Greg Pursley dominated the early portion of the race and led the first 21 laps before stopping for fuel. At one point he had a more than six-second lead on Eric Holmes. After the stop he drove his No. 26 Gene Price Motorsports/Star Nursery Ford through the field and made it to second place before suffering the flat tire on Lap 39. Fortunately, Pursley discovered the tire going down at precisely the best place on the 2.2-mile road course.
By Jason Christley and Shon Sbarra, NASCAR
TOOELE, Utah – Greg Pursley rallied from a flat tire to claim the Utah Grand Prix for the third year in a row on Saturday at Miller Motorsports Park.
It was the 10th career NASCAR K&N Pro Series West victory for the Newhall, Calif., driver and the first of 2012 for the defending series champion.
Pursley dominated the early portion of the race and led the first 21 laps before stopping for fuel. At one point he had a more than six-second lead on Eric Holmes. After the stop he drove his No. 26 Gene Price Motorsports/Star Nursery Ford through the field and made it to second place before suffering the flat tire on Lap 39. Fortunately, Pursley discovered the tire going down at precisely the best place on the 2.2-mile road course.
“We stopped for fuel and I got back up front where I could see the lead, then I felt the tire going down,” said Pursley. “Luckily, it was right at pit entrance and I was able to come right down pit road. The guys on the crew did a super job at getting it changed quickly and we only dropped to eighth or so.”
After the near disaster, Pursley wasn’t sure if he could make it back to the lead, but the yellow flag came out on Lap 44 when Jack Sellers suffered an ignition problem. The caution tightened up the field and set up a four-lap dash to the finish line giving Pursley a puncher’s chance at the victory.
On the subsequent restart the field roared into Turn 1 where several cars made contact with one another sending everyone scrambling for daylight. Pursley took a chance and it paid off as he was able to wrestle the lead away from Austin Dyne coming to the white flag.
“Cars were everywhere and I just dove to the inside,” Pursley said. “Once I made it through, I just put my head down and tried to reel off some qualifying laps to get the lead.”
Pursley had a clear handle on the race track as he was fastest in the morning practice session before earning his 12th career Coors Light Pole Award in afternoon qualifying.
“Our team really likes road racing and I enjoy racing here,” he stated. “This was a brand new car that we brought here and it was very strong.”
Holmes, like Pursley, was able to make up some ground on that final restart and had to overcome some adversity of his own before finishing second behind the wheel of his No. 20 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota.
“We had some sort of penalty with the catch can when we stopped for fuel,” said the three-time series champion out of Escalon, Calif. “I’m still not sure what that was about, but we were able to overcome that and get a solid finish. We’ve struggled a bit to start the season, so we’ll take second place.”
Had it not been for that last caution Dyne, more than likely, would have driven to Victory Lane in just his second series start, but he was relegated to third-place finish after the Lap 47 melee.
“It went better than I thought it might in our first road-course race,” said Dyne. “But without that last caution, I think we had enough to hold everybody off.”
Pursley’s teammate Dylan Kwasniewski and Austin Cameron finished fourth and fifth, respectively. For Cameron, it was his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series West start since 2008.
Scott Ivie, Kyle Heckman, Cameron Hayley, David Mayhew and Carl Harr rounded out the top 10.
With the win, Pursley secured a locked-in starting position for the inaugural UNOH Battle at the Beach during 2013 Speedweeks on a temporary short track at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
After three races, Mayhew leads Kwasniewski by one point and Pursley by three in the championship point standings.
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West will race next in the Pick-N-Pull 150 at Stockton (Calif.) 99 Speedway on Saturday, May 5.