Pursley rolls on in Vegas

LAS VEGAS — Greg Pursley continued his nearly perfect season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West on Saturday, leading wire-to-wire to win the O’Reilly Auto Parts 200 at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

It marked Pursley’s fourth series win in five races this season and his sixth win in eight races, dating back to last season.

“The Gene Price Motorsports Ford was absolutely on rails tonight,” said Pursley. “We kept it out front and saved the tires, kept the fenders on it. We tried to save it until about Lap 150 or 160 and then tried to let her go a little bit. We had a pretty good lead there at the end and brought it home in one piece.”

Pursley, who set a track record in winning the Coors Light Pole Award on the .375-mile track earlier in the day, extended his lead in the championship standings to 201 points. It’s the largest lead any series driver in the past 20 years has been able to establish five races into the season.

“This is completely opposite of our year last year,” he said. “Last year we had no luck. Everything that could happen, happened last year. Finally, toward the end of the year it kind of turned around for us. Our team kind of gelled together. My crew chief, Jerry Pitts, has been here a little over a year now and I think our communication has finally come together. He’s been a really good leader for our team. I can’t say enough about him. We have a great team. Hopefully, we can keep this roll going.”

While Pursley was setting the pace out front – his 16-year-old teammate at Gene Price Motorsports, Dylan Kwasniewski, battled back-and-forth throughout the race with several challengers in second.

Three-time series champion Eric Holmes swapped the runner-up spot over and over with Kwasniewski through the first half of the race and pressured Pursley at times, but eventually was sidelined with mechanical trouble. Kwasniewski also had to deal with veteran driver Jason Fensler, who made a late charge to the front after being involved in an earlier multi-car incident on the front stretch. The younger driver managed to get the second spot back after a spirited battle with some back-and-forth contact and came away with a career-best finish at his home track.

“The Rockstar Energy Drink/Royal Purple Chevrolet was awesome,” said Kwasniewski. “Our brakes started to fade at the end. We just didn’t have the race car at the end of the race. If we were closer to Greg, maybe we could have put on a show. We were just too far away once we got involved with Fensler. It was a great race and I couldn’t ask for a better team.”

Fensler took third, followed by Michael Self and Brennan Newberry. Daryl Harr, Luis Martinez Jr., Justin Funkhouser, Greg Rayl and Stan Silva Jr., completed the top 10. While Pursley’s amazing season continued at Las Vegas, many of his competitors encountered trouble, with four of the drivers in the top 10 of the championship standings failing to finish.

The last wire-to-wire win in the series was by Eric Holmes at Roseburg, Ore., in June of 2009.

The O’Reilly Auto Parts 200 will air on SPEED on Thursday, June 23 at 6 p.m. ET.

The next event on the 2011 schedule for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West will be the Thunder Valley Casino Resort 200 at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., on Saturday, June 25.

Pursley leads the championship standings with 920 points. He is followed by Moses Smith with 719, Martinez with 715, David Mayhew with 701 and Brett Thompson with 686. Completing the top 10 are Self at 683, Holmes at 657, Jonathon Gomez at 647, Daryl Harr at 631 and Kwasniewski at 578.