2023 ARCA West at Madera: Team Reactions, Analysis

By Vincent Delforge, Special to Kickin’ the Tires

The eleventh race of the ARCA Menards West Series season, the 51FIFTY Jr Homecoming ARCA 150 presented by the West Coast Stock Car/Motorsports Hall Of Fame ended with the second win in career for Kaden Honeycutt for McGowan Motorsports with Cook Racing Technologies. It is his second victory in three races since he took the wheel of the No. 17 after the departure of Landen Lewis.

Together the two drivers allow the team co-owned by Steve McGowan and Bruce Cook to lead the owner standings with an 18-point lead over the No. 15 from Venturini Motorsports driven by driver standings leader Sean Hingorani. If the team wins the championship, it will be the first time in history (since 1954) that the champion team is different from that of the champion driver. But let’s wait until the last race in Phoenix, on November 3, is over before we set that in stone.

Honeycutt who made an almost perfect copy in Madera. He led all the laps in an authoritative manner. Only pole position was lost to Eric Nascimento, Jr.

Hingorani who benefits from the fight between his main opponents Trevor Huddleston and Tyler Reif to widen the gap in the championship. With 31 points ahead of the runner-up in the championship, he will be able to start in Phoenix with confidence to win the crown.

The top-five in the championship being the following: Sean Hingorani (534 points), Trevor Huddleston (503), Tyler Reif (501), Todd Souza (485) and Bradley Erickson (485).

For a complete recap of the race, I invite you to read the article « Race review » available here: www.kickinthetires.net/nascar/arca-west-2023-madera-race-review/

Complete race results: www.racing-reference.info/race-results/2023-11/AW/          

Driver & owner point standings: www.racing-reference.info/standings/2023/AW/ 

As after each race we are going to detail the statistics for each driver, embellished with the reactions collected from many of them, drivers, owners and crew chiefs. 

ARCA West Quick stats              

-70th season in history.   

-Race No. 1015 since the inception of the West Series in 1954.              

-2023 race No. 11 of 12. 

-Race No. 8 at Madera Speedway since 1973.

– Win No. three for Chevrolet at Madera. Chevrolet leads the manufacturers standings followed by Ford (2), Dodge (1), Pontiac (1) and Toyota (1).  

-249th win for Chevrolet in West Series. The all-time most successful manufacturer is Ford with 290 wins.

-13th win for owner Steve McGowan.  The all-time most successful owners in history are Bill McAnally (99), Fred Elder (45), Bob Bruncati (42) and Ernie Conn (41).       

-Win No. 4 for McGowan Motorsports with Cook Racing Technologies team. The all-time most successful owners in history are Bill McAnally Racing (99), McCoy Racing (54), The Racing Farmers (47), Bruncati Racing (42) and Gene Price Motorsports (26).

-First win for Steve McGowan and McGowan Motorsports with Cook Racing Technologies team at Madera. The eight races were won by eight different teams.

-Second career win for Kaden Honeycutt (third career start) and the first at Madera. The eight races were won by eight different drivers.

-Kaden Honeycutt is the second driver in history who took the win in his first career start at Madera after Bill Sedgwick in 1989.

-Kaden Honeycutt is the 8th different race winner at Madera.   

-First career pole position for Eric Nascimento, Jr. in his 19th career start and first at Madera.

-First pole for Nascimento-Joiner Motorsports and owner Eric Nascimento, Sr. at Madera. The eight poles were won by eight different teams.

-First pole for Nascimento-Joiner Motorsports and owner Eric Nascimento, Sr. in West Series.  The most successful team in history is Bill McAnally Racing with 79 poles. The most successful owner in history is Bill McAnally with 52 poles.     

-First career start in West Series for Brody Armtrout.

-Best career result in West Series for Monty Tipton (12th) and Brody Armtrout (19th).

-16th win for the No. 17 in history. The first at Madera.

-Ninth pole for the No. 4 in history. The first at Madera.

-Second career win for crew chief Sean Samuels. The first at Madera.

-20th career pole for crew chief Ty Joiner. The first at Madera.

-258th pole for Chevrolet in West Series and fifth at Madera. Chevrolet leads the dance at madera ahead of Ford (2) and Dodge (1). The all-time most successful manufacturer is Chevrolet with 258.  

