When California’s Greg Pursley celebrated his second NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship at the end of 2014, he decided that the time was right to end his career driving race cars full-time. After selling off his NASCAR equipment he has remained out of the seat of a race car for much of the last two seasons, but hadn’t completely ruled out the notion of getting back in on occasion.
Now at 48 years old, Pursley has found the right occasion and opportunity to get back behind the wheel. This coming February, Pursley will strap in behind the wheel of a Super Late Model for the 3rd Annual SRL Winter Showdown at Kern County Raceway (CA). He will be making his appearance with the help of some old friends.
“I’ve been out of racing for a couple of years and I always keep in contact with my old crew chief Jerry Pitts because he and Jeff Jefferson bought everything from our team when we sold everything, so we’ve always kept in contact with them. I used to run the Southwest Tour and watching the Winter Showdown from the beginning, talking to Jerry, they got a new car sitting there. They’ll put it together and we’ll try it out,” Pursley told Speed51.com powered by JEGS.
Despite getting used to life outside of the car, Pursley’s decision to strap back in was not all that difficult given the quality of the Jefferson Pitts operation, and a lingering desire to get back in the mix.
“I haven’t been in a car in two years, but it was a pretty easy decision (to come back). When I left racing it was a pretty hard thing to do because I’ve done it all my life,” he stated. “I’ve been antsy sitting on the sidelines. It seems like it gets easier as time goes by, but the opportunity came up. We got a great sponsor in Shangri-La Construction, they’re a big company out of the area that do a lot of renovations out there, so it will be good to get them seen out there.”
Though he has only raced at Kern County a few times in the 2013 and 2014 seasons, the track became an almost instant favorite for Pursley when he won the first two K&N West races contested at Kern in October 2013 and May 2014.
“Always love that new track ever since it opened. We have a few wins there, I took to that track when it opened. I love it, it’s one of my favorite tracks.”
The first two years of the Winter Showdown have greatly impressed Pursley with the event becoming the new place for drivers to race for big money in the offseason. The race also produces great on-track competition while bringing together not just the best West Coast Late Model drivers, but also a good number from across the nation.
“Our big event out here used to be the Copper World Classic at Phoenix, that was like our Daytona starting out down here,” Pursley explained. “The Winter Showdown has given everybody something to do in the Winter out here and it’s almost become the start of the racing season for everybody out here.”
While Pursley did not declare a sure victory, he believes he and the Jefferson Pitt Racing team will have a chance to take a shot at the $30,000 check and winner’s trophy. But, just staying near the front will be a big enough challenge, given the amount of talent headed to Bakersfield, California that weekend.
“I think we’ll have a good chance to run in the top five. The top guys from around the United States come out here. Even being out of the seat a couple of years I’m not worried about it. We’re going to go test a few times before we get to the track and hopefully we’ll go to the open test the Sunday before. It’s not like I don’t know the track, the cars are pretty similar to what we used to drive. Just get back in the seat, knock the rust off, and get after it.”
While not desiring to run for anymore championships, Pursley is open to running more of the big Late Model events on the West Coast, but stated he will need more support going forward.
“Right now it’s a one-off opportunity. If it presents itself again and we can get some sponsorship, we’ll keep going,” he said. “We’d like to race a couple more of the big races, they bring out all the great guys that have been racing a long time. Lot of good drivers out there in Late Models and I would love to do it, just comes down to sponsorship.”
-By Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com CT, MA & Long Island Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Getty Images for NASCAR