“It’s Unbelievable!” Pursley Scores First USAC Silver Crown Win On Last Lap at Port Royal

It took only two races for Daison Pursley to transform himself from a USAC Silver Crown Rookie into a USAC Silver Crown winner following Saturday night’s thriller at Pennsylvania’s Port Royal Speedway.

Perhaps no other Rookie in series history has notched as spectacular of a victory as the Locust Grove, Okla. native did on the 1/2-mile dirt oval as he erased a two-plus second deficit over the final few laps, then took over the lead with a highwire high side pass of Justin Grant off the fourth and final turn on the 50th and final lap.

In doing so, Pursley became the first driver in 2024 to record feature victories in all three of USAC’s national divisions: USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midgets, USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Cars and USAC Silver Crown.

Not only was it the first victory for Pursley in Silver Crown competition, but it was also the same for Team AZ Racing who, similarly, was making its second ever start and came away with a spectacular score for their Team AZ Racing/Avanti Windows & Doors – Apache Transportation – Oak Craft Elegant Cabinetry/DRC/Ott Chevy.

Pursley showed glimpses of his immediate Silver Crown expertise in his series’ debut at the Belleville (Kan.) High Banks in May. After a mechanical issue stymied their start, Pursley charged from the tail of the 25-car field to finish fifth.

It’s easy to forget that while Pursley is winning, he’s also still learning on the fly, just as he did at Belleville and just as he did at Port Royal en route to a magical night at The Speed Palace.

“At Belleville, I felt like we had a really good piece, but then the clutch went out on it and the transmission and all that, which is new to all of us,” Pursley explained. “It’s different than micros or anything I’ve ever had to drive with it having a clutch and all that. To be able to start the race, which is the first step, let alone race for the win like that, it’s unbelievable.”

Initially, it was Brady Bacon who jumped out to the early lead after qualifying for the pole position for the first time since the 2016 Hoosier Hundred eight years earlier at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. But the first stoppage of the night came early on the second lap in turns three and four when contact between Chase Dietz (12th) and C.J. Leary (13th) resulted in a knocked out front end for Leary. As Leary skidded to a stop, 20th running Nathan Moore collided with Leary, knocking both drivers out of the race. Dietz continued onward to finish sixth.

For the third place running Logan Seavey, Port Royal has been a honey hole of sorts with him being the only winner in the two-year history of Silver Crown racing at the track. However, on this night, he suddenly slowed on the back straight on lap 14 with an apparent fuel leak, which prompted a caution. After a minute in the Indy Metal Finishing Work Area, he resumed his race, restarting at the tail before driving to a 10th place result.

Moments after the restart, Grant was on the move, working past Pursley for second with a drive off the bottom of turn two on lap 16. Grant promptly began to reel in Bacon for the race lead, and on lap 30, slid past Bacon in turn one to take over up front. Bacon attempted to return the favor in turn three, but Grant shot around the top side of turn four to rip the lead right back for himself.

At that point in time, Pursley was in full pursuit in what practically became a 50-lap sprint race all while trying to figure out a way to make ground on and pass USAC superstars Brady Bacon and Justin Grant.

“I felt like I was pushing hard the entire race,” Pursley acknowledged. “It didn’t really feel like a Silver Crown race there at all with how hard we were running. Brady was setting a pretty torrid pace there, and if I wanted to keep up with him, I had to do the same. I was able to match Brady’s pace for a little while, and honestly, I didn’t even know how to pass him. I tried a couple times to slide him, and it definitely felt like it wasn’t going to clear.”

In time, Pursley had regrouped and chased down Bacon for the second spot in turn three on the 33rd lap. Meanwhile, Grant had grown his lead to two full seconds as he swiftly cut through lapped traffic. With 10 to go, Grant’s lead had ballooned to 2.4 seconds over the high-riding Pursley. With five to go, Pursley had chopped Grant’s lead in half to a mere second, but it appeared time still might be too short for Pursley to both catch and pass Grant for the win.

As it turned out, he did, in fact, have time. As the pair navigated their way past the lapped car of Mark Smith with two to go, Pursley made his run at Grant in turn three. Pursley slid across the nose of Grant, but Grant turned underneath to the inside of Pursley. The two banged wheels as they exited turn four with chief starter Warren Alston’s white flag waving furiously ahead of them.

Grant led at the stripe by a car length with one half-mile trip remaining. Grant slid himself into turn one before sliding up in front of Pursley at the top of turn two, stifling Pursley’s momentum. Pursley remained committed to the high side entering turn three for the final time while Grant once again slid himself from the bottom of turn three to the top of turn four. However, Grant wasn’t able to get to the top quickly enough as Pursley rode momentum off the cushion to narrowly escape around Grant in turn four and bring it across the finish line 0.519 seconds ahead for the win.

Pursley was followed by Grant in the runner-up spot with Brady Bacon third, Matt Westfall fourth and series point leader Kody Swanson fifth.

For the versatile Pursley, it’s the fifth different division he’s won in this year: USAC Sprint Car, Midget, Silver Crown, Micro Sprint and Winged 410 Sprint Car. But Silver Crown is an entirely different animal than all the rest, but the process of getting to victory lane in all of them – getting up on the wheel – remains the same throughout.

“Silver Crown racing is definitely different and it’s something that I’ve wanted to win in when I signed up for the six dirt races,” Pursley admitted. “This thing was absolutely phenomenal. I just had to get up on the wheel there after Justin got by us and make it happen.”

Justin Grant (Ione, Calif.) led a total of 20 laps in his Hemelgarn Racing/NOS Energy Drink – Super Fitness – Hemelgarn Enterprises/DRC/Speedway Chevy, but it didn’t include the one he wanted – the final one. Nonetheless, he earned his best finish of the USAC Silver Crown season to date, but it wasn’t of much consolation to the 2020 Silver Crown champ.

“It’s frustrating,” Grant lamented. “My guys gave me a car that could win the race and I didn’t win the race. That’s the end of it. It doesn’t really matter what happened between the start and finish; I didn’t do my job and we came home second. My car was really good tonight. I just feel like I let everybody down.”

In three career Port Royal USAC Silver Crown starts, Brady Bacon (Broken Arrow, Okla.) has now finished third in 2022, third in 2023 and third in 2024. This time, he led a race high 29 laps from the pole in his Chris Dyson/Concord American Flagpole – Macri Concrete – High Performance Lubricants/Maxim/Ott Chevy.

Making just his second career USAC Silver Crown start as well, Alex Bright (Collegeville, Pa.) picked up the night’s hard charger award, pocketing a $100 bonus courtesy of Irvin King after advancing from 13th to 8th.