-New track record in 82.369 mph by Eric Nascimento, Jr. The previous track record belonged to Mark Krogh at 81.544 mph achieved in 1996 #2.  

-Second time that the winner of the race started from second position on the starting grid after Lance Hooper in 1996 #2.

-As far as yellow flags are concerned, the record is 8 in 1989 and 2009. The 1996 #1 race holds the record for the number of yellow flag laps with 48. Conversely, with only one yellow flag and only 3 yellow flag laps, the 1973 race holds these records.

-The most leader changes occurred in 1995 and 2009 with 7. The 1973 and 1996 #2 races saw the pole sitter lead every lap.

-The largest starting field was in 1996 #2 with 21 cars.

-The smallest starting field was in 1989 and 1996 #1 with 16 cars.

-680th paved oval race in history.   

The Drivers  

No. 05 Dave Smith (Shockwave Racing) Start: 19th – Fin: 13th

Unlike the two previous races, there was a big lack of pace for Smith who had the slowest car in practice, qualifying and race. He lost 5 laps to the leaders until he experienced a mechanical problem forcing him to stop at the side of the track.

Da05 2
Dave Smith. (Photo by Diego Alvarado via Vincent Delforge)

“We caught air which broke the bell housing and had the driveshaft run into the cross member. We managed to baby it to 13th. Again a great crew made all the difference.” Smith said.

Starts              Wins              Top5              Top10              Pole              Best result              At Madera
15            0            0              1             0              10th             1 start, best result 13th

No. 1 Robbie Kennealy (Kennealy Keller Motorsports) Start: 13th – Fin: 16th Crash

Da1 2
Robbie Kennealy. (Photo by Diego Alvarado via Vincent Delforge)

While he had high hopes for this race to obtain a big result, the race was disappointing for Kennealy who, following a first shock on a restart, lost time and a lap behind the leaders. He had barely benefited from the free pass when he fell victim to the pileup during the penultimate restart. He destroyed the front of his car by hitting the rear bumper of his teammate Monty Tipton. Result? DNF…

Starts         Wins         Top5         Top10         Pole         Best result         At Madera
401205th1 start, best result 16th

No. 3 Todd Souza (Central Coast Racing) Start: 3rd – Fin: 2nd

The veteran has found a second youth since he has a teammate, the young Tyler Reif. Souza obtains his seventh consecutive top-10 and second top-five in the last three races. This second position is his best result of the year. He will have done the entire race in the top-five. Strongly Phoenix because it is generally very efficient there. Will he claim a victory in his last race as a full-time driver? CCR has the means and Souza wants it!

Da3 2
Todd Souza. (Photo by Diego Alvarado via Vincent Delforge)
Starts               Wins               Top5               Top10          Pole             Best result               At Madera
119              1               22               69              0               1st (1x)               1 start, best result 2nd

No. 4 Eric Nascimento (Nascimento-Joiner Motorsports) Start: 1st – Fin: 6th

Da4 2
Eric Nascimento. (Photo by Diego Alvarado via Vincent Delforge)

On his home track, Bubba achieved his first career pole and even though he lost his first position on the first lap to Honeycutt, he did not let go an inch during the first half of the race. Unfortunately a transmission problem will cause him to lose a lot of time each time during the numerous restarts in the last third of the race. He needed two laps each time to get back into the right pace. This sixth position has a bitter taste for the driver of the No. 4 for whom victory was possible.

“Man what a weekend we had. We were very fast all weekend long, we’ve been struggling getting a balance with short run and long run speed. We finally put it all together and qualified on pole and had a really good run going in the race running up front with Honeycutt was fun I started working a pass a couple times but multiple cautions came out and lap cars got in the way. It took me about 2-4 laps to get caught back up to the leader due to my transmission having problems shifting on restarts. Battled back with a P6 finish.” Nascimento said.

Starts         Wins         Top5         Top10         Pole         Best result         At Madera
19        0         5         9        1         2nd (1x)         1 start, best result 6th

No. 5 Dustin Ash (Jerry Pitts Racing) Start: 9th – Fin: 18th crash

Da5 2
Dustin Ash. (Photo by Diego Alvarado via Vincent Delforge)

After an ignition problem in Las Vegas, Dustin Ash found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time here at Madera. He was fighting at the door of the top-five when coming out of Turn 4 during the 92nd lap he was stuck against the wall by Tyler Reif, himself slowed down by Hingorani who he had just pushed. In short, a fatal chain reaction for Ash. The impact was enough to break the right front suspension. What a shame for the driver of the black and gold Toyota because he had good pace.

