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AIRWAY HEIGHTS, Wash. – Greg Pursley made sure that the second time he took the lead in the Toyota/NAPA Auto Parts 150 at Spokane County Raceway he held on to it.
The 2011 series champion pulled away in the closing laps en route to his third win of the season and 16th career victory in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.
Pursley, behind the wheel of the No. 26 Gene Price Motorsports/Star Nursery/Real Water Ford, initially took the lead from teammate and pole winner Cameron Hayley on the first lap, only to relinquish it five laps later. The Newhall, Calif., native fell back and ran just inside the top five for much of the race.
He made his charge to the lead on a restart following the fourth and final caution of the event – taking the lead on Lap 115 and stretching that margin to 2.259 seconds at the finish.
“We just tried to hang out and save my tires as long as possible,” Pursley said. “The track has a lot of history here. It’s pretty abrasive. You’ve got to save your stuff. We hung out as long as we could, until about Lap 100, Lap 120. I told (crew chief) Jerry (Pitts), ‘just tell me when I’ve got to go.’ The two restarts before we made our move we got up to third. With 30 to go we had to make our move and go.
“We got to the front and got a little bit of a lead there and were able to save it out front there,” he said. “They were battling hard in the back. I was trying to save enough for a green-white-checkered (finish) and thank goodness we didn’t have to.”
The win came one week after Pursley slammed the Turn 1 wall after crossing the finish line in second at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash.
“We destroyed a car last week at Monroe, getting second – just totaled it,” he said. “We brought this one as a backup. Everybody at Gene Price Motorsports rebounded and did an awesome job. I can’t thank them enough.”
Derek Thorn – who faded back as far as ninth early in the race – also made a late-race charge, but had to settle for second.
“I’ve never been to Spokane before,” Thorn said. “It’s one those places, similar to Monroe, The track is fairly worn out and has a lot of character to it. It kind of allows you to save your tires. Some of the younger guys maybe seemed to over drive it a little bit.”
Hayley, who has dominated qualifying this season, came home third. He turned a record lap in time trials to capture his third consecutive and sixth overall 21 Means 21 Pole Award by Coors Brewing Co.
“It was a good run for our Cabinets by Hayley Ford Fusion,” Hayley said. “I think we might have gained a point for the championship. That’s a positive out of the day, but we took a gamble. We thought it was going to go green the whole way. We got a couple of cautions there. I just went too hard early, trying to get to the front so that if it did go green, we’d be there. But the yellows came out and we just didn’t have enough there at the end. Overall it was a good run, but we’ll learn from this.”
Fifteen-year-old Giles Thornton finished fourth, followed by Patrick Staropoli – who was making his series debut. Michael Self, who dominated much of the race in leading 78 laps, faded to sixth at the finish. Dylan Lupton, Travis Milburn, Braeden Havens and Luis Tyrrell rounded out the top 10.
Michael Waltrip, who was making his seventh career series start and his first of two series appearances planned this season, qualified eighth and finished 11th.
The race featured four lead changes among three drivers. The pace of the event was slowed by four cautions for 26 laps.
With his victory, Pursley joined Thorn and Self as three-time winners this season. Lupton is the only other driver to visit Victory Lane so far.
Thorn continues to lead the championship standings with a 23-point edge over Hayley – 431 to 408. Self is third with 402, followed by Pursley with 400 and Lupton with 362. Completing the top 10 in points are Taylor Cuzick at 327, Carl Harr at 323, Daryl Harr at 308, Thornton at 307 and Dylan Hutchison at 298.
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West is back in action on Sept. 14, for the iON Utah Grand Prix at Miller Motorsports Park.
A NASCAR K&N Pro Series West car streaks down the back stretch at Spokane County Raceway during qualifying for the Toyota/NAPA 150. Getty Images for NASCAR