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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Greg Pursley has made winning look easy.
Seven races into the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West season, he has made five trips to Victory Lane. He won two of the three races in June, leading a 364 of 400 laps en route to the pair of victories.
His performance was mirrored in the July voting for the Hunter Index, as determined by a panel of auto racing writers and NASCAR representatives. The Newhall, Calif., driver collected 10 of the 13 first-place votes to easily earn the top spot.
“No surprise here,” said Jorge Mondaca, motorsports editor for FOXSports.com. “Greg Pursley continues dominating the K&N Pro West Series. It took a Sprint Cup driver to snap his winning form, but even then he posted an impressive fourth on the road course at Sonoma.”
Pursley tallied 188 points to easily out-distance runner-up Lee Pulliam (154 points) and third-place Keith Rocco (145).
Drivers are ranked on their performance over the previous month. The rankings are compiled by a panel of auto racing writers and NASCAR representatives. This season, the panel was expanded to 12 media members from across North American with experience covering NASCAR’s touring and weekly series, along with two voters from NASCAR.
Panelists rank their top 15, with first place receiving 15 points, second 14, third 13 and so on.
Pulliam received two first-place votes and Rocco one.
Pulliam won three times in the Late Model Division at Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va., and once at South Boston (Va.) Speedway. Rocco moved to the top of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national championship standings after four wins, including three at three different tracks over the July 4 weekend.
“Despite racing with a shoulder injury, Rocco has gotten as hot as the July weather in New England,” said Len Sammons, editor of Area Auto Racing News. “The defending NASCAR Whelen All-American Series champion seems on his way for another head table reservation at the year-end banquet.”
Max Gresham of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and Homero Richards of the NASCAR Mexico Series rounded out the top five. Gresham won at Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson, Ga., and finished third at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Va., to take the series points lead. Richards won at both Nuevo Autódromo de Querétaro and Puebla’s Autódromo Miguel E. Abed.
None of them, however, have been able to match Pursley’s hot streak.
Dating back to last season, he has won seven of the last 10 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West races.
Pursley has finished fourth in the only two races he hasn’t won this year, including at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., where he finished behind NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Joey Logano and David Gilliland.
He came right back to win at his home track, Toyota Speedway at Irwindale, Calif., to stretch his series points lead to 278. He has three Coors Light Pole Awards and has led the most laps in an event three times.
“Good fortune is following Pursley, unlike last year when he couldn’t avoid trouble,” said Tim Haddock of haddockinthepaddock.blogspot.com. “He gave much of the credit to good luck after winning the race at Irwindale. He said he had seven flat tires that took him out of races last year. No such misfortune so far in 2011.”
Pursley is the only driver to be in the top 10 in voting in each of the first four months.
The Hunter Index, which was launched in 2010 on NASCARHomeTracks.com, is a monthly power poll designed to highlight the standout performances in the NASCAR developmental series. This year, the monthly winners will be presented with a trophy designed by Jostens.
Ted Christopher (NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour) was sixth in July’s voting, followed by DJ Kennington (NASCAR Canadian Tire Series), Jimmy Zacharias (NASCAR Whelen All-American Series), Todd Szegedy (NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour) and Sergio Peña (NASCAR K&N Pro Series East).
The Hunter Index is named for the late Jim Hunter, NASCAR’s vice president of corporate communications and a longtime supporter of the weekly and touring series that make up the NASCAR Developmental Series.
The Index was designed as an opportunity to compare the top drivers from the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series all the way up to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series. It will also encompass drivers from the NASCAR Mexico Series, NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour.
The Hunter Index is released the first week of each month from April through November.
The panel includes media members: J.A. Ackley, Dick Berggren’s Speedway Illustrated; Shawn Courchesne, Hartford (Conn.) Courant; Bob Dillner, SPEED; Tim Haddock, haddockinthepaddock.blogspot.com; Keith Lair, Los Angeles Newspaper Group; Spencer Lewis, Inside Track Motorsports News; Jorge Mondaca, FOXSports.com; Pat Patterson, SIRIUS NASCAR Ch. 128/ESPN Radio; Len Sammons, Area Auto Racing News; David Smith, DavidSmithMotorsports.com; and Elgin Traylor, Speed51.com. They are joined by Brett Bodine, who is the chairman of the NASCAR Résumé Committee and represents the NASCAR competition side on the panel, and Jason Christley, a NASCAR Integrated Marketing Communications relations representative.
HUNTER INDEX - JULY
|1.||GREG PURSLEY (NASCAR K&N Pro Series West)|
|Why he’s here: The Newhall, Calif., driver has completely dominated the competition this season with five wins in seven starts and finally earned a K&N Pro Series win at his home track, Toyota at Irwindale,|
|2.||LEE PULLIAM (NASCAR Whelen All-American Series)|
|Why He’s Here: Three more wins at Motor Mile give him 10 there for the season, and then he went down and finally got the best of three-time national champion Philip Morris at South Boston.|
|3.||KEITH ROCCO (NASCAR Whelen All-American Series)|
|Why He’s Here: Defending national champion is again atop the standings with a three-win weekend at Thompson, Stafford and Waterford over July 4 weekend.|
|4.||MAX GRESHAM (NASCAR K&N Pro Series East)|
|Why He’s Here: Won from the pole at his home track, Gresham, and finished third at Langley to take over the top spot in the series heading into the stretch drive.|
|5.||HOMERO RICHARDS (NASCAR Mexico Series)|
|Why He’s Here: The Mexico City driver has rallied after a slow start to the season to move up to fifth in points with a pair of wins in June.|
|6.||TED CHRISTOPHER (NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour)|
|Why He’s Here: Put on a crowd-pleasing performance with his run from the back to win at Thompson, his fourth straight on the .625-mile historic Modified oval.|
|7.||DJ KENNINGTON (NASCAR Canadian Tire Series)|
|Why He’s Here: A third at Delaware and a win at Mosport helped ease the pain of finishing 20th at ICAR after being dumped.|
|8.||JIMMY ZACHARIAS (NASCAR Whelen All-American Series)|
|Why He’s Here: Has been nearly unbeatable at Chemung with four wins in his last five starts on the New York oval.|
|9.||TODD SZEGEDY (NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour)|
|Why He’s Here: Led every lap en route to the win at Monadnock and then finished sixth at Thompson.|
|10.||SERGIO PEÑA (NASCAR K&N Pro Series East)|
|Why He’s Here: Earned his second win of the season at Langley after leading the most laps, and was in contention at Gresham before late-race fuel issues.|
HONORABLE MENTION: Matt Scott (All American/NASCAR Whelen All-American Series), Scott Steckly (NASCAR Canadian Tire Series), Adam Royle (Elko and Raceway Park/NASCAR Whelen All-American Series), LW Miller (NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour) and Matt DiBenedetto (NASCAR K&N Pro Series East).