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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – When it was announced earlier this year that Ohio’s Columbus Motor Speedway would be shutting down following the conclusion of the season, the question became which driver would be known as the final NASCAR track champion at the third-mile asphalt oval?
The answer to that question turned out to be 29-year-old Kyle Purvis.
“It’s quite an accomplishment,” said Purvis of being the final track champion at Columbus, which had been owned and promoted by the Nuckles family for nearly 70 years. “The race track was actually sold to the city of Obetz, which is in Columbus, Ohio. They’re going to put rugby fields and expand their recreational center. So to be the last track champion that will ever come out of there, that is pretty awesome to say the least.
“To be able to tell everyone you’re the last late model Division I track champion out of Columbus is awesome.”
The track championship wasn’t a forgone conclusion for Purvis, who this year drove a late model owned by reigning track and state champion Kyle Jones. Midway through the year the team actually switched cars, moving from a Hamke chassis to a Port City chassis.
The change made all the difference.
“We were actually running a different car at the first of the season and were really struggling with that car,” said Purvis, who calls Marion, Ohio, home. “We switched cars and I started driving a Port City car towards the middle of the season.
“We did a lot better with the Port City car. We won a few races and every race we won was in the Port City car,” Purvis said. “We just started off slow in the other car at the first of the season. We struggled a little bit, but once we got the other car up and going good, that’s when we did well.”
Purvis ended up scoring two victories at Columbus, barely edging out Donnie Hill by just 10 points to win the track championship. Purvis also finished second to Hill in the Ohio state championship rankings and finished 54th overall in the National standings.
“We had one bad wreck that really dropped us out of having a shot at the state title. That’s just part of racing,” said Purvis, who carried sponsorship Farm Transport, Beach Manufacturing Company, Manley Graphics and Walker Performance Filtration.
The 2016 season served as a continuation of success for Purvis, who last year won the track championship and NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division II national championship while racing in the modified class at Columbus. Purvis said the key difference between the two cars was how smooth he had to be in his late model versus the modified.
“To be able to go from a Division II national championship and the track champion at Columbus in the modified division and then the next year be the Division I late model champion, that was pretty awesome,” Purvis said. “You just have to be a little bit smoother in the late model, while in the modified you’ve really got to get up on the wheel and drive it hard.”
Purvis, who will be among those attending the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards on Dec. 9 inside the Charlotte Convention Center, said it’s hard for him to believe this was the final season of racing at Columbus.
Now, he admits, he doesn’t know where his home track is going to be.
“The Nuckles family did a really, really good job promoting it year to year,” Purvis said. “We call Columbus our home as far as racing and what we’re going to miss is…well we really don’t know where we’re going to call home next.”
No matter where he calls home next, you can bet Purvis will be a contender.
Purvis secured two wins, 14 top-five and 15 top-10 finishes in 15 starts en route to defending his title. Courtesy of Jack Clay