Starts         Wins         Top5         Top10         Pole         Best result         At Madera
6       01403rd1 start, best result 18th

No. 7 Takuma Koga (Jerry Pitts Racing) Start: 15th – Fin: 15th  

Da7 2
Takuma Koga. (Photo by Diego Alvarado via Vincent Delforge)

After a difficult start to the race following contact where the Japanese driver quickly lost a lap on the leaders, he benefited from the free pass just after halfway. And there everything was better, going up from 13th to ninth position. Unfortunately the restart of the 129th lap was fatal to the driver of the Toyota No. 7. He was caught in the general pileup of the outside line following a slowdown caused by Eric Nascimento, Jr. Koga hit the rear of Ethan Nascimento and was hit in the back by Ryan Philpott. As in Las Vegas, the two Jerry Pitts Racing drivers were really unlucky.

Front car was mis shifting at restart 2 times in a row again. It’s truly deja vu. Onto Phoenix.” Koga said.

Starts               Wins               Top5      Top10         Pole       Best result               At Madera
112               0               4              24               0             5th (4x)               1 start, best result 15th

No. 13 Tyler Reif (Central Coast Racing) Start: 4th – Fin: 11th

Da13 2
Tyler Reif. (Photo by Diego Alvarado via Vincent Delforge)

Very incisive during the race, Tyler Reif quickly found himself third after a few laps but he got stuck during two consecutive restarts following the slowdown in his racing line. Back down in ninth position he was going to get confused during his comeback with Huddleston. Fighting for third position, the two drivers would bump into each other several times in the last two laps. Tyler ended up sending Huddleston into a spun on the final corner of the final lap.

Third at the finish, he was disqualified for aggressive driving by the officials and reclassified last in the leader lap, in 11th position. With 33 points behind Hingorani, it will be difficult for him to win the championship in the last race. That said, it was in Phoenix where he won at the start of the season. If he wins, he will be the first driver in history to win twice on the same circuit in the same year with two different teams.

Starts               Wins               Top5               Top10      Pole      Best result               At Madera
13   1     4     6     2     1st    1 start, best result 11th

No. 15 Sean Hingorani (Venturini Motorsports) Start: 5th (to the rear) – fin: 5th

Da15 2
Sean Hingorani. (Photo by Diego Alvarado via Vincent Delforge)

Good race for Hingorani who secured the big points. Fifth on the starting grid, he started the race 19th and last following unapproved adjustments. He got back into the top-10 in just 15 laps. He found himself fifth on the 90th lap. But he would clash with Kyle Keller on the 103rd lap. Big damage for the driver of the No. 15. He lost a lap while he restarted. Benefiting from the free pass during the following caution, he moved up from 13th to seventh position.

Finally he finished fifth following Huddleston’s spun and the disqualification of Tyler Reif. By finishing ahead of his two main rivals, he widened a gap of 31 and 33 points respectively on Huddleston and Reif. He should logically win the championship by starting in Phoenix on November 3.

“We managed a top 5 out of all of that. We fought an ill handling race car due to mechanical issues caused by contact, but we never gave up and finally got a little luck to swing back our way in the end.

Thanks to the Venturini Motorsports team for all the hard work. It took a lot to get to where we needed to be this weekend. Looking forward to closing out this season strong at Phoenix in 2 weeks.” Hingorani said.

Starts               Wins               Top5               Top10               Pole         Best result               At Madera
16      4       6       7      2       1st (4x)       1 start, best result 5th

No. 16 Tanner Reif (Bill McAnally Racing) Start: 7th – Fin: 17th  

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Tanner Reif. (Photo by Diego Alvarado via Vincent Delforge)

A halt in his great series of podiums for Tanner Reif. Only seventh on the starting grid, he quickly moved up into the top-five and had barely taken third position when his No. 16 Chevrolet stopped. The BMR team will not give up and will bring the car back to life. Tanner returned to the track dead last on lap 122, 50 laps behind the leader. But he would gain two positions and finish 17th.

