BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Dylan Lupton scored his second career NASCAR K&N Pro Series West win Saturday night in a wild finish at Kern County Raceway Park.
The 20-year-old Wilton, California, driver battled championship points leader Greg Pursley on a green-white-checkered finish that pushed the Bakersfield 150 presented by GPS to 155 laps.
Pursley, who had won the Coors Light Pole Award earlier in the day, was dominant for most of the event. He took the lead from NASCAR K&N Pro Series East regular Jesse Little on Lap 108 and looked poised to claim his third consecutive victory at Kern County until the final caution and subsequent restart changed the course of the race.
Lupton, on the other hand, qualified ninth for the event and spent the first half of the race trying to work his way up the field. After making some adjustments at the halfway point, Lupton began moving up the field, eventually slotting behind Pursley for the second spot towards the closing laps of the event.
“My crew chief made an absolutely great adjustment to the car,” said Lupton about the changes his No. 9 Sunrise Ford/Lucas Oil/Eibach Ford team made at the halfway point. “It allowed me to drive a little bit lower on the track and I was able to start picking off drivers one-by-one.”
As the Bakersfield 150 presented by GPS got into its final laps, Lupton had cut Pursley’s lead from nearly two seconds to about a half-second. With three laps left, Lupton was putting pressure on the points leader, setting up a tense white flag lap, but then, the caution came on Lap 148, setting up a green-white-checkered finish.
On the restart, Pursley was black flagged for a restart violation — he took off before the restart point. That enabled Luptotn’s No. 9 Sunrise Ford/Lucas Oil/Eibach Ford to cruise to Victory Lane.
“Coming to that last restart, there’s a restart point and it looked like Pursley jumped it by about a car-and-a-half or two car lengths early,” commented Lupton. “That gave us the win right there, but, I think if we would have battled, we could have also contended for the win. We had a great car. This team works so hard and they deserve this win more than anybody.”
The penalty dropped Pursley to ninth.
Brandon McReynolds matched his career best finish with a second-consecutive runner-up finish.
“It was a good, solid run by our NAPA/Toyota guys,” said McReynolds. “We lost a little track position about mid-way through, but we made it better and just came home a little short.”
Little, fourth in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship points standings, finished third in just his third career K&N Pro Series West start.
“I had a lot of fun coming out here and running with these West guys,” said Little. “They’re just as competitive as any drivers I’ve been up against.”
Little took the lead from Pursley on Lap 81, but ceded it back to Pursley after a restart on Lap 107.
“I felt like I just pushed too hard after I took the lead from Greg,” said Little. “You could tell that he’s the veteran and just saved his stuff more. But our goal was to come out here and be competitive and I felt we accomplished that.”
Lupton’s rookie teammate James Bickford was fourth and Thomas Martin fifth. Taylor Cuzick, Justin Funkhouser, rookie Jairo Avila, Pursley and David Mayhew rounded out the top 10.
For Lupton, the victory came just two weeks after a disappointing third-place finish at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Washington. The young driver took the white flag as the race leader, but was forced to cede position to Mayhew and McReynolds coming out of Turn 4, settling for a third-place finish.
“That was a frustrating week,” said Lupton about his loss at Evergreen. “We lost it coming out of [Turn] 4, so this is a little bit of redemption here. These Sunrise Ford crew guys deserve this. After that loss, they were all frustrated and disappointed. I messed up right there, but coming here and getting the win for them is good. We’ll move on to Miller Motorsports Park now and ty to win us a championship.”
Pursley saw his 25-point lead reduced to a 15-tally advantage over Lupton in the championship standings. McReynolds is 11 points back of Lupton, while Mayhew and Bickford round out the top five.
Lupton, a member of the NASCAR Next class, earned his first win at Evegreen Speedway in Monroe, Washington, last August en route to Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. McReynolds and Little are also members of the NASCAR Next program, an industry initiative designed to spotlight the sport’s rising stars. Little, the 2013 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Sunoco Rookie of the Year, was looking to pick up a win in the series his father, Chad, won a championship in nearly 27 years ago in 1987.
The Bakersfield 150 presented by GPS will be televised on Friday, Sept. 5 at 9:30 a.m. ET on FOX Sports 1.
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West will next race in the Utah Grand Prix on Saturday, Sept. 13 at Miller Motorsports Park at Tooele, Utah.
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