Irwindale, CA., Aug. 21 – The touring ARCA Menards Series West made its second visit of 2021 to the Irwindale Speedway half-mile Saturday. The NAPA Auto Parts 150 presented by the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame had 20 cars present. Jesse Love, 16, won his third consecutive ARCA feature at Irwindale in Bill McAnally’s No. 16 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota Camry. It was McAnally’s 16th victory in 34 races at IS since the speedway opened in 1999. It was Love’s fifth series victory. He won the series 2020 rookie of the year honor and 2020 series championship. The sold out race was recorded for telecast Saturday, August 28 on NBCSN.
The winner, from Menlo Park, CA, is a Toyota TRD development driver now residing in Cornelius, N.C. Love flew from Los Angeles at 11:30 pm to Chicago and raced Sunday afternoon in the annual ARCA Menards Series 100 on the Illinois State Fairgrounds mile dirt track in Springfield. It was his first race on a mile dirt track. He raced Bill Venturini’s No. 15 Toyota. The race was televised live by the MAVTV Network. Love told a TV reporter that he had a 20-minute nap before practice. He qualified third fastest, ran among the leaders all 100 laps, and finished fifth in a field of 16.
Fast rising, multi-division star Love’s success at Irwindale started three years ago when he won the mid-week three days Toyota TRD driver combine with about ten drivers vying for Toyota career advancement. Love excelled in all facets of the competition and won the combine’s 50-lap race on the IS half-mile. Love has won championships (2017 USAC HPD overall, pavement and dirt champion), (2017-18 Jr. Late Model champion), (2018 BCRA Midget champion), In 2019 he raced about 120 times. He raced Keith Kunz Toyota-powered midgets in the POWRi Series, raced in the Spears SRL Southwest late model tour for Naake-Klauer, and raced a winged sprint car whenever possible.
Love is the second year and lead driver in the three-car McAnally Nor Cal team based in Roseville. Love’s victory was his third in a row at IS. That tied him with McAnally’s No. 16 drivers Brendan Gaughan in 2001 and Todd Gilliland in 2016-17. Jason Bowles also won three consecutive features in the series (then called NASCAR K & N West) in 2008-09 driving for Bob Bruncati’s Sunrise Ford team.
Saturday’s event at IS had several innovations. ARCA qualifying by single cars for two laps was not used. Instead, all 20 ARCA cars had an unlimited number of practice/qualifying laps from 3:00 to 4:15. All laps were timed and the field was set by the fastest time for each car. Drivers ran from a low of six laps to a high of 48 laps during the 75-minute session. Eight drivers ran 40 or more laps. Two drivers contacted the crashwall. McAnally’s fourth driver, rookie Sebastien Arias, from Bogota, Columbia, crashed the No. 5 Toyota and was sidelined by a broken rear end. He had set the 14th fastest lap. Paul Pedroncelli, Jr., from Sonoma, set the fastest time of 18.424 (97.699 mph) to edge Love’s 14.494. The all-time qualifying record for these cars remains 17.781 (101.232 mph) by Butch Gilliland in June 1999 during the inaugural IS season.
The half-hour driver autograph session for fans started at 6:00 pm under the main grandstand with all 20 ARCA cars lined up two-by-two under the grandstand. Enduro cars were parked in the open chalet area just west of the grandstand. Later, ARCA drivers drove their cars west through the pits to the half-mile track for driver introductions on the front straightaway minutes before pace laps.
The ARCA 150 with 19 cars started at 7:05 with some of the sold-out 6,500 spectators still entering the parking lot and main entrance gate. Trevor Huddleston, the third fastest qualifier and three-time NASCAR track champion (2015-17), shot from inside row two and led the initial lap in Bob Bruncatti’s Sunrise Ford No. 6. Pedroncelli, Jr. (No. 33 Toyota), Jake Drew (Sunrise Ford No. 9), Love, and July 31 Colorado ARCA first-time winner Joey Iest, (No. 54 Ford) followed. A spinout caused four laps under caution. The green flag on lap 8 enabled Drew, Love, Cole Moore and Iest to pass Pedroncelli.
On lap 18, Love took second from ARCA rookie/IS NASCAR late model regular Drew, 21, At lap 25 Huddleston, 25, increased his lead to 30-yards over teammate Drew, who passed Love on lap 20. Love retook second on lap 46. At lap 50 Huddleston had a 50-yard advantage over Love with Drew, Iest, ARCA rookie/2020 Spears SLM champion Moore, Pedroncelli, John Borneman III and Ryan Partridge following. Partridge was driving the HPR Ford No. 51 on short notice. Regular driver Dean :Thompson had tested positive for COVID-19 and was at home. His crew chief/spotter took the ride and qualified ninth fastest. Partridge had years of driving experience in the series and won features in the Sunrise Ford No. 9 through 2019. In July and August at IS he won a pair of features at IS sub-driving a spec late model on the half-mile. He now is a 62-time IS feature winner and ranks fourth in the track record book.
Huddleston, the all-time IS feature wins leader with 70, lapped up to seventh position by lap 59 when he passed Borneman. The halfway break came at lap 77 and all cars went to the infield pits on the third-mile in turns three and four. A two-by-two restart, with Huddleston outside and Love inside, came on lap 81. The two leaders battled evenly with Huddleston high and Love low for seven laps. On lap 88 Love used an inside move from turn four to start/finish to take command. He opened a ten yard advantage by lap 95.