Starts               Wins               Top5               Top10               Pole               Best result               At Madera
22              2               9               15              2             1st (2x)               1 start, best result 17th

No. 17 Kaden Honeycutt (McGowan Motorsports with Cook Racing Technologies) Start: 2nd – Fin: 1st

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Kaden Honeycutt. (Photo by Diego Alvarado via Vincent Delforge)

Without his brake problems in Las Vegas, would Honeycutt have pulled off the hat trick by winning his first three career races? Which has never been seen in the history of the West Series. It’s possible even if we’ll never know. But seeing his performance in Madera, the odds are high. As in Roseville, he dominated everything except the qualifying session. Regardless, it allows his team to increase its lead in owner standings. And Kaden said it, his goal is to give Steve McGowan and Bruce Cook the owners’ trophy.

 “We led flag to flag tonight! What an awesome race car we had! Thank you to Cook Racing Technologies, Bruce Cook and Steve McGowan for the amazing car. What a huge comeback from last week to overcome all the obstacles we had. Going into Phoenix with the lead in team standings so it is time to finish it off and bring it home! Thank you everyone for the continued support!” Honeycutt said

Starts               Wins               Top5               Top10               Pole               Best result               At Madera
322301st (2x)1 start, best result 1st

No. 21 Ethan Nascimento (Nascimento-Joiner Motorsports) Start: 11th – Fin: 14th 

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Ethan Nascimento. (Photo by Diego Alvarado via Vincent Delforge)

For his return after his basketball accident a month ago, Ethan had an interesting race and was eighth when he was unable to avoid hitting his big brother’s rear bumper during the restart of the 129th lap. Result? A pileup of six cars and a DNF… Really bad luck for young Nascimento.

Starts              Wins              Top5              Top10              Pole              Best result              At Madera
7 (+ 1 DNS)         0   0  2   0   8th   1 start, best result 14th

No. 23 Bradley Erickson (Sigma Performance Services) Start: 6th – Fin: 4th

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Bradley Erickson. (Photo by Diego Alvarado via Vincent Delforge)

Finally! Finally a problem-free race for Erickson who was a candidate for the top-five during the 150 laps thanks to an excellent race pace. Strayed from the correct racing line during the last restartwhile in fourth position due to the speedy dry applied on the track, he managed to avoid Huddleston, who spun, in the last corner and took the checkered flag in fifth. He gained a place following Tyler Reif’s DSQ.

Starts             Wins             Top5             Top10             Pole             Best result             At Madera
150       3       10       0       3rd        1 Start, best result 4th

No. 38 RJ Smotherman (Wood Motorsports) Withdraw

Due to lack of funds.

Starts              Wins              Top5              Top10              Pole              Best result              At Madera
9      0           0           3           0           7th      n/a

No. 49 Monty Tipton (Kennealy Keller Motorsports) Start: 17th – Fin: 12th

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Monty Tipton. (Photo by Diego Alvarado via Vincent Delforge)

Not the race Tipton was hoping for, especially on a track he knows well. Just not the pace. Last after 15 laps, he would lose three laps to the leaders during the long run under the green flag. Then he lost another one before the 100th lap. But his race was definitely one to forget when he was caught in the restart pileup on the 129th lap. He is finally ranked 12th.

Starts           Wins           Top5           Top10           Pole           Best result           At Madera 
000012th1 start, best result 12th

No. 50 Trevor Huddleston (High Point Racing) Start: 8th – Fin: 10th

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Trevor Huddleston. (Photo by Diego Alvarado via Vincent Delforge)

Methodical race for Huddleston who moved up from eight to second position shortly before the 100th lap. But his fight with Tyler Reif during the last restart would compromise all his chances of a podium and grabbing a few points from Hingorani. But his spun following Reif’s bump relegated him to 10th position. Now 31 points behind with one race remaining in the championship, his mission seems very compromised.

Starts           Wins           Top5           Top10           Pole           Best result           At Madera
64        3           24        53           2           1st (3x)         1 start, best result 10th

No. 52 Ryan Philpott (Philpott Racing) Start: 14th – Fin: 9th

Ryan Philpott. (Photo by Diego Alvarado via Vincent Delforge)

Excellent race for Philpott who finished ninth despite being caught in the restart pileup on the 129th lap. Benefiting from the free pass during the third caution, he entered the top-10 with 35 laps remaining and, despite his accident, managed to keep his No. 52 Chevrolet in it until the end of the race. This is his ninth career top-10 and the first on an oval since 2012 at Evergreen.

