TEENS RULE ARCA MENARDS WEST IRWINDALE 150– By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA, Apr. 1 – ARCA Menards West drivers made the first of two 2023 appearances at the banked half-mile Irwindale Speedway Saturday for the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame 150. More than 6,000 fans attended. They also watched support racing divisions on the third-mile plus a fireworks show during the three hour event. Sixteen ARCA drivers started with the fastest qualifiers in front. The hour and five minutes race featured impressive performances by rising teenage stars. Three drivers exchanged the lead four times during the non-stop event that had three caution flags after crashes. Teenagers finished in the top three positions and two others teens raced in the top five as well before being involved in crashes.
Sean Hingorani, 16, from Newport Beach, started third and won his first ARCA race in only his third ARCA start. He drove the Bill Venturini No. 15 Mobil 1 Toyota Camry and gave the Illinois-based car owner his first California victory. Landon Lewis, 17, from North Carolina, drove Steve McGowan’s California-based Toyota from fourth starting to second, 3.870 seconds behind the winner. Nevadan Tyler Reif, 15, came from seventh to third, 5.956 behind the winner. He drove the No. 41 ex-David Gilliland Ford that he drove to victory March 10 with a final lap pass at Phoenix Raceway in his first race on a mile. The top three finishers are ARCA rookies and race in both ARCA West and ARCA East Series.
Fastest qualifier Trevor Huddleston, 26, is a three-time NASCAR late model track champion at IS and a two-time ARCA race winner. He earned pole position during 5:00 pm qualifying with a lap of 99.299 mph in his No. 50 High Point Racing Ford. The 2022 ARCA West championship car, driven by Jake Drew last season as No. 6 for IS co-promoter Bob Bruncati, is now owned by his father Tim, Irwindale co-promoter. He led early and opened a 20-yard advantage by lap 60. Hingorani and Lewis captivated the crowd by exchanging second several times. Lewis took second from Hingorani on lap 68 and executed an inside pass from turn four to the starting line on lap 72 to take the lead from Huddleston as the early leader began experiencing brake problems. Hingorani dropped Huddleston to third on lap 74 and passed Lewis for the lead on lap 78.
Three cars racing in mid-pack crashed together on the front straight during lap 80. Drivers escaped injury but wreckers towed the cars to the pits. Hingorani opened a 20-yard advantage by lap 110 as 16-year old Bradley Erickson, from Phoenix, and first-time ARCA starter Jake Bollman, 15, from Huntington Beach, passed Huddleston for fourth and fifth respectively. That made the top five drivers all teenagers with limited ARCA experience.
On lap 111, Bollman’s fifth-place No. 55 HPR Ford spun into the second turn crash-wall after contact by the sixth place car. Erickson was a close third on lap 125 when contact sent his No. 88 Mike Naake Ford into the third turn wall. He lost four laps but finished eighth with ten cars on track at the finish. The final pass of the race—the most competitive in memory at IS for the former NASCAR K & N West Series—came on the lap 132 restart with a two-by-two lineup. Hingorani started inside leader Lewis and executed a stunning inside pass from the fourth turn to the starting line to lead lap 134. He quickly opened a 20-yard advantage by lap 140. Tyler Reif passed Huddleston for third inside at turn two and chased the two leaders during the final nine laps.
Hingorani, an INEX legend cars, NASCAR pro late model, and Spears Southwest Tour super late model veteran, won by half a straightaway–3.870 seconds. He celebrated by climbing the fence and doing four pull-ups to salute fans. Reif trailed runner-up Lewis by 2.086 seconds. Huddleston placed fourth, 9.517 off the lead. Tanner Reif, 17, started and finished fifth this year after leading all 150 laps in the first of two ARCA races at IS last season in the No. 9 Bruncati Ford. He drove Bill McAnally’s No. 16 NAPA Chevy this year.
Irwindale’s 2018 Junior Late Model track champion Kyle Keller, 18, was the final driver with 150 laps in Steve Bohannon’s No. 70 Star Nursery Toyota. Seventh through tenth finishers were: Takuma Koga, from Japan, B. Erickson, Bobby Hillis, and rookie David Smith, from Canada. Huddleston ran the fastest lap of 18.685 (96.334 mph) while leading with a clear track and fresh tires.
