TULSA, Okla. — A dream that Daison Pursley has had his entire life will be realized Tuesday night when he straps in to compete with Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports at the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals.
Pursley, 16, will race at the Super Bowl of Midget Racing for the first time. The past two years, he’s served as a crew member for KKM because he didn’t meet the minimum age requirement to enter the Chili Bowl.
Now, he’ll wheel the J. Davidson Scrap-backed No. 9p Bullet-Toyota in his maiden Chili Bowl voyage.
It’s something the teenager from Locust Grove, Okla., “has thought about almost constantly” and a challenge he’s eager to tackle, starting with Warren CAT Qualifying Night at Tulsa Expo Raceway.
“I’m pretty excited for all of this; there really aren’t words,” Pursley said. “The (Tulsa) Shootout didn’t really go our way with luck and everything and how our pill draw fell, but I wanted to make the best of it and build up my confidence for this week, which is the really big show. I feel like I got used to the building this year, even though our finishes weren’t all what we wanted, but I’m just ready to go.
“I don’t know what to say other than I’m pretty antsy and so ready to get after it.”
Though Pursley had some idea of the intense atmosphere he’d experience walking into the River Spirit Expo Center, he admitted it was even more powerful than he imagined it being.
“I expected it to be totally different than what it has felt like so far,” Pursley noted. “You know just how important this place is when you suit up here; you can feel it. I’ve hung around the Chili Bowl with KKM for the last three years now, but it’s going to be definitely unique this year with only 25 percent of the fans here that are normally here. That will feel a bit odd, I’m sure, but the on-track racing will still be the same. It’s still the Chili Bowl and we all still want to win it just as bad.
“I’ve been lucky enough to be able to watch and hang around the team, but to finally be able to drop in and actually get my shot at a Golden Driller is surreal. I still don’t think it’s totally hit me just yet.”
Pursley is regarded as one of the leading candidates to take home the Chili Bowl Rookie of the Year Award, and his relative experience at such a young age backs up many of those predictions.
He raced among the leading contenders with the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget Series all season and won his first POWRi National Midget League feature last fall.
Because of those factors, Pursley said he “doesn’t really feel like a rookie,” even though this year marks his first Chili Bowl appearance as a driver.
“It’s kind of weird to think about, me being a (Chili Bowl rookie), but for some people that really don’t know me or anything, this may be the first time they see me and what I can do,” Pursley explained. “I’m one of the rookies, but you’ve got people like Carson Macedo, Anthony Macri, my teammate Jesse Love … so to have all these top rookies during the same year that I’m going in for the first time, it’s sort of unusual. Truthfully, I don’t really feel like they’re rookies either, so we’re kind of all in the same boat.
“I’m just going to go in there and make sure I do the best I can do and just treat it like another race.”
After watching his KKM teammate Buddy Kofoid finish seventh in the Saturday A Main last year — garnering Chili Bowl rookie honors in the process — Pursley feels that the bar is set high within his team and that he has a shot to meet, if not exceed, Kofoid’s performance.
“I don’t have any doubt in myself or my abilities,” Pursley said. “I feel like I’m capable of doing exactly or even better than Buddy did. He was notable as a rookie, but I feel like he had just as much experience as what I’m coming in with … his laps were just more in winged sprint cars. So it was almost like he was down-stepping, but he was a rookie for the most part in the midget world.
“It was cool to be able to watch him do what he did last year. On his prelim night and his A Main, how he carried himself around both on and off the track was cool to see and something I paid a lot of attention to,” Pursley added. “I remember being in the pits with him and watching how nervous he was, but he handled it very well and made a statement in the end out on the track.
“I don’t see a problem with me performing at that level and I’m excited to give it a go this week.”
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