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POST FALLS, Idaho – James Bickford showed Saturday night he's a fast learner. And a fast driver.
The Napa, California, driver, in just his seventh NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race, passed former champion Greg Pursley with four laps to go in the NAPA Auto Parts/Toyota 150 en route to capturing his first career win in front of a packed house at State Line Speedway.
Bickford, who turned 16 in March, is the cousin of four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon. His previous best finish was a fourth-place run at Iowa Speedway in May.
Pursley finished second -- .725-seconds back of Bickford's No. 6 Interstate Plastics/Sunrise Ford Ford on the quarter-mile oval -- and Brandon McReynolds was third. Braeden Havens, who won the 21 Means 21 Pole Award earlier in the day, finished fourth and David Mayhew rounded out the top five.
Rookies Nicole Behar and Jairo Avila finished sixth and seventh, respectively, followed by Dylan Lupton, Thomas Martin and rookie Darrell Midgley.
The sixth-place effort by 16-year-old Behar tied the K&N Pro Series West all-time record for best female finish. The mark was reached three times previously, most recently by Hannah Newhouse in 2012.
Lupton was running fourth on Lap 134 when Pursley and Mayhew got together and collected Bickford's teammate, Lupton, who was leading the race. Pursley assumed the lead, while Mayhew blended back in seventh and Lupton ninth. Three laps after the race's final restart, Bickford made his winning move.
“I knew I had a chance at it if I could just get by him,” Bickford said of sizing up Pursley on the final restart. “I did everything I could – all of my effort was into that first corner – and we ended up pulling out in front of him and clearing him.
“I knew once we got to the high line that there was no stopping us, and we took the checkered flag for the first time.”
In defeat, 2011 series champion Pursley complemented the young talent that beat him out for the checkered flag.
“He [Bickford] did a great job, he had a really good car tonight,” Pursley said. “That last restart there with five to go, I knew his car was better than mine and I tried to hold him off for a little bit but I was just way too loose.
“He did a good job. He’s a good little racer, and something to look at here in the future.”
Pursley was able to increase his points lead to 27 points over Lupton and 34 over McReynolds. Mayhew is five points behind McReynolds, while Bickford rounds out the top five.
Saturday was just the third all-time K&N Pro Series West visit to the bullring along the Washington-Idaho border, and first since 1985. The race included a total of six lead changes among four drivers and was slowed by caution just three times.
The NAPA Auto Parts/Toyota 150 will air on FOX Sports 1 on Friday, July 25 at 4 p.m. ET.
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West returns to the track on Saturday, July 26 in the NAPA Auto Parts/Toyota 150 at Colorado National Speedway.
James Bickford drove to his first victory in his seventh career NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race Saturday night. William Mancebo/Getty Images for NASCAR