Undefeated at Red Dirt: Pursley Powers to Mid-America Midget Week Opener Win

Daison Pursley’s most recent visit to Meeker, Oklahoma’s Red Dirt Raceway came three years earlier when he was an upstart, fresh-faced youngster just looking to break in and make his name in USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship competition.

That 2021 night marked his first career series victory. Now, three years later, the Locust Grove, Okla. racer is a bonafide USAC national championship contender, reiterating that fact once more at the latest edition of Tuesday Night Thunder on the 1/4-mile dirt oval during the Mid-America Midget Week opener.

Staring seventh, Pursley raced his way into the lead past Justin Grant on a restart with 12 laps remaining, then fended off all other contenders down the stretch to earn his fourth USAC National Midget victory of the year in his CB Industries/PristineAuction.com – NOS Energy Drink – TRD/Spike/Speedway Toyota.

The number seven has been good fortune for Pursley who has won each of his past three USAC National Midget main events this season after starting seventh: June 7 at Bloomington (Ind.) Speedway, June 9 at Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway and on July 9 at Red Dirt Raceway in front of his home state fans in the Sooner State.

“This thing is absolutely phenomenal right now,” Pursley exclaimed after capturing his second USAC win in as many tries at Red Dirt. “But for some reason, every time we start seventh, we end up here in victory lane. Maybe if we always start seventh, we’ll be all right.”

In doing so, Pursley increased his point lead in the USAC National Midget championship race to 87 markers as he became the first repeat USAC winner at Red Dirt after Christopher Bell (2018), Logan Seavey (2019), Tanner Thorson (2020), himself (2021), Ryan Timms (2022) and Mother Nature (2023) had all taken their turn at the front during the first five editions.

Red Dirt is just a tick under two hours from Pursley’s homeland of Locust Grove, and the place served as a home away from home for Pursley in his formative racing years in more ways than one. A former weekly competitor at Red Dirt, Pursley captured five NOW600 National Micro Sprint feature wins at the place between 2017-2021.

“It was another great racetrack by Red Dirt Raceway,” Pursley praised. “I really love coming back here; it’s such a fun racetrack. I grew up racing here on Friday nights in the micro. To come back here and race in front of all these fans, and especially to win at this place, it’s really cool.”

Defending USAC National Midget champion Logan Seavey began the 30-lap main event by working the topside from his outside front row starting spot, gaining the lead from pole starter Jade Avedisian by the time the two reached turn three. But Seavey’s pursuit of another Red Dirt victory was short-lived as he suddenly slowed on the eighth lap with a mechanical issue that knocked him out of the race, forcing them to settle for a 22nd place result.

Grant, who had surged from fourth to second with one big move in turn one on lap three, was suddenly thrust into the spotlight as the race leader on lap eight. However, fourth running Pursley instantly became the one to watch one lap after the restart. On lap nine, Pursley first charged around the outside of Zach Daum in turn two, then pointed himself to the bottom of turn three where he glided past Avedisian to snare the runner-up spot but remained a full second behind Grant.

Grant worked lapped traffic through the middle stages and managed to grow his lead to a full second. Nonetheless, Pursley decidedly chipped away little by little to close himself to within four tenths of a second of Grant by lap 19 when misfortune befell one of the frontrunners.

As Zach Wigal tussled to-and-fro with Daum for the fourth position, Wigal spun sideways to a stop at the exit of turn and was hit squarely on the left side of his car by 10th place driver Jacob Denney. Kyle Jones (12th) also tried to avoid the melee but came up snake eyes as he slid over the cushion to a stop. All drivers managed to return to the lineup with Jones (9th) and Wigal (10th) each managing to race their way back into the top-10 by race’s end.

On the ensuing lap 19 restart, at first, it appeared that Avedisian was the one making a surge to the front as she dug in on the bottom to move past Pursley momentarily in turns one and two. However, Pursley, who had just fallen back to third, was simply busy gathering momentum as he shot around Avedisian at the exit of turn two, then subsequently powered underneath Grant in turn three to overtake the top spot once and for all.

