The 2013 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Sunoco Rookie of the Year checked off each of his goals last season and starts on a new list as the 2014 season opens on Thursday in the Arizona desert.
“I went into last season wanting to win rookie of the year, finish in the top five in points and win a race,” said Dylan Lupton.
The 20-year-old driver from Wilton, Calif., finished fifth in the final championship standings and collected his first victory in August at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash., en route to outdistancing Giles Thornton for top-rookie honors on the circuit.
This year the goals are similar, but a little more difficult to achieve. Lupton has his sight set on winning multiple races and earning a series title beginning with the season-opening Talking Stick Resort 75 at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Ariz.
"I think we have a good opportunity to win some races and get into the championship hunt, he,” he said.
With a full season of experience Lupton feels much better prepared for what is to come.
“I feel 100 percent more prepared than last year,” he stated. “The crew has worked really hard over the winter and we have a brand new car for the bigger tracks. We’ve done some testing and the cars are really fast. I think we’ll have a top-three or top-five car right out of the box every time out this season.”
In addition to his racing schedule Lupton is a fulltime student at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte carrying a 3.5 grade point average, but his emphasis on school doesn’t end there. The business major has a planned program of school visits throughout the season with the message that young people can pursue their dreams while still preparing for and attending college.
“We did a pilot visit to a school last November before the Phoenix race and it was so well received that they invited us back this year,” Lupton said.
His No. 9 Sunrise Ford/Lucas Oil/Eibach Ford and hauler will visit Ingleside Middle School near Scottsdale, Ariz., on Friday, the day after the PIR event.
“The schedule didn’t work out this time to do it before the race, but we hope to hand out some race tickets for the rest of the visits to get some people out for a great at-track experience,” he said.
In three previous Phoenix outings, Lupton’s best finish was a 14th-place showing in last year’s kick-off event, but he plans on changing that this time.
“Phoenix and I haven’t gotten along too well, so far,” he stated. “With the new car I think we’ll do much better and I can get some revenge on that place.”
(Same link will include the Speed51.com-powered NASCAR Home Tracks Race Central Live Coverage of event)
The Race: The Talking Stick Resort 75 opens the 2014 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship season. It is the first of 12 oval track events and 14 races overall on the schedule. This is the series’ 42nd visit to the desert oval and 33rd standalone event at the track. It’s also the fourth consecutive season to open at Phoenix and the 11th overall.
The Procedure: The starting field is 30 cars, including provisionals. The first 26 cars will qualify through two-lap time trials while the remaining four starting spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 75 laps covering 75 miles.
The Track: PIR is a one-mile speedway with 11 degrees banking between Turns 1 and 2; 10 to 11 degrees banking at the apex of the dog-leg; and 9 degrees banking in Turns 3 and 4. This year marks the track’s 50th Anniversary season.
The Records: Greg Pursley holds the track record at 26.876 seconds (133.949 mph) set on March 2, 2013. This is the first 75-lap event for the series at PIR.
PHOENIX RACE NOTES
New Blood: Eleven NASCAR K&N Pro Series West drivers will carry Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender designation into the Talking Stick Resort 75 at Phoenix International Raceway. Kelly Admiraal, Jack Chisholm, Rich DeLong III, Jason Fraser, Bill Kann, Jamie Krzysik, Griffin Steinfeld and Luis Tyrrell come into the race with some K&N West experience under their belts while James Bickford, Nick Drake and Rafael Vallina are looking to make their West Series debuts. Drake made a pair of NASCAR K&N Pro Series East starts earlier in the month and competes fulltime in that series. Vallina has made four K&N East starts and is a regular in the NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series. Bickford is making the move up the ladder after racing in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model division at All American Speedway in Roseville, Calif.
Oh Canada: Fresh off men’s and women’s victories over their American counterparts in Olympic ice hockey competition, six Canadian drivers will migrate south to Phoenix to participate in the Talking Stick Resort 75. Carl and Daryl Harr are fixtures in the series while Kelly Admiraal, Jack Chisholm and Jamie Krzysik are relative newcomers. They are joined by two-time NASCAR Canadian Tire Series champion D.J. Kennington. Admiraal, Krzysik and the Harrs hail from Alberta, Chisholm is from British Columbia and Kennington makes the journey from his home base in Ontario.
BMR Herd: Bill McAnally Racing, a two-time Phoenix winner, has four cars entered into the race. Brandon McReynolds will pilot the familiar No. 16 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota while Cole Custer and Drake are part of the new BMR K&N Pro Series East program and Kennington competes frequently in BMR equipment at selected events.
Conquering Heroes: Just three of the currently 28-entered drivers in the Talking Stick Resort 75 already know the way to Victory Lane at PIR. Gray Gaulding is the most recent winner having taken the checkered flag in last year’s season finale. David Mayhew picked up a win in the 2012 season opener. And past series champion Greg Pursley has three Phoenix victories to his credit including one in this event a season ago.
Unfinished Business: Cole Custer dominated in last season’s finale at Phoenix, but the 16-year-old didn’t leave with the winner’s trophy. The Ladera Ranch, Calif., driver had the fastest car in practice, went on to claim the 21 Means 21 presented by Coors Brewing Company Pole Award and led 49 of the race’s 50 laps. However, a nudge from Gaulding on the final lap sent Custer spinning out of contention and relegated him to a sixth-place finish.
LAST TIME OUT: Casino Arizona 50 at Phoenix International Raceway
Four drivers came into the race with championship hopes, but Derek Thorn used the inside track to claim his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship. Gray Gaulding used a final lap pass of pole sitter Cole Custer to earn his first win. Jesse Little and Cameron Hayley finished second and third, respectively.
NEXT TIME OUT: NAPA 150 at Irwindale Speedway
For the first times since 2001, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West pays a visit to Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway for the NAPA 150 on Saturday, March 22. It will mark the series’ 22nd race at the Southern California half-mile oval. Greg Pursley won the last Irwindale event followed by Derek Thorn, Dylan Kwasniewski and Eric Holmes – all K&N West champions.