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K&N West News & Notes: Phoenix

Championship To Be Decided In Season Finale At PIR
By Kevin W. Green, NASCAR
November 5, 2012 - 10:22am

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – One of the closest championship battles in the history of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West will be decided when the series closes out its season with the Casino Arizona 50 at Phoenix International Raceway on Saturday, Nov. 10.

The title fight primarily comes down to two teammates from Gene Price Motorsports, with 17-year-old Dylan Kwasniewski trying to take the crown from the defending champion Greg Pursley.

/files/casinoaz_50_copy.jpgKwasniewski – with a slim two-point advantage in the standings – would like to follow up his record-setting season as a rookie in 2011 with a championship this year. The Las Vegas teen is part of NASCAR’s Next9 program, which represents the next wave of young talent expected to make an impact on the national series scene.

At 44, Pursley is a veteran of the sport who also was a national championship in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. The former Southern Californian – who now resides in Parker, Ariz. – is hoping to join an elite list of drivers with back-to-back series championships.

Kwasniewski became the first 15-year-old to compete in the series when he made his debut on the circuit in April of 2010, driving the No. 03 Rockstar/Royal Purple Ford. It was the second car out of the Gene Price Motorsports stable, joining the No. 26 GPM/Star Nursery/Real Water Ford driven by Pursley.

Both drivers had tremendous success last year. Pursley dominated the competition early, winning six of the first eight events and cruising to the series championship. Kwasniewski, meanwhile, came on strong in the second half of the season with two wins and two poles and captured the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award in the series.

The two drivers have swapped the points lead back-and-forth this season. Kwasniewski became the youngest driver to lead the championship standings when he moved into the top spot following a win in May. Pursley remained consistent and took over the points lead after a win in July. However, a win in the most recent event propelled Kwasniewski back into first place, giving him an edge going into the season finale.

While the championship spotlight is on those two, Derek Thorn remains in contention – 29 points out of first. A finish of 23rd or better by Pursley or a finish of 24th or better by Kwasniewski in the 30-car field would eliminate Thorn’s chances, however.

The Casino Arizona 50 will be televised live on SPEED.

Race: Casino Arizona 50
Place: Phoenix International Raceway, Avondale, Ariz.
Date: Saturday, Nov. 10
Time: 5 p.m. MT
TV Schedule: SPEED, Live
Radio Schedule: NASCAR Home Tracks Radio presented by Speed51 live on www.nascarhometracks.com
Track Layout: 1-mile paved oval
2011 Winner: Ryan Blaney
2011 Polesitter: Greg Pursley
Event Schedule: Thursday: Practice 4:35-5:25 p.m. Friday: Final Practice 9-9:50 a.m. Saturday: Qualifying 8:30 a.m.
Track PR Contact: Dave Lockett (623) 463-5400 dlockett@phoenixinternationalraceway.com
Twitter: @Phoenixraceway
Event Hashtag: #CASINOARIZONA50
NASCAR IMC Contact: Kevin W. Green (661) 392-8543 kgreen@nascar.com Twitter: @KevinW_Green

FAST FACTS
The Race:
This event marks the final event of the 15-race schedule for the 2012 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. It is the second of two series visits to PIR this year. The series kicked off its season at PIR in March.

The Procedure: The starting field is 30 cars, including provisionals. The first 26 cars will qualify through two-lap time trials. The remaining four spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 50 laps.

The Track: PIR is a one-mile superspeedway with 10 to 11 degrees banking between Turns 1 and 2; 10 to 11 degrees banking at the apex of the dog-leg; and 8 to 9 degrees banking in Turn 4. This will be the 30th stand-alone Phoenix race for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.

The Records: Qualifying: Greg Pursley, Nov. 12, 2011, 133.859 mph, 26.894 sec.; Race: David Mayhew, March 3, 2012, 109.489 mph, 27 minutes 24 seconds.

Tight Battle For Sunoco Rookie Title
The battle for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West will also be decided in the season finale at Phoenix.

Austin Dyne has come from behind to take a slim four-point lead in the rookie standings heading into the final race. The 20-year-old from Malibu, Calif., drives the No. 9 William Rast/Sunrise Ford/Lucas Oil Ford for car owner Bob Bruncati.

Shadowing Dyne in the standings is Cameron Hayley, who led the rookie points for much of the season. Hayley, who celebrated his 16th birthday in July, is from Calgary, Alberta, Canada and drives the No. 24 Cabinets By Hayley Toyota for Bill McAnally Racing.

