2013 In Review: NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Top Performances

The 2013 season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West featured one of the closest four-way battles for the championship in the history of the series, with Derek Thorn capturing the title by six points over Cameron Hayley, Greg Pursley and Michael Self.

In his final year of a two-year stint driving car owner Bob Bruncati’s No. 6 Sunrise Ford/Lucas Oil/Eibach Ford, Thorn had a textbook season in winning his first NASCAR championship.

The 27-year-old Californian jumped out front in the championship standings early and built on that lead with consistent finishes. Thorn – who was originally from Lakeport, but now resides in Bakersfield – carried that margin through the season to clinch the title in the final race of the year.

As a side note, the final points for the top two drivers in 2013 mirrored the points of the top two drivers the previous year. Thorn won the 2013 series championship by six points over Hayley – 622 to 616. In 2012, Dylan Kwasniewski had won the championship by six points over Pursley – 622 to 616.

The 2013 season also marked another year of records being set. Gray Gaulding, who raced the full schedule in the K&N East, set a couple of records while competing in three K&N West races. He won the 21 Means 21 Pole Award by Coors Brewing Co., at Kern County Raceway Park to become the youngest pole winner in series history at the age of 15 years 8 months 16 days. And he won the season finale at Phoenix International Raceway to become the youngest race winner in the series at 15 years 8 months 30 days of age.

Top Driver

Derek Thorn: In winning the series championship, Thorn relied on a consistent performance throughout the season. He registered three wins, three poles, 12 top-fives and 14 top-10s. In addition to his victories, he finished as the runner-up in four races. He was out front in nine of the 15 events, leading 627 laps for the year. Thorn scored his first career road course win with a victory at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway. He also had wins on two short tracks – Stockton (Calif.) 99 Speedway and Colorado National Speedway in Dacono.

Greg Pursley (Honorable Mention): For the third consecutive year, Pursley had the most wins during the season – with five. In his fifth season of driving the No. 26 Gene Price Motorsports/Star Nursery/Real Water Ford, Pursley opened the 2013 campaign with a win at Phoenix and then came on strong late in the season, with four wins in seven events. With 18 wins, Pursley ranks eighth on the list of career series victories.

Comback Driver of the Year

Daryl Harr:  In his 13th year of competing in the series, Daryl Harr had one of his best seasons. He finished seventh in the championship standings, matching his career-best ranking of 2004 – which was his first full season in the series. He also had a career-best finish, with a second-place finish at Lebanon (Mo.) I-44 Speedway.

Carl Harr (Honorable Mention): Like his son, Daryl, Carl Harr experienced similar career marks in 2013. He finished eighth in the championship standings, which matched his career-best ranking of 2004. He also had a career-best finish, fifth at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash. And for the first time, he was the lap leader – at NAPA Speedway near Albuquerque, N.M.

Top Team

Gene Price Motorsports: Gene Price Motorsports drivers had another big year in 2013, scoring six wins collectively. They also dominated series qualifying for a second straight season. They accounted for eight of the 14 pole awards. On six occasions, Hayley won the 21 Means 21 Pole Award by Coors Brewing Co. Pursley, meanwhile, won the Coors Light Pole Award in two events.

Sunrise Ford Racing (Honorable Mention): The two-car effort of the Sunrise Ford Racing team of Bob Bruncati took home two big prizes in 2013 – with Thorn winning the series championship and Dylan Lupton winning the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award. In the overall championship standings, they finished first and fifth, respectively.

Top Breakthrough Performance

Cameron Hayley: Hayley had 15 top-10 finishes in 15 starts in 2013. He was the only driver in the series to finish in the top 10 in every one of the 15 races, including his overall finish in the two combination races with the K&N East at Iowa Speedway. After five runner-up finishes, the 17-year-old finally scored his first win – driving the No. 24 Cabinets by Hayley Ford for Gene Price Motorsports to victory at All American Speedway in Roseville, Calif. Hayley, a member of the NASCAR Next program, kicked off his year by winning the UNOH Battle At The Beach at Daytona International Speedway in February.

Dylan Lupton (Honorable Mention): After three series starts in 2011 that resulted in lackluster finishes, Lupton returned to the series in 2013 to score his first win and capture the Sunoco Rookie of the Year title. In addition to a victory at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash., he registered four top-five and 12 top-10 finishes driving the No. 9 Vadio/Lupton Excavating/Sunrise Ford Ford.

Top Races

NAPA Auto Parts 150, Kern County Raceway Park, Oct. 26: The inaugural series visit to Kern County Raceway Park marked the much-anticipated return of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West to Bakersfield, Calif. The first series victory on the new high-banked, half-mile track went to Greg Pursley – who early in his stock car career was a regular competitor in the late model division at Bakersfield’s Mesa Marin Raceway before its closure in 2005.

Casey’s General Stores 150, Iowa Speedway, June 7: Michael Self went to Victory Lane at Iowa Speedway in June, becoming the first K&N West driver to take the overall win in the East-West combination race. Self held off K&N East drivers Dylan Kwasniewski and Brett Moffitt in a green-white-checkered finish. It was one of three consecutive wins for Self early in the season.

Carneros 200, Sonoma Raceway, June 22: In one of the most dramatic series races at Sonoma Raceway, Thorn moved past Hayley and Self late in the event to capture his first career road course win. Hayley and Self, who had staged a classic battle for the lead, had to settle for second and third, respectively.

Casino Arizona 50, Phoenix International Raceway, Nov. 9: A season finale that included a four-way battle to decide the series championship also featured a scuffle between two 15-year-old drivers for the win. Cole Custer won the pole and led 49 of the 50 laps. But Gray Gaulding, who started sixth, caught Custer going into Turn 3 on the final lap and contact between the two resulted in Custer spinning and Gaulding becoming the youngest race winner in series history.