PHOENIX, Arizona — Two drivers were celebrating after the 3 Amigos Tequila 125 at Phoenix International Raceway on Saturday night. Greg Pursley was hoisting the winning trophy in Victory Lane, enjoying his second win of the season – while Eric Holmes was basking in the glory of his third championship in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.
"I remember being a little kid and watching Bill Schmitt and Jim Robinson and those guys. It means a lot to me to be in a group like that."— Eric Holmes
Holmes clinched the title when he started the season finale at PIR, becoming just the seventh driver in the 57-year history of the series to win three or more championships.
Pursley pulled away on a final restart with seven laps remaining to capture his first victory at the track he called his 'absolute favorite' and put a positive end to a season plagued by bad luck. Pursley – who is from Newhall, Calif., but now resides in Parker, Ariz., where his Gene Price Motorsports team is based – won the Coors Light Pole Award in qualifying at PIR, eclipsing the record time he set at the one-mile track in 2009.
He started the race strong, but then opted to save the car for the finish. “We led there for a while and my crew chief, Jerry Pitts, came on the radio and told me we needed to save something for the end; we needed to save the left side tires,” Pursley said. “So, we kind of dropped back. We came in and got right side tires and filled up and tried to be really safe getting back up there, trying to take our time. We knew there were going to be some yellows at the end. Thank goodness, we did save enough. We had a great car at the end.”
Johnny Borneman came through the field with a late-race charge to grab second. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver and owner Michael Waltrip passed Ty Dillon on the final lap to take third, while Auggie Vidovich followed Dillon to round out the top five. Dusty Davis was sixth, followed by Brennan Newberry, David Mayhew, Michael Self, and Daryl Harr.
Mayhew led three times for a race-high 69 laps, while Pursley led twice for 37 laps. The race featured seven lead changes, among five drivers. The pace of the event was slowed by 11 cautions for 49 laps, as well as three red flags.
Holmes, who won the series event at Phoenix in the spring, worked his way from 13th on the grid to take the lead by Lap 70. But after contact with another car changed the handling of his No. 20 NAPA Toyota, the veteran driver from Escalon, Calif., opted to fade back and avoid more serious trouble in order to finish.
Holmes said he did not approach the event different than any other race. “I drove the race the way I would have done no matter what,” he explained. “We go to every race to win, then to get the best finish we can for that day. We did a great job getting me up front. It was obviously a great car, once we got up there. I was kind of cruising. I don’t know what happened on that one restart. I got into (Ty) Dillon and it ruined the night. After that, I probably could have pressed the issue harder, if I needed to get a better finish, but I had myself in too many situations and guys were a little bit out of control. So, we just brought it home to celebrate this and not have a totaled out race car.”
Holmes, with five wins and 10 top 10 finishes in 12 starts, finished the season with a 124-point margin over second-place David Mayhew. Holmes' teammates at Bill McAnally Racing, Paulie Harraka and Moses Smith, finished third and fourth respectively in points. Pursley ended fifth in the standings.
In celebrating the 2010 championship, to go with the titles in won in 2006 and 2008, Holmes talked about how special it was for him to join the list of three-time title winners in the series. “I really appreciate the history of the series,” he said. “I remember being a little kid and watching Bill Schmitt and Jim Robinson and those guys. It means a lot to me to be in a group like that.”
The 3 Amigos Tequila 125 will air on SPEED at 3 p.m. PT on Thursday, Nov. 18.
Holmes and the other NASCAR Touring champions will be honored at the NASCAR Night of Champions Touring Awards Gala at the Charlotte Convention Center’s Crown Ballroom in the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C., on Dec. 11.
For more information, contact:
Kevin W. Green, NASCAR Public Relations, 661/392-8543, email@example.com