On the 21st lap, Daum took hold of the bottom line to advance from fourth to second in one fell swoop while Grant and Avedisian banged wheels in a fierce tussle for position. While that was occurring, Pursley precisely ran his lead up to more than four seconds with three laps to go when Kale Drake (6th) spun to a stop on the back straight, then was nailed by Andrew Deal (13th) who collided with the stopped Drake, resulting in Deal flipping over on his side.

Once more, Pursley went unheeded from the lap 28 restart onward and seemed destined to cruise to victory as he rounded turns three and four on the 30th lap. However, the rug was pulled out from Pursley after Gavin Miller (6th) got hung up on the turn two cushion, resulting in Denney (7th) colliding with Miller before spinning backwards.  Thomas Meseraull (10th), making his first USAC start of the year after returning from a late-March broken collarbone, also plowed in and stopped.

With the yellow forcing the field to finish the deal once more, the green-white-checkered restart went as smooth as butter for Pursley who escaped away from the pack to close out his victory by a 0.586 second margin at the finish line over Daum, Grant, Timms and Miller.

“I really wish Logan didn’t have the malfunction he had,” Pursley stated of Seavey’s early race misfortune. “I felt like it was shaping up to be a really good race with Logan, Justin and me. But this has been a dream come true kind of year. Now I’m just looking forward to hopefully continuing that success and it seems like this 86 car doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. I’m just very fortunate to race with three very good teams and hopefully we can keep it going.”

Due to unforeseen circumstances, Zach Daum’s regular ride in the RAMCO Speed Group No. 7p did not make the trip to compete at Mid-America Midget Week. In its stead, Daum (Pocahontas, Ill.) pulled out the No. 5d from his shop after his prospects to compete in the event remained up in the air. He sought an engine and found one after Illinois car owner Wayne Durbin stepped up to help by providing Daum a powerplant to install under the hood in the 11th hour. Once he arrived at the track, Daum did his part by earning his best finish of the USAC season with a second in his RAMCO Speed Group-Daum Motorsports/Kiwi Landscaping – 5d Speed Shop/King/Stanton SR-11x.

“Just being here a couple different times, normally, it gets a little blacker than that and the cushion gets a little bit bigger, so the bottom becomes really a lot more relevant,” Daum explained of Red Dirt’s characteristics. “We just weren’t as good as we needed to be on the bottom there late. For putting this deal together in about 72 hours, I’m not going to complain too much about it.”

Justin Grant (Ione, Calif.) led a total of 11 laps throughout the middle portion of the race before dropping back to third in the final tally aboard his RMS Racing/NOS Energy Drink – EnviroFab – MPV Express/Spike/Speedway Toyota. When all was said and done, he’d earned his third consecutive podium result at Red Dirt following a pair of runner-up finishes in 2021 and 2022.

“We were fading pretty hard right as that caution came out and I figured we were probably in trouble there,” Grant noted. “We were a little too good too early. We were fast all night and really, really good for the first half of the feature there. We were just a little free coming in. At least we’re back on the right track, it seems like. We’ve done a lot of work since USAC Indiana Midget Week. We’ve been trying to find speed and I think we found it tonight. We just needed some minor adjustments and we would’ve been in the hunt at the end.”

Jerry Coons Jr.’s crew tightened up his Central Motorsports/Schmidt’s Inc. – Gateway Paintball – Paintball Dave/Spike/Stanton SR-11x up after the prelims and it made all the difference. Coons (Tucson, Ariz.) responded by making his way from his 21st starting position to finish eighth and earn hard charger honors for the night. In six career Red Dirt USAC National Midget starts, Coons has now notched finishes of 4th-4th-3rd-7th-7th-8th.

Ryan Timms (Oklahoma City, Okla.) experienced quite the adventure on his Honest Abe Roofing Qualifying run. On the first go-around, he set a new one-lap USAC National Midget track record at Red Dirt of 13.032 seconds, surpassing the former mark of 13.108 set by Tyler Courtney in 2020. However, on lap two, Timms went for an absolute ride in turn two, flipping over six times. The 2022 Red Dirt USAC National Midget winner recovered nicely thereafter, utilizing the same car to finish fourth in the night’s feature.