By Vincent Delforge, Special to Kickin’ the Tires
Announced as the driver of the No. 17 to replace Landen Lewis just four days before the race, Kaden Honeycutt made a dazzling debut in the ARCA Menards West Series by winning the NAPA Auto Parts 150 presented by Berco Redwood Inc., the ninth race of season, at All American Speedway in Roseville, CA.
Fast from practice where he occupied second position at the end of the qualifying session, he did not take long before overtaking pole sitter Tyler Reif to then dominate the race until the checkered flag despite numerous attacks from his opponents following seven restarts. Honeycutt is the 26th driver in history to win in his first career race. The precedent being none other than his predecessor at McGowan-Cook Racing Technologies, Landen Lewis, who achieved this feat last year in Bakersfield, CA.
Sean Hingorani, second, had a race full of intelligence and took advantage of the mechanical problems encountered by Trevor Huddleston to widen a nice gap of 37-points in the championship with three races remaining in the season.
Here is the race review of the race.
Not having his No. 83 car ready for Roseville, Jalen Mack found refuge at Nascimento-Joiner Motorsports behind the wheel of the No. 21. In fact Ethan Nascimento fractured two fingers on his right hand and cannot participate in the race. Another change with Jake Bollman forced to withdraw because he is sick. Rodd Kneeland will replace him for the race but only for a start and park thus ensuring points in the owner standings for car no. 55 from High Point Racing.
Eric Nascimento, Jr. was the fastest on the practice field for a long time, but Honeycutt managed to take first place from him at the end of the session. Tyler Reif is third ahead of Huddleston. Note that for his return in West Series as a driver Joey Iest (Naake-Klauer Motorsports No. 88) is ninth. The new teams are respectively 11th for Bradley Erickson (Sigma Performance Services No. 23) and 14th for Nick Joanides (Jan’s Towing Racing No. 71).
In the qualifying session it was Tyler Reif who obtained pole position, his second in a row with Central Coast Racing after that obtained at Evergreen a month ago. He is ahead of Honeycutt by 33 thousandths. The second row is occupied by his big brother Tanner Reif in front of Trevor Huddleston. For his return to the West Series Buddy Shepherd is fifth just ahead of Hingorani. Following a radiator water leak problem during practice, Jalen Mack did not participate in the session, as did Rodd Kneeland.
From the moment the green flag waved, Tyler Reif managed to maintain his leadership under immense pressure from Kaden Honeycutt. Tanner Reif finds himself a little alone in third position. Indeed Trevor Huddleston suffered a major loss of power from his engine and found himself dead last in just over one lap. Jalen Mack waives at the end of the second lap. His car is overheating. The blockage in his radiator leak gave way. The next lap is Rodd Kneeland who leaves the race as planned for his start and park.
On the fourth lap Honeycutt managed to overtake Tyler Reif on Turn 3 and took command of the race. Shortly after on the ninth lap the first yellow flag was waved following the stop of Huddleston in the grass of the backstretch. The latter manages to restart by itself and heads towards the garages.
At the restart on lap 14 Honeycutt retained the first position. Behind him the battle rages between the Reif brothers. Tanner in third position harassing his little brother. This tactic works since he manages to take second position. Just behind, Joey Iest and Sean Hingorani managed to overtake Buddy Shepherd for fourth and fifth positions.
The second yellow flag was waved on the 25th lap following a spun from Takuma Koga on turn 2. The Japanese driver received help from Braldey Erickson to do his pirouette!
Another restart on the 29th lap with Honeycutt leading ahead of Tanner Reif, Tyler Reif, Hingorani and Shepherd who took fifth position at Iest. The top-10 is completed by Todd Souza, Eric Nascimento, Jr., Eric Johnson, Jr. and Kyle Keller. The green flag lasts around ten laps before a new caution following the stop of Kyle Keller in Turn 3. Keller, who was having a solid race in the top-10, had to retire, rear end problem. Koga benefited from the free pass.
Restart on lap 46 with still the same duo in the lead, Honeycuut and Tanner Reif. Hingorani is increasingly threatening against Tyler Reif. On the 50th lap, 37 laps behind the leaders, Huddleston returned to the track. He will finish the race with the same delay in 15th position. On the 61st lap Hingorani was third and caught up with the leading duo. Joey Iest also got the better of Tyler Reif shortly after for fourth position.
