Toyota Dirt Driver Spotlight: Daison Pursley

Toyota Ground Driver Spotlight

Daisy Pursley

Keith Kunz Motorsports Bullet Toyota

Age: 17

Hometown: Locust Grove, Okla.

Toyota development driver Daison Pursley was enjoying a breakout 2021 season with seven national midget wins, including his first two USAC wins, when he was involved in a horrific accident at Arizona Speedway on November 13. The result was a broken neck. and spinal damage that left him briefly paralyzed from the neck down. Exactly nine months later, Pursley would return to the track to race micros and just three weeks later, he earned his first national win on a midget basis since he returned from injury at the POWRi event at Lake Ozark Speedway. He will return to the USAC ranks this weekend at the Sweet Springs (Mo.) Motorsports Complex.

Daison, can you tell us about the incident?

DP: We were having a very good season with two USAC wins and five POWRi wins. It was unfortunate that it happened. We were racing at Arizona Speedway, and I was wrestling with one of my teammates and we ended up making contact. I broke my C-4 vertebra and had a major spinal cord injury. For a brief time, I was paralyzed from the neck down.

Did you ever think you’d never get in a race car again?

DP: I’m sure the thought was there right after it happened, but everyone around me was always positive. I felt like I made progress every day at the Banner Center, and it was hard to be down because the little things meant I was getting something back. There was a time when I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was always a positive attitude. We keep digging and digging.

How was your recovery from there?

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DP: At about four months, we started making big profits. I went to the Shepherd Center rehab center and they took great care of me. After moving back to Indiana, I joined PitFit and met the therapist and Dr. Trammell and made great strides.

From there I finally went to the Toyota Performance Center in North Carolina and they did an amazing job. I was evaluated by Dr. Heisel who is phenomenal and very helpful. He answered all of our questions. We focus on the sensory stuff, the eye-hand training. He was training like an athlete: catching balls, throwing them, developing muscle memory. My right side is definitely stronger so I started using dumbbells on the left side. We also learned a lot about nutrition and the correct way to feed the body. Within two weeks, he was in the simulator and I did very well, which was a very good sign. My body reacted well and after four weeks I tried a go-kart and it went very well. It was great, and Jesse Love got me up to speed very quickly.

At the beginning of August, did you return to the slopes in a micro?

DP: We raced the mic at a local track in Indiana and ran four classes just to get as many laps as we could, then raced the following week at US 24 Speedway. We ended up winning seven of the eight races we entered.

What were your thoughts on the return to the ranks of the dwarves?

DP: I spoke to a sports psychologist, so I was really ready to go for the midget. I didn’t have the accident in the back of my mind. I really don’t remember most of it. My mind was clear going to Davenport. It was just what I can physically do and get back the feeling of being inside the race car.

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Tell us about racing at Lake Ozark Speedway last weekend

DP: Saturday night was pretty frustrating. She didn’t know what she was doing wrong. I just felt like it wasn’t doing the job. Then, at the show, I started to relax. On Sunday we went out better. It was a very good night. We didn’t get into trouble, we took the lead and got the victory. I cannot thank the Keith Kunz Motorsports team enough. Not only for keeping a ride open for me, but for all your help and support.

How did you feel after the victory?

DP: I was pretty calm after winning. It was great to win midget again, but USAC is the top rung with the biggest stars and the series you really want to win. So when he races at USAC this weekend, it will really establish that ‘I’m back.

Did this make you a better driver in any way?

DP: People around me have told me that if you take a break from racing, you come back a little better. It’s hard to process during that time, but I think they may be right. Physically, I think I’m just as good, exercise-wise. Toyota and TPC got me in top shape.

What’s in the future for Daison Pursley?

DP: We’ll keep moving forward and see if we can get a few more wins this season. In the long run, as long as I run, I’m happy. I can do what I love. I am extremely lucky.


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