ARCA MENARDS WEST 150 @ IRWINDALE – By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA., Mar. 26 – The first of two ARCA Menards West Series races presented by the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame at Irwindale Speedway in 2022 had 16 cars (five each Chevy and Ford and six Toyota) at the San Gabriel Valley track Saturday. The feature event—a NAPA Auto Parts 150-lap contest on the banked half-mile—attracted a near capacity crowd of about 6,200. The race was recorded for telecast on the USA Network Friday, April 1 from 12 to 1 pm PDT. IS management followed the ARCA 150 with another fan-popular Night of Destruction presented by LKQ-Pick Your Part.
The autograph session for fans was 5:30 to 6:30 on the road under the main grandstand. Sixteen ARCA West cars were positioned two abreast in starting order. Drivers posed for photos, signed autographs, and gave candy to youngsters. Fastest qualifier Tanner Reif, 16, from Henderson, Nevada, was on the pole with Cole Moore, 25, alongside. Reif, driving one of two Bob Bruncati-owned Fords, was making only his second ARCA appearance after making his ARCA debut on March 11 at the Phoenix Raceway mile. Reif, the older of two talented Reif brothers, is a two-year veteran of Spears Mfg Pro Late Model Series racing. He drove the No. 6 Vegas Fastener Mfg Mustang sponsored by his paternal grandfather, who also financially backs his family-owned No 43 pro late model team.
ARCA MENARDS WEST 150: The first event on the busy program was the touring ARCA West feature scheduled for 150 laps with a mid-race pit stop break for all cars in the infield. Reif shot into the lead at the 7:06 pm green flag and remained out front all the way to the checkered flag. He did so easily despite the mid-race full-field stop from 7:34 to 7:44 for adjustments that ended his mid-race 35-yard advantage. Second place Joey Iest, 20, slowed on lap 63 with a flat RF tire after he brushed the crashwall and pitted to replace it, losing four laps. Later, Reif credited his strong performance to his rigorous training regimen for the longer ARCA races than he had experienced during his career.
A two-by-two green flag following the working intermission had Reif on the inside and Trevor Huddleston, the three-time IS NASCAR late model track and California champion, alongside. Third through tenth place drivers Jake Drew, Moore, rookie Austin Herzog, 21, Paul Pedroncelli, Jr., Takuma Koga, rookie Sebastian Arias, 23, Nick Joanides and Iest, followed. Positions remained largely unchanged, but Moore and Drew exchanged third spot several times with the top seven drivers on the lead lap.
The relatively tame race became hectic on lap 147 of 150 with Reif holding a 50-yard lead. Drew tried to take second from Huddleston and in turn three made contact with rookie Chris Lowden, from Las Vegas, who had been lapped numerous times. Lowden’s No. 11 Chevy swapped ends and backed hard into the crashwall with the driver side of the car. He escaped injury. The field circulated under the yellow flag from laps 147 through 151. The top ten were: Reif, Huddleston, Drew, Moore, Herzog, Pedroncelli, Jr., Koga, Arias, Joanides and Iest.
Another two-by-two lineup had Reif on the inside and Huddleston outside of row one. Drew and Moore occupied row two for the green, white checkered flag finish. At the start Reif accelerated quickly at the green flag and left drivers in his wake. Moore hit and raised the back of Huddleston’s No 50 High Point Racing Ford (an ex-Bruncati Sunrise Ford that Tim Huddleston bought from his IS co-promoter Bruncati). Huddleston almost spun on the front stretch but contact with a car to his left straightened his car and he continued.
At the end of lap 152 drivers received the white flag and started the final lap with Moore second and Drew third. In heavy traffic on the backstretch Huddleston’s car slowed against the backstretch wall and crossed the finish line sixth, the last car on ;the lead lap. Herzog, from Clovis, jumped up to third in McAnally’s No. 16 NAPA Chevy, Drew, 22, dropped to fourth with his RF fender dented, and Pedroncelli, Jr. took fifth on the final lap. Huddleston, 25, placed sixth, with the first six cars separated by only 4.623 seconds.
Seventh was Koga, from Nagoya, Japan, with 152 laps and eighth was Bogota, Columbia driver Arias with 151 laps. Drivers in order with 149 laps were Todd Souza, Iest and Joanides. Bridget Burgess, 20, from Utah, ran 148; 12 of 15 starters reached the finish line. Lowden, Stafford Smith, and Sonoma driver Paul Pedroncelli finished in P. 13-15 officially. The race started at 7:06 and concluded at 8:09 pm. The victory for car owner Bruncati was his first since 2020 when Blaine Perkins, driver of his No. 9 Sunrise Ford, won three of 11 races including runs in Utah, Washington and Oregon.
NIGHT OF DESTRUCTION:
Enduro 30: Polesitter John Beard led the first 16 laps. Fellow stock class Honda Accord driver Joe Labroscianco passed him at the start/finish line and led laps 17-27. Beard, who led laps 28-30 won the stock class 50-points. Runner-up Ian Rotundo earned 50-points as the sport class (with OHC) winner. Third went to fastest qualifier Bobby Ozman of the sport class. Labrosciano faded to fourth place overall and second place 48 points in the stock class. Jason Woolcoot raced from 18th starting to fifth place overall. Sixteen of 19 starters finished with seven on the lead lap in a 16-minute race.
Figure 8 25 laps: Robert “Master of Disaster” Rice started second and led all 25 circuits in his usual orange No. 7 Honda Accord. His 67th main event victory in numerous classes at IS elevated him jnto a tie with retired Rip Michels for second place all-time on the list of IS main event winners. Ian Rotundo, Bobby Ozman, Robby Salcido and Joseph Bereiter alsos completed all 25 laps with 18 of the starters still on track after a 15-minute event. No F-8 X-zone crashes occurred.
Skid Plate 15-laps: Robby Salcido started fourth and passed early leader Mike McIntyre on lap 3. He led the final 13 laps in his No. 16 orange Honda Accord. Runner-up and past skid plate main winner Austin Lee, from Ontario, gained 20-yards during the final two laps but fell ten yards short of victory. Rice was third and McIntyre fourth. Fifth place Tanner Huddleston, 18, took fifth in one of Rice’s Accords after being lapped by the winner on the final lap.
The advertised burn-down of an old van in the infield followed. The maroon pickup truck known as “Inferno” used flames thrust from the back of its J-10 aircraft jet engine to melt an old van in a few minutes in a darkened infield. The advertised and fan-enjoyed aerial fireworks show started at 10:20 and ran ten minutes, giving racers and spectators another entertaining IS night to remember.