The scoring pylon showed the leaders as Love, Huddleston, Iest, Drew, Moore, Pedroncelli, Jr., Partridge, plus Todd Souza on the lead lap. Newcomer Brian Karnisky spun into the fourth turn crashwall on lap 104 without injury. A wrecker towed his car to the pits and racing resumed on lap 115. Another two-abreast start had eight cars on the lead serial. Pedroncelli took P. 4 from Iest on lap 118. At lap 125 Love held a 25-yard lead over Huddleston, with Drew third.
On lap 130 Huddleston slowed suddenly with an electrical problem and fell back. He stopped at the end of the backstretch near the protective K-rail temporary inside wall. Huddleston lost three laps before he restarted without pitting and rejoined the back of the field. The two-by-two lineup had Love outside and Drew inside. The green flag on lap 136 found Love, Drew, Iest, and Pedroncelli in the first four positions. A broken rear end on Bridget Burgess’ No. 88 Chevy on lap 146 caused a yellow flag and overtime.
A green, white checkered flag final two laps had Pedroncelli pass Iest on lap 152 and earn third place. Fourth through tenth were: Iest, Partridge, who passed Moore on the white flag lap, Moore, Souza and Takuma Koga, from Japan, on the lead lap. Lapped driver Eric Nascimento and Huddleston placed ninth and tenth. Thirteen of 19 starters, including three females, finished with eight logging 153 laps. The race took 68 minutes. Drew clocked the fastest lap of 18.771 (95.893 mph).
Four of nine scheduled ARCA Menards West races remain. They are: Portland (Sept. 10), Las Vegas bullring (Sept. 23), Roseville (Oct. 9) and Phoenix Raceway (Nov. 6). Four drivers have won the first five events. Ty Gibbs, 18, won at Phoenix, NASCAR Cup rookie Chase Briscoe won the Sonoma road race, Love won the July 3 and August 21 Irwindale 150s, and Iest won the Dacono, Colorado 150.
Five Night of Destruction Pick Your Part events concluded the busy evening from 8:40 to 10:35 pm.
> Tucker Tire Enduros 30: A field of 15 four-cylinder sedans raced a non-points event with a single winner. Fastest qualifier Ian Rotundo led 11 lasps from pole position. Fellow sport class driver Bobby Ozman came from fourth starting and led laps 12-30 in his 1998 Acura Integra. Runner-up Rick Conti started third and dropped Rotundo to P. 3 on lap 29. Robert Rice was fourth and Robby Salcido fifth. The all-green race took 11-minutes; the winner averaged 78.339 mph. All 15 starters finished with seven on the lead lap. Ozman turned the quickest lap on the six turn r-oval at 81.647 mph. Rotundo broke his own month old lap record of 22.728 with his 22.454 (79 mph) lap during group qualifying.
> Figure 8: Eleven enduro sedans raced 25-laps on the usual F-8 infield course. The race had an unprecedented three different leaders on the final three laps. Robert Rice (No. 7 Honda Accord) led the first 22 laps. The first four cars of Rice, Salcido, Rodney Argo and Jason Woolcott were nose-to-tail on lap 23 when Argo and Salcido dropped Rice to third. On the next lap the top three crossed the intersection three-wide with Salcido leading Rice. Then Rice hit Argo’s No. 42 Honda which spun out just past the X and stalled along with involved Rick Conti. The yellow flag flew and involved No. 6 pitted. Salcido led lap 24 over pressing Rice with Wollcott and Rotundo in P. 3-4. On lap 25 Rice pushed leader Salcido wide in the final two turns and won his 65th IS main. Woolcott also passed Salcido in the final turn. Salcido settled for third. Rotundo and Mike DiGregorio (No. 37 Honda) followed with nine of 15 starters on track at the finish.
> Skid Plate Cars: The scheduled 20 lap race was cut to 15 laps because of the busy schedule. Polesitter Salcido led laps 1 and 3 through 6. Austin Lee, the July 3 skid plate winner, led lap 2. All-time skid plate winner Mike DiGregorio came from last starting spot in an 18-car field and led laps 7-15. He drove the same battered No. 18 Honda Accord in which he won all of his 24 features. Lee placed second, 30-yards back, and Salcido was third. Rice and first-time racer Rider Gardner, 19, completed the top five with six of 14 racers on the lead lap. The all-green race took 10:33.956; the winner averaged 42.590 mph.
> Next up was the burndown of an old car in the infield by the red pickup truck “Inferno, which has an aircraft jet engine mounted on the back. Fiery thrusts from the jet took only four minutes to obliterate the car just before 10 pm.
> Trailer Race: Eight competitors drove sedans, El Caminos, or pickup trucks towing trailers with boats, jet skis or assorted cargo. They used the watered-down third-mile oval and drove through two old house trailers parked on the front straight. They drove to win the applause/cheers of spectators in the packed grandstand for providing the most destructive entertainment. After 20 laps only four vehicles were still running at the 10:20 pm checkered flag. Spectator cheers and applause gave the victory to Cheryl “Mistress of Mayhem” Hyland and her pink No. 176 station wagon. Earlier, her decorated boat won the $250 cash for best appearing trailler. Entrant Tanner Huddleston, 18, dropped out early in the No. 20 pickup. His only other race was six years ago when he raced the family No. 50 Bandolero once.
A ten-minute fireworks show launched from beyond backstretch billboards concluded shortly after 10:35 pm. The next IS event (Sat. Sept. 11) will be another NASCAR Night with multiple divisions racing on the half and third-mile ovals and another fireworks show.