By Vincent Delforge, special to KickinTheTires.net
Last step of our journey through time, it is time to evoke the 900th race in the history of the current ARCA Menards West Series, then called the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. The race was held on August 16, 2014 at the historic Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, WA. This 0.646 mile oval is hosting the West Series for the 54th time.
The first race here dates back to 1964. Remember that Evergreen had already hosted the 400th race in history and will host the 1000th on August 20. This is the 10th of 14 races of the season and Greg Pursley (Gene Price Motorsports) leads the championship with 34 points ahead of Dylan Lupton (Bruncati Racing) and 40 over Bill McAnally Racing driver Brandon McReynolds.
There are 20 drivers entered for this race. Among them are several rookies with 17-year-old Gracin Raz from Oregon driving the BMR No. 99, Austin Reed, a 20-year-old Californian who rides for the family team run by Dave Reed and the Washington State pilots and Evergreen specialist Dan Moore, 26, for John Wood and Kevin McCarthy’s team as well as Tyler Tanner, 19, who was the very last driver for Canadian Dick Midgley’s team. This team which was present between 1973 and 2014 holds the record for longevity in the series.
Unsurprisingly Greg Pursley, who showed incredible speed in every race in 2014, dominated the two practices with each time Brandon McReynolds in second position. Following an engine failure during the first practice, the pilot of Spokane, WA, Braeden Heavens, must forfeit, for lack of backup engine. They will be 19 at the start of the race with McReynolds on pole position, his second in his career, just ahead of Pursley. David Mayhew (McGowan Racing) and Dylan Lupton occupying the second row.
The start is given at 6:20 p.m., local time with a raging Pursley who takes the outside line at the exit of turn 2 and seizes command on the poleman. The two drivers did not let go and in two laps already had a lead of more than a second over their pursuers. Nicole Behar, 10th at the start, made a good start to the race and was already attacking James Bickford for seventh position.
McReynolds puts pressure on Pursley and goes inside. Side by side for one lap until Purlsey was loose off turn 2 on lap seven. The son of Larry McReynolds immediately takes over the top spot. Pursley looks in trouble as Lupton comes back at him like a rocket. But this is only an impression because the driver of Ford No. 26 finds the pace and attacks the leader again.
Rich DeLong III was the first to lose a lap to the leaders on lap 15. Passing Jack Sellers will be more difficult for the leaders because on the 19th lap, the mustachioed veteran goes crosswise in turn 1 and is passed left and right by the leaders! This allowed Pursley to pick up the rear bumper from McReynolds and two laps later he would dive inside on turn 3 to regain the lead.
On lap 34, Anthony Giannone slowed down with a flat tire but managed to reach the pitlane without causing a yellow flag. Gradually Pursley widened the gap on McReynolds and Lupton. David Mayhew and Gilles Thornton complete the top-five but several lengths behind.
On lap 48, the first yellow flag was waved for debris on turn 3 from Giannone’s car.
The restart is given on the 53rd lap. If Pursley retains the lead of the race, behind Lupton seizes second position on McReynolds. But very quickly the No. 11 car of Sellers drags on the track and will end up stopping in the backstretch. Austin Reed benefits from the free pass, his first of the race. Jack Sellers, dismounts, he doesn’t feel well.
From the restart Lupton tries to overtake Pursley but in vain. Very quickly the race took place in single file, only Bickford tried by all means to take fifth position from Raz.
The third caution arrives at halfway through in the 75th lap. Justin Funkhouser, Jack Sellers’ teammate, is stalled on turn 3. For the Californian driver from Paradise, it’s over. Officials announce that the halfway break will occur during this yellow flag. The procedure lasts ten minutes and all the drivers goes to the pitlane. The top 10 at the halfway point are: Pursley, Lupton, Mayhew, McReynolds, Thornton, Raz, Bickford, Behar, Tanner and Dan Moore. With Thomas Martin, Austin Reed and Jairo Avila, Jr., who benefits from the free pass, they are still 13 in the leader’s lap.
Funkhouser had barely arrived in the pitlane when he took the wheel of Sellers’ car to finish the race.
The green flag is waved on lap 77 and Lupton takes command at the end of the backstretch. McReynolds will take second place at Pursley two laps later. The fight between the two is fierce. Pursley is visibly faster in the corners but McReynolds manages to hold the advantage at the end of the straights. All profit for Lupton who widened the gap lap after lap.
Laps under green flags accumulate. Purlsey lost third place to Mayhew on lap 109. But the descent in the standings does not stop there for the driver of Ford No. 26. On the 120th lap he is only 10th and Jerry Pitts, his crew chief, tells him to return to his pit box. Greg Pursley complains of loss of power. The battery seems to be the cause of the problem. We connect the reserve battery and he resumes the track with five laps behind.
Probably pissed off by his problems, Pursley pushed Nicole Behar, then sixth, into a spun on turn 1, causing the fourth and final yellow flag. Austin Reed benefits from the free pass for the second time. This will allow him to obtain the 10th position at the finish. The red flag came out on lap 129 for seven minutes to clean up the fluids lost by Behar’s car.
The restart was given on lap 132 and Lupton continued to lead the race but ahead of Mayhew who overtook McReynolds for second position. David Mayhew who will put more and more pressure on the leader. Lupton has a lot of difficulties at this end of the race and it is a leading quartet that rolls bumper against bumper. As the white flag is waved Mayhew manages to put the nose of his Chevrolet No. 17 inside turn 4 and crosses the finish line as the winner, 196 thousandths ahead of McReynolds who followed Mayhew by the interior. Lupton is third ahead of Bickford and Thornton.
Mayhew only led a few meters but as Richard Petty said, the only lap you have to lead is the last one! It’s the third win of the season, his seventh career win for Mayhew and owner Steve McGowan. As for his crew chief Steve Portenga, this is the ninth and last as crew chief.
Only 11th, Pursley sees his opponents take back valuable points in the championship. But that will not be enough and Greg will win his second and last championship title at the end of the season.
For the record, know that Roy Smith was the first driver of Dick Midgley in 1973 and that he qualified the car in seventh position. 42 years later Tyler Tanner closes the team’s adventure in the West Series by finishing in seventh position in the race.
For the recap of the 800th race in ARCA Menards Series West history, click here.
Featured Photo Credit: Photo by Stephen Brashear via Vincent Delforge.