DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – By John Tejada, NASCAR — Sean Gardner/Getty Images for NASCAR photo — Greg Pursley may be the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West resident expert when it comes to Miller Motorsports Park — he has three wins in five starts at the 2.2-mile road course — but Dylan Lupton might be the driver to watch in Saturday’s EnergySolutions Utah Grand Prix in Tooele, Utah.
The NASCAR Next driver is coming off his best start of the season, a victory in the Bakersfield 150 presented by GPS at Kern County Raceway Park in Bakersfield, California. The Wilton, California, native battled Pursley on a green-white-checkered finish, cruising to Victory Lane after Pursley was black flagged for jumping the restart.
Two weeks prior, Lupton was also battling for the win late in the race, leading the NAPA Auto Parts/Toyota 150 at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Washington, as the white flag flew, but ultimately had to settle for a disappointing third-place effort.
Over his past four events, Lupton has one win and three top fives with an average finish of 3.25. He leads the series in top-10 finishes with 11 and has cut Pursley’s championship lead from a season high 34 points on Aug. 1, to just 15 points heading into the final three events of the season.
While Lupton may have the momentum, he’s still heading to a track where Pursley has been flat out dominant.
The 2011 series champion has an average finish of 1.8 in his five starts at Miller. His worst finish was fourth in 2009 and his three consecutive wins from 2010 to 2012 make him one of only 11 drivers in series history to accomplish that feat at any track.
Pursley was the runner-up finisher in last year’s event at Miller Motorsports Park. Dylan Lupton was third. If the young 20-year-old has any hope of stopping the series veteran from securing another championship, he’ll have to make a stand on Saturday.
The Race: This is the 12th of 14 events on the 2014 schedule for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.
The Procedure: The starting field is 36 cars, including provisionals. The first 32 cars will qualify through NASCAR road racing style (group) qualifying. The remaining four spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 50 laps (110 miles).
The Track: Miller Motorsports Park is a multi-purpose road course with four possible configurations. The series will be competing on the 2.2-mile course. The track is located adjacent to Tooele County’s Deseret Peak Recreation Complex, approximately 35 minutes from downtown Salt Lake City.
Records: Qualifying: Andrew Ranger, April 30, 2011, 85.192 mph, 92.966 seconds; Race: Greg Pursley, April 28, 2012, 66.387 mph, 1 hours 39 minutes 25 seconds.
History: This will mark the eighth annual visit by the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West to Miller Motorsports Park. The first four events were run on the 3.048-mile outer course. Subsequent series races have been run on the 2.2-mile course.
TOOELE RACE NOTES
Home Away From Home: Greg Pursley may not call Miller home, but his recent performances at the 2.2-mile road course indicate he should consider doing so moving forward. In five series races at the track, Pursley has three wins, one pole and five top fives. His average starting position is 3.4 and his average finishing position is 1.8. His three wins came consecutively from 2010-2012, making him one of 11 drivers in series history to score three consecutive series wins at a track.
Taking The Next Step: Brandon McReynolds is coming off consecutive runner-up finishes heading into Saturday’s EnergySolutions Utah Grand Prix. The 23-year-old NASCAR Next driver from Mooresville, North Carolina, finished second at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Washington, and then again at Kern County Raceway Park in Bakersfield, California, the last time out. Still in search of his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series win, McReynolds has been close several times this season. He has nine top fives on the year, including seven in his last eight starts.
Lupton Continues Successful Run: Dylan Lupton continues to extend his streak of consistent finishes, with top 10s in all 11 races so far this season. Dating back to last season, he has registered top-10 finishes in 23 of the past 26 races.
Top Rookie: James Bickford is closing in on Rookie of the Year honors in the K&N Pro Series West. Heading into the weekend, Bickford holds a 29-point advantage over Rich DeLong III with three events remaining on the 2014 season calendar. Assuming the 16-year-old Napa, California, driver qualifies for the EnergySolutionsUtah Grand Prix, he will clinch the award as soon as he takes the green flag.
LAST TIME OUT: Kern
Dylan Lupton scored his second career win in the Bakersfield 150 presented by GPS at Kern County Raceway Park on Aug. 30. On the first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish, race leader Greg Pursley was penalized for jumping the restart, allowing Lupton to inherit the lead just before the checkered flag.
• Pursley saw his overall points lead over Dylan Lupton shrink from 25 points to just 15 heading into the final three events of the season
• Brandon McReynolds scored his second consecutive runner-up finish and now has seven top fives in his last eight events
NEXT TIME OUT: All American Speedway
Next up on the schedule for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West will be a trip to All American Speedway in Roseville, California, on Oct. 11. Cameron Hayley won the series’ last visit to the .333-mile asphalt oval, edging out Derek Thorn for his first career series victory.