AVONDALE, Ariz. – 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 Int’l Raceway on Saturday.
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.
Kwasniewski – 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 Next 9 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.