By: Richie Murray – USAC Media
Speedway, Indiana (December 4, 2023)………Fresh off a season in which he was recently named USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship Rookie of the Year, Daison Pursley is going full-time in 2024 with Team AZ Racing.
Pursley (Locust Grove, Okla.) will drive for Team AZ in two different capacities in 2024 as a competitor on the full USAC National Sprint Car schedule in the No. 21AZ as well as getting his first taste of USAC Silver Crown action in all the series’ dirt events throughout the year.
For the past five years, Team AZ Racing has fielded driver Jake Swanson on the USAC Sprint Car trail. Swanson recently announced his 2024 plans to run the full series circuit with 2B Racing. Pursley, meanwhile, drove the whole USAC Sprint schedule for KO Motorsports in 2023.
Pursley and Team AZ’s relationship dates back to October of this past year when both parties had an opening in their schedule to go racing with the USAC CRA Sprint Car series at Arizona’s Cocopah Speedway for the running of the Western World Championships in what was, at the time, a one weekend deal.
“(Team AZ crew member) Eric Wilkins reached out to me over Facebook messenger and asked if I had any plans for the 2024 season,” Pursley recalled. “At that time, I did not. I was kind of searching around, kind of like they were. They asked if I’d be free for the Western World weekend at Cocopah. We were already headed that direction with the midget stuff, so I said, ‘heck yeah, let’s go race.’ At the time, the plan was to just go race and have fun and had nothing to do with next year. I really enjoyed working with the team and I guess they enjoyed working with me as well. Craig and Michael (Burkhart), Eric and Wendy all just welcomed me with open arms that weekend, and I think we clicked pretty well.”
Clicked pretty well is an understatement. Pursley and Team AZ swept to victory on both nights of the 56th annual event, sending them both into the offseason as an undefeated pairing. And as good fortune has it, their 2024 USAC National Sprint Car slate begins at Florida’s Volusia Speedway Park in February where, across two nights, both Team AZ Racing and Pursley were each victorious.
“They’ve built a top-notch sprint car team, and it just shows night-in and night-out their preparation and understanding of what it all takes to go run at this level,” Pursley praised Team AZ. “They’ve been extremely good, and with everything they’ve built, it makes it that much easier for me to jump in a car like that and realize how fast this thing really is with all the expertise they have. Everything they do is top notch, and it just shows when you can go out there and sweep the weekend like that.”
With the knowledge of making a good first impression and then getting to work together before going full steam into the new year, it’s created a quite comforting feel for Pursley. As they enter the new year, their focus is now set on keeping the ball of momentum rolling rather than trying to start the push at the beginning of the season.
“That takes a lot of stress and offseason worry away, seeing how you jell with new people and seeing if everyone gets along,” Pursley explained. “Even though it was just one weekend, we broke the ice with everyone and just clicked very well. In Volusia, there won’t be any new learning experiences and getting used to each other, we’ll just be set on ‘go’ from there and we can go chase some USAC National Sprint Car wins.”
On the flip side of the same token, Team AZ Racing has recently acquired the USAC Silver Crown car owned and operated by Hodges Motorsports and had been driven by Shane Cottle for the past couple seasons. The team will give Pursley his first shot at the “big cars” on the dirt ovals in 2024 and it comes with a unique characteristic with the same driver and team competing in both the USAC Sprint Car and Silver Crown series, creating a full sense of familiarity in both aspects as they take on a new challenge.
“It’s all just very different; there’s just really nothing like it,” Pursley acknowledged about USAC Silver Crown racing. “You’re just going to have to jump in there in the first practice session, realize how fast you’re really going, then you’ve got to slow down and take care of your stuff for 100 laps after that. I’m extremely excited and grateful to be able to race on the same Sprint Car and Silver Crown team for them and for them to choose me to run their Silver Crown stuff and build it up with them. I think we’re going to be very good right out of the gate. It’ll definitely be a learning experience, but hopefully we can all pick it up quickly and I can do my job and get to where we’re racing up front.”
With KO Motorsports in 2023, Pursley racked up USAC National Sprint Car Rookie of the Year honors in becoming the first Oklahoman to win the award since 1992. Although they’ve parted, Pursley praised KO Motorsports for providing him with his first sprint car start back in 2021 and also giving him a shot as not only a series Rookie in 2023, but also giving him a chance after suffering a spinal injury in late 2021.
“I owe a huge thanks to them and everything that they’ve done for me,” Pursley said of KO Motorsports. “They run a top-notch operation, and I’ll be forever grateful for the 2023 season I had with them, all the experiences I gained and I just wish them nothing but the best. They’re great people, and I’m thankful for all that they’ve done for me. I guess it’s just business with us having to go our separate ways, but it was a very cool experience that I got to be a part of.”
Team AZ Racing would like to thank several longtime partners who’ve been involved in their program over the years and will continue in 2024 on the side of their DRC Chassis powered by a 1-Way Technologies engine: Phil at Apache Transport, Allen at USW Cat Construction, Steve at RSS Industries, Big Mike at Beaver Stripes and John at Western Diversified.
Pursley and Team AZ’s USAC season opens in 2024 with five USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship Winter Dirt Games dates at Ocala, Florida’s Bubba Raceway Park on February 9-10-15-16-17, plus two nights at Barberville, Florida’s Volusia Speedway Park on February 12-13 for the DIRTcar Nationals.