DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – official series release by John Tejada, NASCAR — Getty Images for NASCAR photo —
Every great athlete dreams of riding off into the sunset when their career ultimately comes to a close, leaving behind the silhouette of a champion as they hang up their competitive gear for good.
Very few get to end at the top of their game, which is what makes Greg Pursley’s retirement from racing after winning his second NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship special.
“This one is just as special as winning the first one, due to the fact that it’s the last ride for Gene Price Motorsports,” said Pursley. “To end the season and to end Gene Price Motorsports with a championship is pretty much the only way to go out. It’s pretty cool that we got to do that.”
The driver of the No. 26 Star Nursery/Real Water Ford showed no indication that his skills were waning in what turned out to be his final season. Pursley finished the year with two wins, three poles, 11 top fives and 13 top 10s in 14 starts this season, his sixth for championship car owner Gene Price.
Often times racing side-by-side drivers that were less than half his age, the Newhall, California, native put on a racing display nearly every week he was at the track. He completed 1800 of 1804 laps run this year, leading 454 laps in total — 160 more than the next closest competitor. Pursley led at least one lap in 10 events in 2014 and never relinquished the points lead after capturing it in the second event of the season. He ended the year with a 4.1 average race finish.
“One of our goals throughout this year was that we wanted to finish top three every race and then win some races,” said Pursley. “While we didn’t get all the way there, we came close. I think between Gene and Jerry Pitts my crew chief and all the guys in the shop busting their butts, we all had one main goal in mind and that was to go out and win a championship.”
Pursley’s retirement brings to a close a career with the series that spanned 10 seasons. A known driver in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series — he won the national championship in 2004 — Pursley made his K&N Pro Series West debut with an 11th-place finish at Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, California, in 1999.
For the next decade, Pursley would mostly focus his Whelen All-American Series commitments. Following his 1999 debut, he next ran with the series in 2002, finishing ninth in the championship standings after running the full season. Pursley would make five more starts in the series, one in 2007 and four in 2008, before pairing with Gene Price Motorsports beginning in 2009.
“I’ve known Gene for over 10 years now,” said Pursley. “I used to crew chief for his son at Irwindale Speedway (now Irwindale Event Center). The first time I drove a car for Gene was in 2007 at the Toyota All-Star Showdown super late model event there and we won it. After that, I kind of hit him up on driving some K&N stuff and low and behold we have a whole team now.”
Pursley won his first series race in his first event with Gene Price Motorsports, the 2009 Allstate Texas Thunder 150 at Thunder Hill Raceway in Kyle, Texas. He finished the year third in the standings, pairing up with crew chief Jerry Pitts in the final event of the season.
In 2010, the program took a relative step back. While Pursley won two events on the year, he only recorded four top-five and seven top-10 finishes, down from eight and 11 respectively in 2009. He finished fifth in the championship battle that year.
Pursley opened 2011 with hopes of putting the bad luck of 2010 in the rearview mirror. He won season opener at Phoenix International Raceway in February, his second straight series win at the track, but a simple walk across his kitchen floor in the middle of an early April night nearly put not only Pursley’s season – but his life – in jeopardy.
He was stung twice in the bottom of the foot by a scorpion he never saw. His family was out of town at the time, leaving him facing very real danger. He was eventually airlifted to a Las Vegas hospital and spent three days in the intensive care unit.
Pursley would eventually rebound, winning six races that year, accompanied by six pole awards, 12 top fives and 12 top 10s en route to his first series championship.
From 2012 through 2014, Pursley would go on to record 11 race wins, nine poles, 32 top fives and 40 top 10s. In six years with Gene Price Motorsports, Pursley had 20 wins, 20 poles, 56 top fives and 70 top 10s in 83 starts, capping off the incredible run with his second series title.
Pursley knows that the team’s success began with the support from the man at the very top.
“One of the best things we had going for us was our car owner, Gene,” said Pursley. “There was never anything that came out of his mouth about us having to cut down on spending money or testing anywhere. It was always, ‘We need to go out there and win some races. Let’s go do what it takes.’ Gene is the kind of guy that, when he does something, he wants to do it right.”
“I wouldn’t be anywhere in my career without Gene. You can say he let me fulfill my dream as a racer out here.”
So, what comes next for Greg Pursley? Will he go back to racing super late models or crew chiefing up-and-coming talent? Or will he look to start his own racing team and win a championship as an owner?
“All good things must come to an end,” said Pursley. “We’re going to keep the shop open here and we’re going to be working on hot rods, building hot rods and high performance boats. Other than that, there are no plans of racing.”
“Through GPM, there were three championships won out of here in six years, two with me and one with (Dylan) Kwasniewski. I don’t think that’s too bad of a record. I’m pretty proud of all of the guys here who worked hard to get three championships for Gene. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Pursley will be formally crowned series champion when he receives the K&N Pro Series West championship ring and trophy at the NASCAR Touring Series Awards on Dec. 13 in the Charlotte (North Carolina) Convention Center at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.