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ARCA Menards Series West

ARCA Menards Series West

LOS ANGELES – The second ARCA Menards Series West race of 2021 at Irwindale Speedway occurred in front of a sold out crowd of 6,500. The car count increased from 18 on July 3 to 20 on August 21. The NAPA Auto Parts 150 was presented again by the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame. NBCSN recorded the race for a one-hour national telecast on August 28. It captured the competitiveness and intensity of the event. The 150 started at 7:05 and concluded at 8:13. There were six caution flags, including the mid-race break, totaling 38 laps.
There were eight Toyotas, seven Fords and five Chevrolets. A mid-race full-field break for service took place on the third-mile oval in turns three and four so spectators could watch pit work. For the first time at I, ARCA held the autograph session for fans under the main grandstand instead of on the front straight. Drivers were introduced individually on the front walkway of the grandstand. Then they got into their race cars and drove to the backstretch and to the front straight for usual intros row by row.
There were three female drivers—Amber Balcaen, 29, Bridget Burgess, 19, and rookie Mariah Boudrieau, 20, from Colorado Springs, Colorado. Mariah has raced late models at Colorado National Speedway. She raced the No, 77 Toyota at IS for So Cal car owner Joe Nava. Balcaen is from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Burgess, from Brisbane, Australia, now resides in Utah. There also were two drivers from Japan—Takuma Koga, from Nagoya, and Hiroyuki Ueno, from Osaka. Balcaen qualified 11th fastest, Burgess was 13th and Boudrieau 17th quickest. Koga was 12th fastest and Ueno 18th best. Paul Pedroncelli, Jr was fastest at 97.699 mph and his father was 20th at 86.622 mph so they bookended the field.
First-time ARCA driver Sebastian Arias, 21, is from Bogota, Columbia. He said he wants to be the next Columbia-born driver after Juan Pablo Montoya to make his mark in the United States. He began racing at age 11 in karting. His father Nestor is his biggest fan and supporter. He sold the family home in Bogota to finance Sebastian's rise through the ranks to his ultimate goal—NASCAR. His dad's money ran out years ago, but Sebastian has teamed with his management company InterPhase Entertainment. BradyIFS, a large janitorial and food service distributor in the western United States is sponsoring him currently.
Arias made his US debut at Irwindale August 21. He drove a fourth Bill McAnally Toyota Camry, the No. 5 that So Cal's Lawless Alan raced last year as No. 12. During practice from 3:00 to 4:15, all 20 drivers ran as many laps as they wanted on the half-mile. Arias turned the 14th fastest time (93.250 mph) on his 27th of 28 laps. He earned a starting spot outside in row seven. Unfortunately, he contacted the crashwall in turn three and broke the rear end and driveshaft according to his crew, so he did not start the race. However, he did participate in the driver autograph session.
The innovative qualifying session used by the series at Irwindale for the first time counted all practice laps run by each driver as official qualifying laps. Drivers ran a low of six and eight laps and a high of 48 laps. Eight drivers ran 40 or more practice/qualifying laps. Most drivers logged their fastest laps during their last couple of laps.
Half of the 20 car field consisted of ARCA West rookies. They included: Cole Moore, 25, the 2020 Spears SRL SWT champion, Joey Iest, 18, ARCA July 31 Dacono, Colorado 150 winner, Eric Nasciemento, IS NASCAR late model regular Jake Drew, 21, driving the Sunrise Ford No. 9, Balcaen, Boudrieau, Ueno, Arias, Pedroncelli, Sr., and Nor Cal's Brian Kamisky.
Entered driver Dean Thompson, 20, was home after testing positive for COVID-19. His crew chief/spotter/driving coach Ryan Partridge became the substitute driver of the HPR No. 51 Ford. He turned the ninth fastest qualifying time. Partridge had raced in the series regularly in Bob Bruncati's No. 9 Ford through the 2019 season and had won five races in the touring series and finished second in series points when it was known as NASCAR K & N West.
Partridge, 33, was the ideal choice as substitute driver. He was the chief driving instructor at IS for the track driving school. He did not race in 2020 and came out of retirement to race a NASCAR spec late model twice for a recuperating driver in July and August. He won both races on the half-mile to bring his IS feature victories to 62, fourth best all time at the track. He finished the ARCA 150 fifth as one of 13 finishers and eight drivers on the lead lap. Runner-up Drew trailed the winner by half a second. The top eight finishers were within 2.728 seconds. The ARCA 150 went into overtime and ran 153 laps because of a lap 146 yellow flag.
Trevor Huddleston, the IS three-time (2015-17) NASCAR late model champion, shot from inside row two and led the first 87 laps in Bob Bruncati's Sunrise Ford No. 6. Huddleston, 25, has won the most main events in IS history after recording his 70th recently. He waged a stirring duel with sensational Toyota TRD rising star Jesse Love, 16. Love led laps 88-153 in McAnally's No. 16 NAPA Toyota. That gave him three consecutive ARCA feature triumphs at IS. Three years ago at IS Jesse won a three-day Toyota combine with ten young drivers participating to secure Toyota career development backing.
Jesse, the 2018 BCRA midget champion and a 2017-18 junior late model champion, has also raced Toyota-powered midgets for Keith Kunz in POWRi. He won the 2020 ARCA Menards West rookie of the year title and championship driving McAnally's No. 19 Toyota. The versatile teen became the youngest ARCA champion in a NASCAR touring series. In his spare time he also raced super late models and winged sprint cars.
Love, from Menlo Park, California, now lives in Cornelius, North Carolina. He flew out of Los Angeles Saturday at 11:30 pm to Chicago and raced Sunday afternoon, August 22 in the ARCA Menards annual Springfield 100-lap race that MAVTV televised nationally. It was his first race on a mile dirt track. He told viewers he had a 20-minute nap before practice started. Love started third, raced near the front, and finished fifth in a 16-car field. Championship contender Corey Heim, 18, won in the No. 20 Venturini Motorsports Toyota for his sixth ARCA victory this season.
Ty Gibbs, 18, ran up front and placed second in a Joe Gibbs No. 18 Toyota. The son of ex-Stanford football player Coy Gibbs has won nine of 16 ARCA Menards features to September 1 and three of seven ARCA Menards East races through August. He also drove the No. 54 Gibbs Toyota to three NASCAR Xfinity Series victories (at Daytona Beach, Charlotte, and the Watkins Glen road course). Surely, teenagers Gibbs and Love eventually will be Toyota NASCAR Cup top drivers.
An even younger stock car driver to follow is Landen Lewis, 15, from North Carolina. The high school sophomore set the fastest qualifying time in a 16-car field of ARCA Menards Series drivers at the DuQuoin, Ill. Fairground one-mile dirt track on Sunday, September 5. He started the black No. 2 Chevy on pole and led all 100-laps in a race televised live by MAVTV. He was 12-seconds in front of second place on the final lap when a spinning car caused a caution flag. Lewis used a perfect restart to gap the second place driver, who got high in turn one and dropped to fourth. Runner-up was Ty Gibbs and third was ex-NASCAR Cup driver Kenny Schrader, 66. Ever youthful Schrader also raced his own dirt modified and a USAC Silver Crown car in the Labor Day DuQuoin 100 on the next day, Labor Day.