As the undisputed veteran go-to driver on the NASCAR K&N Pro West Series, Greg Pursley sees the changing faces.
It used to be he was competing among the up-and-coming 20-something drivers in this developmental stock-car series along the West Coast, hoping one day to land a ride on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit.
Now 46, Pursley — the West Series’ points leader with five races remaining heading into the Napa Auto Parts/Toyota 150 at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe on Saturday night — is trying to hold off teenagers more than half his age.
“This year, the younger guys outnumber the older guys,” Pursley said. “There are a lot of up-and-comers, and this is a stepping stone for them. If they want to make it that high (NASCAR Sprint Cup), this is where they learn.”
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Pursley, a native of Newhall, California, used to be in their shoes. He debuted in NASCAR in 1999. Five years later, he won a NASCAR Weekly Series national championship driving a Super Late Model car at Irwindale (California) Speedway, winning 13 of 18 races.
It was also in 2004 when Pursley met Gene Price, whose son was a Super Late Model driver. Pursley was hired to be a crew chief on that team.
Price eventually got out of the car-racing business, instead opting to build a retirement home in Parker, Arizona — 160 miles north of Phoenix.
By 2008, Pursley had purchased his own West Series car, and wanted to run a limited schedule. He needed financial backing, and called Price to gauge his interest level.
It only took a short time before Price was hooked. He formed Gene Price Motorsports in 2009, and hired Pursley to be his full-time driver.
“I’ve been in racing my whole life, and worked on race cars my whole life,” Pursley said. “To move out here (to Arizona) and build a race shop, and be able to do what we need to do, and have all the tools — I could not pass that up.”
Over the years, the race shop right across the street from Price’s home has gotten bigger and bigger — so big the team built a second car and hired another driver in 2011.
And Price hired arguably the hottest name among teenage drivers — 16-year-old Dylan Kwasniewski — in 2011.
In that season, Pursley won his first points championship. Kwasniewski finished fifth, and was named the series rookie of the year.
In 2012, Kwasniewski won the series title. A year later, the teenager shifted to the East Series and won the points crown. He now runs the NASCAR Nationwide Series for Turner Scott Motorsports.
“(Kwasniewski) was a great kid to work with — an exceptional talent,” Pursley said. “He had been racing since he was a little kid, too. He knew what to do. He just needed help to put it all together.”
Back to a one-car operation, Gene Price Motorsports still reigns atop the West Series standings this season. And Pursley says he will continue to race as long as his car can win races — and mentoring younger drivers as they come and go.
“When they come and ask me questions, I will try and tell them the right way. You don’t want them to do something stupid,” Pursley said. “But when the green flag drops, I am there to beat them.”