Starts       Wins       Top5       Top10       Pole       Best result       At Madera
41     0      0      9     0      6th (2x)   1 start, best result 9th

No. 70  Kyle Keller (Kennealy Keller Motorsports) Start: 10th – Fin: 7th

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Kyle Keller. (Photo by Diego Alvarado via Vincent Delforge)

On a track where he had high hopes of victory, Keller had to settle for seventh position. His car was damaged in a lap 103 accident with Hingorani as the two drivers battled to get into the top five.

“An up and down race at Madera Speedway for us. To start off with practice we were seventh only .92 of the leader but in qualifying we missed it a bit and got 10th. In the race I was able to work my way up to sixth but got caught in a race incident that sent us back to the back, but worked our way back to seventh. We will take it and we are looking forward to phoenix! Thank you to my awesome crew!” Keller said.

Starts              Wins              Top5              Top10              Pole              Best result            At Madera
21     0        6        13        0        4th (3x)        1 start, best result 7th

No. 71 Nick Joanides (Jan’s Towing Racing with Lowden-Jackson Motorsports) Start: 16th – Fin: 8th 

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Nick Joanides. (Photo by Diego Alvarado via Vincent Delforge)

Finally he used his No. 71 and not 41 as announced. Even if the owner points still go to Chris Lowden. Counting on the free practice on Friday to determine a setup and improve the behavior of his car, Joanides was a little disappointed not to have been able to find something to gain the two or three tenths missing from the car to be a candidate for the top-five.

However, the race was overall much better than the previous two. Benefiting from the free pass during the fourth yellow flag, he would gain a few positions and finish 9th before gaining a position following the DSQ of No. 13. This top-10 suggests better days ahead.

“Another survival race where we made it to the end with a respectable finish. Now time to get our short track cars out and do some real testing so we can figure out what they want and hopefully get them to contend for top 5’s. We’ll get there, just takes time when you’re up against this tight of a field of cars. Just 2 to 3 tenths of a second will move us up the leader board quite a bit.” Joanides said.

Starts              Wins              Top5              Top10              Pole              Best result              At Madera
27   0        1        9        0        4th       1 start, best result 8th

No. 77 Brody Armtrout (Performance P-1 Motorsports) Start: 18th – Fin: 19th Brakes

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Brody Armtrout. (Photo by Diego Alvarado via Vincent Delforge)

Champion in 2022 in Jr Late Model at Madera, the young Armtrout was making his debut in the West Series. Having good technical feedback, he satisfied his crew chief Roger Bracken. Unfortunately No. 77’s race was disrupted by brake problems causing him to lose a lot of time. Losing a lap on the leaders after around thirty laps, he managed to fight in a group made up of Koga, Philpott, Kennealy and Joanides.

Which means that without his brake problems, a 10th position was possible because among this group were two drivers who finished in the top-10. However, the decision was made to retire on the 93rd lap so as not to risk further damaging the car unnecessarily.

Starts              Wins              Top5              Top10              Pole              Best result              At Madera
1000019th1 start, best result 19th

No. 88 Joey Iest (Naake-Klauer Motorsports) Start: 12th – Fin: 3rd

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Joey Iest. (Photo by Diego Alvarado via Vincent Delforge)

Joey Iest continually has a huge smile on his face and at the end of the Madera race, there was plenty to smile about! Indeed on a track where he had had so much success in previous years, he would have a magnificent race from 12th position on the starting grid to fifth position shortly before the 100th lap.

He took the checkered flag fourth but gained a position following the DSQ of No. 13. Let’s hope he will be present in Phoenix. He deserves it. Note that the NKM No. 88 team has an average finish of 2.7 over the last three West Series races. This is the best average, even beating No. 17 who only has an average finish of 3.7 despite two victories!

Starts             Wins             Top5             Top10             Pole             Best result             At Madera
261111401st1 start, best result 3rd

The next race on November 3 at Phoenix Raceway, Avondale, AZ, the Diamond Casino West Valley 100, will be the twelfth and final race of the 2023 season.

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