Many western movies end with cowboys riding off into the sunset, typically in a desert setting with tumbleweeds flying across the screen as the cowboys ride towards the sun. Many will say that is what Greg Pursley did after the recent NASCAR K&N Pro Series West season finale at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona.
With his ninth-place finish in the Casino Arizona 100, Pursley captured his second championship in five years with two wins, 11 top-fives, 13 top-10 finishes and three poles in 14 starts this season.
“Our goal at the beginning of the season was to finish in the top three in every race and we almost accomplished that,” Pursley said about his championship season. “It has been a great ride this season. We won a couple of races again and have been in the top three, top five every race, and contended for a win in just about every race as well.
“There are probably a few races that we look back on, that we should have won but something stupid happened. I couldn’t be happier for my guys. They have given me great cars to drive. I couldn’t be where I am right now without these guys either. It has not been a one-man deal. Jerry (Pitts, crew chief) has done a great job giving me great cars to drive up front with and the team hasn’t given me any failures. Can’t ask for anything more than that.”
When the checkered flag fell at Phoenix, the entire team was full of mixed emotions as it was announced earlier that Gene Price Motorsports, the team Pursley has driven for since 2008, was shutting down after the finale.
For Pursley, Phoenix became an opportunity to go out on top.
“I think as of right now, I am retired,” an emotional Pursley said in the media center after the race. “I’m 46-years-old and have been doing this for a long time. I’m happy where I was. I got to drive trucks a few times and had a great time doing that.
“Nowadays, its young kids and not too many teams are looking at 46-year-old drivers and if it doesn’t happen, I am happy with that. I’m happy to go out of here as a champion on top. Ever since I have started racing, I am not one to go riding around just to race. I’m very happy to go out on top.”
During his time with Gene Price Motorsports, Pursley helped Gene Price win three championships in five years. He has two championships (2011, 2014) and Dylan Kwasniewski won the championship in 2012.
Pursley is proud of to watch the success that Kwasniewski and former GPM driver Cameron Hayley are having in their careers.
“It’s been a really fun job to have, to come out here to race and help a couple young kids get to where they are,” Pursley said. “Fortunately, Dylan won a championship here. Three championships in five years and I am really, really proud of that.”
His relationship with Gene Price goes further than a driver racing for a car owner.
“He is not only a team owner; he’s like a dad,” Pursley explained. “I always enjoy hanging out with him outside of the track. Either we go razor riding on the river. We will continue to hang out together, just not at the racetracks. He has gone on to a different part of his life. He is up in the mountains now with his cabin and has some animals to take care of instead of a race team.”
“I have been driving for him for five years now and you can’t ask for a better owner in Gene. During those five years, he has given us whatever we wanted to go win races and championships. We wouldn’t be anywhere without him. Couldn’t be happier for him to let us do what we did for five years. We just want to thank him.”
While Purlsey is content to walk away as a champion, he is very optimistic about the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West and the future of the drivers he competed with all over the west coast.
“As you can see by the race tonight, we have a lot of young, up and coming drivers that are going to be really good and Dylan Lupton is one of them,” Pursley said of the young driver who finished second in the point standings. “It has been a lot of fun racing these kids. The more seat time they get, the better they get. I tried my best to help them out and give them advice. I am going to miss all of them. To race with them side-by-side and for the championship, the K&N series is pretty strong right now, both the East and the West. There is a lot of great racing you are going to see in the future.”
On his way out, Pursley did reveal one secret to the success he and his Gene Price Motorsports team has had during their time together.
‘Everyone knows the secret in racing is people,” Pursley said. “When we started Gene Price Motorsports we got to pick all of our people and its mostly people we have known in racing for a long time. All of them are friends and everyone has jelled together and known each other. Everybody has a great time and you can’t beat that.”
In his 99 starts in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, Pursley has 20 victories, 58 top-fives, 75 top-tens, and 20 poles leading 2,269 laps.
During his full-time ride with Gene Price Motorsports, his worst finish in the season standings was fifth in 2010. He finished second in 2012 and third in 2013.
With stats like that, Greg Pursley has earned that ride off into the sunset, but some hope that he returns for a sequel. Only time will tell, but for now he rides on as the credits roll.
– Kevin Ramsell, Director of Business/Midwest Editor Twitter: KevinRamsell
Photo Credit: Getty Images for NASCAR