East Drivers Go West
The entry list for the Phoenix race includes a contingent of NASCAR K&N Pro Series East drivers.

Chase Elliott of Dawsonville, Ga., will be making his third visit to PIR. The 16-year-old second-generation driver – who finished fourth in this year’s championship standings – came away third in this event a year ago.

Ben Kennedy of Daytona Beach, Fla., will also be making his third trip to Phoenix, after finishing ninth in points this season.

Also entered at PIR are two drivers who will be making their first appearance in the K&N Pro Series West – Cale Conley of Vienna, W. Va., and Bryan Ortiz of Bayamon, Puerto Rico. Conley scored his first series win while running select events in the K&N Pro Series East this season. Ortiz, who competed in his rookie season as part of the Drive for Diversity Program this year, finished fifth in points.

PHOENIX RACE NOTES
Another Team For Montes:
Dallas Montes, who had a second-place finish in his series debut in September, is entered at Phoenix – driving for his third different team in three races. The 19-year-old from Bakersfield, Calif., will be in a Rev Racing entry for car owner Max Siegel. In addition to his strong debut, Montes finished eighth in his second series start.

Gannis Teams With Gomez: Car owner John Gomez has two cars entered at Phoenix, with local driver Cassie Gannis, in the No. 22 Mancavesite.org Chevrolet, joining with the team’s regular driver Jonathon Gomez, who will be behind the wheel of the No. 16 Century Boatland Chevrolet.

Next9 Drivers Greet Fans: Drivers from NASCAR’s Next9 program will participate in a special meet-and-greet and autograph session on the plaza at Vestar/Westgate City Center in Glendale (Ariz.) from 2 to 4 p.m. on Friday.  Included will be Dylan Kwasniewski, Cameron Hayley, Sergio Pena, Corey LaJoie and Chase Elliott.
 
Live Television Coverage: Fans across the country will have the opportunity to tune in to the Casino Arizona 50 with live coverage of the event on SPEED.

Milestones: Two series champions will hit career marks in the season finale at Phoenix. Three-time series champion Eric Holmes is slated to make his 90th series start there behind the wheel of the No. 20 NAPA Toyota. It will mark the 68th consecutive start for the 38-year-old Escalon, Calif., driver. Defending champion Greg Pursley, who drives the No. 26 Gene Price Motorsports/Star Nursery/Real Water Ford, is set to make his 70th career series start at Phoenix. It will be his 54th consecutive start.

History: This marks the 19th time for Phoenix International Raceway to host the season finale for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. The series wrapped up its season at PIR for eight straight years from 1977 to 1984. Seven of the combination events with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series marked the final event, culminating in 1995. More recently, the series concluded its season at Phoenix in 2004 and then again in 2010 and 2011.

LAST TIME OUT: Roseville
Rebound For Win:
Dylan Kwasniewski overcame a flat tire on his No. 03 Royal Purple/Rockstar Ford to win the Toyota/NAPA Auto Parts 150 at All American Speedway in Roseville, Calif., on Saturday, Oct. 13. It marked his third win this year and fifth career victory. He set the fast time in qualifying, winning the 21 Means 21 Pole Award by Coors Brewing Co for the fifth time this season and the seventh time in his career.

Series Debut For Several: Results varied for several drivers who made their series debut at Roseville. Canadian Jamie Krzysik of Grande Prairie, Alberta, qualified sixth and finished sixth in his first race. Markus Niemela of Rauma, Finland qualified fifth and ran as high as third, but ended up 15th at the finish. It was a short night, meanwhile, for Julien Jousse of Les Issambres, France. He retired early after his car was damaged less than 10 laps into the event. 

Large Field: The 30 entries that turned out at All American Speedway marked a record for a series race at the Roseville track.

NEXT TIME OUT: Night of Champions, UNOH Battle Highlight Postseason Schedule
There are two major events on the offseason schedule. The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West champion will be crowned as part of the NASCAR Night of Champions Awards banquet, which will include ceremonies for the seven NASCAR touring series on Saturday, Dec. 8 at the Charlotte (N.C.) Convention Center in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The inaugural UNOH Battle at the Beach will take place Feb. 18-19 on a temporary .4-mile oval on the backstretch at Daytona International Speedway as part of 2013 Speedweeks.