Monday, September 24, 2012

K&N West News & Notes: Albuquerque

Pursley, Kwasniewski Chase Title As Series Visits New Mexico
By Kevin W. Green, NASCAR

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The battle for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship continues as the series heads into its final three races of the season. Defending champion Greg Pursley holds a 15-point advantage over second-year driver Dylan Kwasniewski in the championship standings as the series makes its inaugural visit to NAPA Speedway just west of Albuquerque, N.M., for the NAPA Auto Parts 150 on Saturday, Sept. 29.

Pursley and Kwasniewski are teammates at Gene Price Motorsports. They both excel on track and are driven to win, but beyond that the two are quite different. Pursley is a 44-year-old former motorcycle racer who can be found working in the GPM shop when he is not behind the wheel of a stock car. Meanwhile, Kwasniewski, as a member of NASCAR’s Next 9 program, is one of nine NASCAR K&N Pro Series drivers who represent the next wave of young talent set to make an impact on the national series scene. He became the first 15-year-old to race in the series when he joined the circuit early last season and has said he wants to be the David Beckham of NASCAR.

Pursley was dominant a season ago, winning six of the first eight races en route to the series title. Although his four wins this season have been more spread out over the schedule, it was his two most recent wins – July 28 at Colorado National Speedway in Dacono, Colo., and Aug. 26 at Portland (Ore.) International Raceway – that fueled his move past Kwasniewski in the standings. If he retains the lead through the final three races, Pursley will become the 13th driver in series history with back-to-back championships with the most recent being Mike Duncan in 2004 and 2005.

“We plan to go out there and keep doing what we’re doing, keep our heads down and keep trying to pull off these top five finishes,” Pursley said. “Our goal now, obviously, is to finish in front of the 03 car for the last three races. We had a feeling it was going to come down for the championship to the last race. It’s pretty cool to have both teams come out of Gene Price Motorsports and do that.”

Kwasniewski also had a great season in 2011, with a record–setting year as a series rookie. His success has continued this year, with two wins and three poles. When he took over the lead in the championship standings just before his 17th birthday, he became the youngest driver in series history to lead the points. Now, he’s looking to gain the lead back and take the title.

“I think we definitely have a chance,” said the Las Vegas teenager. “We have a great team and great sponsors, with Rockstar and Royal Purple. It’s going to be tough to beat Greg. I think our team can pull together and I think we can get the strength to succeed in those last couple of races.”

Race: NAPA Auto Parts 150
Place: NAPA Speedway
Date: Saturday, Sept. 29
Time: 8 p.m. MT
TV Schedule: SPEED, Oct. 11, 3 p.m. ET
Track Layout: .5-mile paved oval
2011 Winner: Inaugural event
2011 Polesitter: Inaugural event
Event Schedule: Saturday: Practice 12-12:45 p.m., 1:15–2 p.m., Qualifying 5 p.m.
Track PR Contact: Dennis Latta, 505-220-9563
Twitter: @NAPASpeedway
Event Hashtag: #NAPA150
NASCAR IMC Contact: Kevin W. Green (661) 392-8543

The Race: This event is the 13th of 15 events on the 2012 schedule for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. It marks the first visit by the series to NAPA Speedway.

The Procedure: The starting field is 26 cars, including provisionals. The first 22 cars will qualify through two-lap time trials. The remaining four spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 150 laps (75 miles).

The Track: NAPA Speedway is a .5-mile paved oval with four degrees banking in the turns and two degrees in the frontstretch and backstretch.

The Records: To be established.

Track Testing: NASCAR K&N Pro Series West drivers and teams will get to check out NAPA Speedway’s half-mile oval a day early. The track is holding an optional test session beginning at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 28

Area Appearances: A contingent of NASCAR K&N Pro Series West drivers will be making special appearances at sponsor locations in Albuquerque from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 28.

Tight Battle For Sunoco Rookie Award: Austin Dyne has edged in front of Cameron Hayley in a tight battle for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award. Dyne, who has come from behind after not competing in the season opener, has a three-point lead in the rookie standings.

Local Driver: Isaac Sherman will be returning to competition in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West at his home track, driving the No. 38 Supercuts/Motiva/Car Crafters/B&H Capital Limited Chevrolet. The 17-year-old from Albuquerque has made three series starts – two in 2011 and one this year in the season opener at Phoenix.

NASCAR Newcomer From England: Jack Clarke is set to make his series debut at Albuquerque, driving for Creation-Cope Racing. The 24-year-old driver from London comes to NASCAR with a resume of competition in sports cars and Formula Two, beginning in 2006.

15-Year-Old Set For Series Debut: Fifteen-year-old Hannah Newhouse of Twin Falls, Idaho is slated to make her debut in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West at Albuquerque. As a rookie this year, the second-generation driver contended for the championship in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Super Stock division at Magic Valley Speedway in Twin Falls. Newhouse was recently named to participate in the 2012 NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine in which candidates compete for an opportunity to be a part of the 2013 NASCAR Drive for Diversity class of drivers.

Montes To Sub For Mayhew: Dallas Montes will make his series debut at Albuquerque, subbing in the No. 17 MMI Services/Ron’s Rear Ends Chevrolet for David Mayhew, who will be competing in a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event. Montes, 19, has been competing for a track title at Madera (Calif.) Speedway this season.

East Coast Run: Dylan Kwasniewski heads to Albuquerque after turning in a fourth-place finish in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday, Sept. 22.

Milestones: A couple of drivers are approaching milestones in their careers. Ryan Philpott, the driver of the No. 52 Philpott Race Cars Ford, is set to make his 30th career series start at Albuquerque. Philpott made his series debut at Altamont Raceway Park near Tracy, Calif., on Sept. 15, 2007. Meanwhile, for three-time series champion Eric Holmes, his next top-10 finish will mark the 70th of his career. Holmes finished fifth in his series debut at Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif., on Oct. 11, 1997.

Portland Victory For Pursley: Greg Pursley won the NAPA Auto Parts Salute to the Troops 125 at Portland (Ore.) International Raceway on Aug. 26, marking his fourth win this season and 13th of his career. Pursley also captured the Coors Light Pole Award for the event, his fourth pole of the year and 15th career pole. He led wire-to-wire for the win.

No Repeat Winners: With his victory at Portland International Raceway, Pursley became the fifth different winner in five visits by the series to the Portland road course.

Three Straight Podiums For Holmes: Eric Holmes finished third at Portland, marking his third consecutive podium finish at the 1.967-mile road course. He finished second there in 2010 and 2011.

NEXT TIME OUT: RosevilleThe NASCAR K&N Pro Series West heads to Northern California for its annual visit to All American Speedway in Roseville, Calif., with the Toyota/NAPA Auto Parts 150. Eric Holmes, who won the most recent series race at Roseville, has four wins at the historic track – more than any other driver.

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