The fourth caution came on lap 63 when Eric Nascimento, Jr. spun between Turns 3 and 4 after leaning on the inside of Shepherd’s car. Canadian David Smith benefits from the free pass while avoiding the collision with Nascimento who returns to the track by trapping him against the outside wall!
Yellows Breed Yellows
Restart on lap 68 with the same top-five led by Kaden Honeycutt. The race is relatively calm for around fifteen laps. Halfway through, in the 75th lap the ranking is as follows: 1) Honeycutt, 2) Tanner Reif, 3) Hingorani, 4) Iest, 5) Tyler Reif, 6) Souza, 7) Shepherd, 8) Robbie Kennealy, 9 ) R.J. Smotherman, 10) Eric Johnson, Jr., 11) Erickson, 12) Smith, 13) Nick Joanides (-1), 14) Koga (-1), 15) Nascimento (-1), 16) Huddleston (- 37), 17) Keller (out), 18) Kneeland (out), 19) Mack (out).
The fifth yellow flag arrives on the 83rd lap following the accident between Takuma Koga and Nick Joanides on Turn 2 after a contact with Robbie Kennealy. The latter, who had a superb race in sixth position, will have to retire. They left some debris there. The free pass is awarded to Nascimento who thus returns to 13th position.
The restart is wild with several contacts between Tanner Reif and the leader Honeycutt. They ride side-by-side for three laps. But Tanner will slip a little on Turn 2, leaving the way clear for the leader. But he suddenly finds himself under threat via Hingorani’s outside line. Tyler Reif manages to take fourth position from Joey Iest. There’s no denying it, but the Reif brothers know how to put on a show! Unfortunately Tyler will experience a technical problem and lose three laps…
The sixth yellow flag comes on lap 109. After a 19-lap run under the green flag, the longest of the race! It is Joanides who causes this bail following a spun in the backstretch after a contact from Nascimento. The free pass is for Smith, who ran a clean race and with a better pace than in the previous ones.
At the restart on lap 116 Honeycutt maintains the lead. The rest of the top-10 is made up of Hingorani, Tanner Reif, Iest, Souza, Smotherman, Shepherd, Nascimento, Johnson, Jr. and Erickson. We must focus for a moment on the beautiful race achieved by R.J. Smotherman. The latter, for his return behind the wheel of John Wood’s Chevrolet with which he made a top-10 here last year, confirms that he is very good on the bullrings. Eric Johnson, Jr. in his second race on an oval has made big progress and is in the top-10 regularly since the start of the race.
The last yellow flag, the seventh, was waved on the 129th lap when Bradley Erickson spun at Turn 4. Given the state of the front of his car, it was following contact with another driver, but which one? Eric Johnson, Jr. Erickson’s car was already damaged following the slowdown from Huddleston, which hampered his visibility throughout the race. Takuma Koga received the free pass. Note that Nascimento moved up from 13th to eighth position since the previous yellow flag.
Honeycutt must work to keep Hingorani, Tanner Reif and Iest behind him when the green flag is waved. But he succeeded and earns the victory, his first and this for his first career West Series race. He is less than half a second ahead of Sean Hingorani and barely a second ahead of Tanner Reif. These two are happy even though they didn’t win. Hingorani widens a big gap of 37-points in the championship against his closest rival Huddleston and Tyler Reif. As for Tanner Reif, he demonstrated that he had lost none of his talent and that with a good car, he was once again in contention for victory.
“That was tough at the end. I knew Sean (Hingorani) was going to give me a run for my money. I just appreciate him racing me really clean there. He had every opportunity to hit me and knock me out of the way. I was battling free in, I think I had burnt the right rear off of it. I needed it really badly. Racing has torn me from inside out and tested me so much these last couple months. This feels good to get it back on track.” Honeycutt said.
Good news never comes alone, Kaden Honeycutt has been confirmed at the wheel of the No. 17 by Bruce Cook until the end of the season. The team is now fighting for the owner standings.
The rest of the top-10 is made up of Iest, Souza, Shepherd, Nascimento, Smotherman, Johnson, Jr. and Koga.
In the championship Hingorani (414) is leader with 37 points ahead of Huddleston (377) and Tyler Reif (377). Erickson is fourth with 372 points and despite his absence Landen Lewis is fifth with 371 points.
Note that Lewis hopes to do other races in the West Series by the end of the season.
The next race on October 13 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Bullring, Las Vegas, NV, for the Star Nursery 150.
See you on Wednesday for the full driver-by-driver analysis.