SALISBURY, N.C. – Daison Pursley didn’t have to file an entry for the TRD Keith Kunz Motorsports Giveback Classic presented by Rowdy Energy, nor does he need the marquee micro event’s grand prize.
After all, the recently turned 16-year-old from Locust Grove, Okla., already knows he’ll have a ride with KKM during the upcoming Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals.
Pursley drove for the Keith Kunz-led team all season long, picking up his first POWRi national midget win during that tour’s season finale on Oct. 17, and has grown into a regular contender in midget racing with the support of the Toyota-backed powerhouse. He’ll make his Chili Bowl debut in January with KKM.
That said, a shot at a $15,000 check and a marquee victory was “something I couldn’t pass up,” according to Pursley.
“When they announced this race, I knew I wanted to be a part of it,” he added. “It’s one of those races that you just want to win and make a statement in if you have the chance to do that.”
The Giveback Classic is back at North Carolina’s Millbridge Speedway for a second edition in 2020 after debuting in 2018 and then taking a year off last year.
On offer is a $5,000 prize and the opportunity to race at the Chili Bowl in a KKM entry to the winner of the 67-lap feature for 600cc non-winged micro sprints on Wednesday night, Nov. 4.
Should the winner turn down the KKM Chili Bowl ride, or if the winning driver won’t be 16 years old by the time the 2021 Chili Bowl takes place in Tulsa, Okla., they’ll receive a $10,000 bonus for a total payout of $15,000.
It’s that prize money that Pursley will be chasing next week, as well as the prestige of beating some of the top dirt drivers in the country.
The only catch is, it’ll be his first race in a micro sprint since the Tulsa Shootout on Jan. 4, though he did finish fourth in the Non-Winged Outlaw class feature there and believes he’ll have a shot to finish a few spots better at Millbridge.
“The shootout was probably our last micro race, but it was a pretty decent run,” Pursley noted. “Keith put a micro together though to come and run this deal, and hopefully we’ll be pretty good in it. I think this will be his first micro experience, and it will be my first time back in a Sawyer (Chassis) since I ran my own cars back at the (Tulsa) Shootout several years ago. We should be really good, though. I’m excited.”
The sixth-mile Millbridge dirt track is a similar bullring to Port City Raceway in Oklahoma, a track that Pursley grew up racing on and enjoyed his time at.
“It’s definitely a little bit different than Port City,” said Pursley of Millbridge, “but it’s the same concept of small, tight, bumper-to-bumper racing. Lap traffic comes quick, but the guys that race Millbridge weekly will be really, really fast and know how to work that traffic. It’s a balance, but I think a lot of the things I’ve learned will help me for the race.”
Pursley’s entry into the Giveback Classic is part of a bigger project for Keith Kunz Motorsports, which is looking to expand into micro sprints after more than a decade of fielding a successful midget operation.
Sawyer Chassis is aiding in the effort by supporting the rollout of the “Bullet by Sawyer” line of micro sprints, of which Kunz has two new chassis in his arsenal heading into the Giveback Classic.
The teenager is looking forward to being part of Kunz’s maiden micro voyage, while Kunz hopes that next week’s race is just the first step toward making his driver development program even stronger.
“For Keith to put two micros together – not just one, but two – and them to be Sawyer cars is really, really cool. And I’m grateful for the opportunity to be the first one to drive them,” Pursley said. “Hopefully, they’ll be fast out of the gate … and I bet they will contend at the front before the week is out. Keith knows what he’s doing, so this is really nothing too awfully different for him.”
“We’re going to see where this (project) goes, and we hope we can turn it into something that’s just as successful as our midget program if we have the time to do that,” Kunz noted. “A lot of our drivers have come through micro sprint racing in the past couple of years and we recognize that it’s a valuable step on the way to midgets because of the skills that drivers learn there. We’re not sure exactly what our path into the micro world might look like just yet, but we’re looking forward to Wednesday and hoping Daison can put together a great performance for us.”
Even if KKM hadn’t decided to field a micro for the Giveback Classic, Pursley admitted that he’d still likely have been at the event in a race car. To do it with KKM is just an added bonus, he said.
“If Keith didn’t want to build a micro or something had happened, I bet I would still be here anyways,” Pursley said with a smile. “I’m just grateful that he put a top-notch crew in place and we can go chase it together.”