous red and black flags at the mid-point signaled all drivers to the pits for servicing during a 35-minute break.
Following 100 laps, Pursley led Moore, Mark Perry, Mesa Marin Raceway driver David Mayhew, Brandon Loverock, Jason Patison, Ed Hoffman, Las Vegas regular Chris Clyne, Andy Coyle and Kevin O'Neil. There were 23 drivers racing after 100 laps and 23 restarted, with 15 still on the lead lap. Sixth place Clyne blew his engine on lap 129 and exited to the infield. On lap 149 second-running Moore had an oil pump bracket break, dropping the oil pump and puncturing an oil line, ending his strong run.
After 150 laps, Pursley led Loverock by 50-yards, with Mayhew, Hoffman, O'Neil, Coyle, truck racer Dave Lyon, Las Vegans Charlie Wahl and Thane Alderman, plus Keith Spangler completing the top ten. At lap 170 a two-car tangle exiting turn four sent Perry broadside into the wall, causing six caution laps to remove his car.
The final eight laps saw second place Loverock close on Pursley, who led by 0.49 on lap 195, 0.39 on lap 196 and 0.20 on lap 198. Pursley edged Loverock by about ten yards (0.614 officially) as 15 drivers finished the 1:23.07.341 race with ten drivers on the lead lap. Loverock earned $2,000. Alderman, runner-up in 2004 Las Vegas points, finished third (5.923 seconds behind Pursley) and won $1,500. Hoffman , passed by Alderman on lap 187, finished fourth for a $1,000 payday. O'Neil, Mayhew, Spangler, Lyon, Wahl and Coyle completed the top ten. All ten drivers were within 9.352 seconds at the conclusion.
The Mini Stock main had three leaders. Winner Reed led laps 25-35 and won by five yards over Kevin Bernhardt. Point leader Greg Tucker led laps 10-18, but tangled with a car he has lapping and spun out leaving the fourth turn. He restarted at the back and raced back to 11th place, which earned him enough points to clinch his series championship with one race remaining.
GAM runner-up Travis Thirkettle started last and raced to second place, a straight-away (4.525 seconds) behind winner Phipps in the all-green flag race. Only four drivers remained on the lead lap, with John Watkinson and Chad Daly finishing just in front of Phipps. Teen Kody Swanson, from central California, took fifth.
The WCPT 50 had Michael Young, a paraplegic driver from Fontana, finish third, 1.093 seconds back. Jim Satterfield and Sean Bennett followed; 14 of 18 truckers finished, and 11 drivers ran all 50-laps. Hard charger honorees were (M/S)-Steve Rogers, (GAM)-Chad Daly, and (WCPT)-Ryan Black.
Fast Time: Greg Tucker, 17.309.
Main: Eric Reed, Kevin Bernhardt, Dustin Morgan, Steve Rogers, Rich Garver, Jim McNear, Virgil Young, Bob Reed, Carl Farless, Mark Suchy, Tucker, Mike Morales, Robert Lovas, Glenn Duffin, Rod Schmitt, Mario Ruiz, R. C. Zimmerman, Fred Adams, Tyler Rogers, Brenda Pugh, Ed Lavender, Les Cooper, Tom Dye, Kris Melleby, Dennis Croasmun-DQ.
GRAND AMERICAN MODIFIEDS:
Fast Time: Andrew Phipps, 18.395.
Main: Phipps, Travis Thirkettle, John Watkinson, Chad Daly, Kody Swanson, Joe Ruggles, Tim Morse, Jim Peacock, Mike Trottochau, Shawn Buckley, Garrett Yamada, Dennis Eckert, Andrew Schoening, Steve Latina.
WEST COAST PRO TRUCKS:
Fast Time: Dean Kuhn, 20.091.
Main: Kuhn, Chris Johnson, Michael Young, Jim Satterfield, Sean Bennett, Ryan Black, Richie Altman, Don Helgeson, Steve Dyer, Barry Kalperis, Ron Mongenel, Richard Black, David Timewell, Cecil Phelps, Neil Conrad, Brian Pannone, Robert Leininger, Jeff Williams.
LUCAS OIL SUPER LATE MODELS:
Fast Time: Greg Pursley, 17.988.
Main: Pursley, Brandon Loverock, Thane Alderman, Ed Hoffman, Kevin O'Neil, David Mayhew, Keith Spangler, Dave Lyon, Charlie Wahl, Andy Coyle, Scott Calvin, Chris Oddo, David Ross, Terry Elliott, Kris Terris, Mark Perry, Dan Moore, Scott Gafforini, Chris Clyne, Jason Patison, Scott Conaway, David Quartaro, Todd Southwell, Charlie Price, Jim McGill, Kevin O'Connell, Kevin Thompson, Brian Dryer, Gary Jenkins.