After delivering a 1-2 punch in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West last year, the two Gene Price Motorsports teams return for 2013 intent on maintaining the momentum that brought each team a series championship over the last two seasons.
The first look at the changes for GPM in 2013 will come at the inaugural UNOH Battle At The Beach on the short track at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway on Feb. 18-19.
Veteran West Coast competitor Greg Pursley, who won the 2011 series championship and finished second in the standings last year, returns to pilot the No. 26 GPM/Star Nursery/Real Water Ford for a fifth consecutive season.
Sixteen-year-old Cameron Hayley, meanwhile, is joining last year’s championship team. That entry will have a new look to it, with the car number changing from “03” to “24” and it now being adorned with Cabinets by Hayley sponsorship. Hayley of Calgary, Alberta, replaces Dylan Kwasniewski – who in two seasons with GPM won the series championship in 2012, took the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award in 2011 while setting several other records.
Pursley, who led the series in wins the past two years – six victories in 2011 and four in 2012 – says the team is working hard to keep their success rolling in 2013.
“We’re just really excited to move forward, again,” said Pursley. “We’ve had a great two years. We’re working on new stuff to be even better this year. We’re redoing a bunch of cars and building a couple of new cars.”
A major part of their effort is focused on the UNOH Battle At The Beach, in which Pursley has a locked in position by virtue of winning a series race in 2012. The non-points event will be held on a .4-mile oval on the backstretch of the Daytona track.
“I’ll have a brand new re-done car for the Battle At The Beach, one of the cars we very first started with here,” he said. “It’ll be a nice piece to go out there. I just can’t wait to get out there and get racing again. For me, it seems like it’s been a long off season. We’ve been working hard trying to get stuff done and trying some new stuff, just trying to stay at the top of the game.”
The opportunity to compete in an event at the Daytona International Speedway and be part of Speedweeks is special to Pursley.
“It’s going to be really cool to be able to go back there for Daytona,” he said. “Every year, obviously, we all watch the Daytona 500 – that’s the biggest race of the year. And to be able to go there and participate in the week to come, that deal is pretty cool. The layout seems pretty good. All the guys that are locked I’m pretty sure are going to be tough and ready to race.”
While Pursley is assured of a starting spot in the event, Hayley will need to race his way into the event through the heat races.
“My crew chief, Jeff Jefferson, and I are really confident we can make it in,” said Hayley. “We’re going to go for that win. We’ve been working a lot on the car in the off season and the relationship with the team. We’re going to make a statement come this first race.”
Competing at the “World Center of Racing” will also be special for the 16-year-old Canadian.
”It’s an incredible experience to be part of that NASCAR event with all those series there,” he said. “It’s a huge opportunity for me. I want to go there and make the most of it. Not too many 16 year olds get a chance to race at Daytona and I’m going to make the most of it.
“I think it’s going to be something totally different than we’ve ever experienced,” said Hayley, who is part of NASCAR’s Next9 program –nine drivers that are 21-and-under running in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series who represent the next wave of young talent set to make an impact on the national series scene. “It’s going to be interesting being out in the middle of Daytona. It will be interesting to adapt to that style of racing. I’m really looking forward to it.”
After taking Kwasniewski under his wing two years ago, Pursley now has another young driver to mentor as part of the Gene Price Motorsports program.
“I think he’s a great young talent coming up and I look forward to working with him,” Pursley said. “It’s going to be fun to try to help him progress his driving abilities as I did with Dylan and hopefully bring him along like we did Dylan to try to get him to win a race this year. Being able to get him to get a win or two this year would be really great for him and us at Gene Price Motorsports.”
Hayley, who finished second in his series debut in 2011 at Montana Raceway Park in Kalispell, Mont., appears anxious for the challenge ahead.
“It’s definitely a new thing for me this year,” he said. “With Dylan winning the championship last year, it brings me into a team that has pretty high standards. I think a lot of people are going to have high standards not just of the team, but for me. I think that will really help me to improve my racing and make sure I’m on top of my game and striving to do better and better. I’m really looking forward to getting into one of the cars and hopefully continuing on that championship streak that Dylan had.”
Looking to Pursley for guidance, meanwhile, is something Hayley has already started.
“Even last year, I would sometimes come to Greg if I was having trouble with something or if I needed help in a corner,” Hayley said. “Even though he was on a different team, I could go and talk to him, just get his opinion on what was happening. I think that will really help me this year, being even closer with Greg – just being a hauler away and being able to walk in there and ask him anything. He’s a veteran of the sport and he knows his stuff. Just to be able to have that direct contact between teammates is going to be huge for me.”
Pursley, 45, raced out of Southern California up until moving a few years ago to Parker, Ariz., where GPM is based. Since making his series debut in 1999, he has accumulated 13 wins, 15 poles, 36 top five and 49 top 10 in 70 starts. In addition to the 2011 championship he won in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, Pursley was also the2004 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion.
Hayley, who competed in four races in 2011 in preparing for his rookie season, has registered seven top-five and 11 top-10 finishes in 19 series starts.
The K&N Pro Series events will be just one facet of the inaugural UNOH Battle At The Beach. The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Models will have qualifying races and a 150-lap feature on Monday, Feb. 18 while the action on Tuesday, Feb. 19 will include a similar schedule of qualifying races and 150-lap races for both the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tours and NASCAR K&N Pro Series.