The ARCA Menards West Irwindale 150 was shown live on the internet by Flo Racing. It will be telecast on Sunday, April 23 at 12 noon ET, 9 to 10 am PT, on cable channel CNBC. It aired the March 25 ARCA East 200 from Five Flags Speedway, in Pensacola, Florida on April 2. Hingorani, Tyler Reif, and R. J. Smotherman, 18, drove the same cars at IS that they drove to top nine positions in that race.
The next ARCA Menards West race will be Saturday, April 22 at the KCRP half-mile in Bakersfield. The schedule has races at eight speedways in five states—Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. It includes two road races at Sonoma and Portland. ARCA West will return to Irwindale on July 1 for round six in the 12 races series and the 34th race for the series at IS.
Three events on the third-mile followed the ARCA 150. At 8:20 pm 16 enduro sedans raced 35 laps on the six-turn R-oval course. Ten stock class four-cylinder sedans started in front of the six faster OHC-equipped sedans in the final three rows. Robert Walks started third in a Honda Accord and led to mid-race. Bobby Ozman, from 14th starting spot, led the final laps in his No. 18 1998 Acura Integra. He won by 3.467 seconds over Rodney Argo. Mike McIntyre and Bruce Marteney followed in sport class cars. P. 5 Walks earned the stock class first place 50-points. P.6 Tony Price also completed 35 laps;15 drivers finished the all-green flag race. The winning time was 13:32.070. Ozman turned the fastest lap at 22.112 and now has 17 IS feature wins.
The Tucker Tire Figure 8 race for enduro sedans had 14 entries and 13 ran in a 25-lap event. Robert Rice started sixth and led the initial five laps in his No. 7 Honda Accord. P. 7 starter Jason Woolcott charged into third by lap 3 and was in a nose-to-tail battle with Rice and Argo on lap 6 when Argo and Francisco Prado collided at the X-intersection. Neither driver was injured, but both cars were non-finishers. On the restart Woolcott shot past Rice and led the final 20 laps. He won by 4.594 seconds.
Bruce Marteney, a veteran AMA speedway bike D-2 rider, came from 11th starting spot in his No. 48 Acura Integra to pass Rice for P. 2 on lap 12. His runner-up finish was his best result in three years of enduro racing. Rice was 8.905 back in third place. Walks was a lap down in fourth with Price fifth. Woolcott’s 24.846 (72 mph) was the fastest race lap.
Next was the 15-lap skid plate cars race on the six-turn R-oval course with 12 entrants. Only ten cars made the grid after mishaps in the prior two enduro races. Some drivers, including retired 410 sprint car racer Argo, used different cars with metal skid plates mounted on both rear wheels earlier in the mid-60s degree day. McIntyre led lap 1. The pink No. 76 Honda Accord entered for Cheryl Hyland forged into the lead and paced the final 14 laps.
The winning driver emerged from the Honda Accord for a winner interview with pit announcer Tim Huddleston who exclaimed, “It’s the master of mayhem Robert Rice.” The Hawthorne resident had won his 75th main event in various classes at IS and now trails leader Trevor Huddleston by only three victories. Robbie Salcido (-14.679 seconds) and Argo were the only other drivers who completed all 15 laps. Rookie Anthony Pedregon was fifth with 14 laps. Rice ran the fastest lap of 39.448 (45.630 mph).
The red pickup truck named “Inferno” is equipped with a J-10 aircraft jet engine at the back. It performed a burn-down of an old car in the infield near the light pole. Metal sparks from the disintegrating car flew back to the third turn of the third-mile oval.
The final event was a six-vehicle 20-lap race on the watered shortened third-mile that uses the infield for the backstretch. Drivers destroyed four old camping trailers, parked on the front straight between the fourth and first turns, to garner spectators favor by providing entertainment value. For the first time two drivers drove through a trailer two abreast and were followed closely by two abreast drivers racing side-by-side through the partially dismantled trailer. The foursome demolished the trailer totally.
Following the ten-minute IS aerial fireworks show, fans voted by applause and cheers for the winner. Robert Rice, driving his usual Chevy El Camino, won. Cheryl Hyland and Robbie Salcido placed second and third respectively. The next IS oval track event will be Saturday, April 8 with the monthly NASCAR Night racing for points with other events on tap also for Easter weekend.