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SoBo driver gets back behind the wheel

It is no secret that Stacy Puryear wants to get back behind the wheel of a racecar. But, with business commitments and no sponsorship, Puryear has had to put his desire to race on the back burner.

That is — until now.

Puryear will be competing Friday night at Tri-County Speedway in Hudson, N.C. in the Tri-County 250 CARS (Championship Auto Racing Series) Pro Cup race, driving a car fielded by Canada native Wes Gonder, who owns a multi-car team based in Mooresville, N.C.

The South Boston resident is also slated to drive one of Gonder’s cars in a CARS Pro Cup race September 1 at Orange County Speedway in Rougemont, N.C.

“It’s a blessing from The Lord and I give Him thanks for giving the me the opportunity to go back racing and to be able to do it in a series like that,” Puryear said.

“Not only do I get to go back racing again, I get to go do it in a series I love. I never wanted to quit running the Pro Cup Series, even when I had to come back and run Late Model. I was just doing what I had to do to try to make a living and survive.”

Puryear, who has been a winner in the former Hooters Pro Cup Series, which later became the USARacing Pro Cup Series and is now the CARS Pro Cup Series, said a chance meeting with another driver opened the door for this opportunity.

“I was at Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, N.C. with my parts trailer selling parts at the July 4 race,” Puryear explained.

 

“Harrison Rhodes, who has driven some Pro Cup races for Mr. Gonder, was running the big Late Model Stock Car race there. He said he was going to run some NASCAR K&N Series races, and that a ride was going to be opening up.

“I gave Mr. Gonder a call,” Puryear continued, “and went to Mooresville, N.C. to meet with him at his shop. I’m going to be helping them a little bit on the car and try to help them get it prepared and get it to the racetrack. It was just the right situation at the right time. It just fell into my lap.”

Puryear pointed out Gonder has two cars in the top five in the CARS Pro Cup Series owners points and Gonder wants to keep at least one of them in the top five in the owner points standings.

“I will be in the No. 36 car, which is the car that is fourth in the owner points,” Puryear noted.

“It’s a great opportunity for me. There is an opportunity there that if I can go Friday night and run well, there is an opportunity for more in 2012.”

Puryear has enjoyed a good deal of success in the past racing in the Pro Cup Series, and likes the heavy, high-horsepower stock cars and the type of racing the series offers.

“It was a great series when Hooters was sponsoring it,” Puryear said.

“You had so many good drivers, so many great short-track drivers. The series became flooded with so much talent that it just skyrocketed. When the economy took its downfall and Hooters pulled out, the series lost a lot of its glamour.

“These in the series now are the same cars,” continued Puryear.

“They’re back on a bias-ply tire, which makes it cheaper. The engines have come down in cost, and they have a rental program for engines that is a lot more affordable. The great thing about the series is you’re still driving the same type of cars with 640 horsepower engines and the drivers beat and bang and put on a great show.”

The downside of the circuit, Puryear pointed out, is the car count.

“The bad thing is, just like the car counts here, the car count in that series is low,” he said.

“It’s true that the series is not what it once was. They’ve been averaging about 14 or 15 cars a race. Racing is hurting in general right now, and car counts are low everywhere. It (racing) has just got to be more economical for everybody involved, whether it’s running a Pure Stock car at South Boston Speedway or running a NASCAR Sprint Cup car. There are not a lot of sponsors out there anymore, and that’s just racing in general now. I’m just very thankful for this opportunity.”