ARCA Menards West Series: 2024 Sonoma Race Preview

By Vincent Delforge, Special to Kickin’ the Tires.

Barely a week between the two road races of the 2024 ARCA Menards West Series season. This time it is the traditional Californian stage on the Sonoma Raceway located in Sonoma, Calif., the main city of the Sonoma Valley. A very important wine growing region of California.

The arca menards series west returns to sonoma raceway for the general tire 200.
Photo by ARCA Menards Series.

As last year, ARCA will use the short Sonoma version of 1,990 miles, 11-turn, like the layout used between 1998-2018 and 2022-2023, named The Chute.

It will be the 1020th race since the inception of the West Series in 1954 and the 45th here in Sonoma. The West has been there since 1969, including nine combined Cup / West races between 1989 and 1997 when the two series had the same technical regulations.

Curiously, the Californian road track has always refused to Bill McAnally Racing. The Roseville team failing several times in second position! Will this year be the right one?

Among the drivers, we note the presence of a few road ringers from the West as Ryan Philpott, Rodd Kneeland or Tim Spurgeon as well as the presence of Xfinity Series drivers Brandon Jones, again in the No. 42 of Cooke Racing Technologies / MMI Racing as in Portland, but also of Sam Mayer, his teammate at JR Motorsports who will drive the No. 23 from Sigma Performance Services. Let’s not forget Cup Series star Noah Gragson, who will drive the No. 30 for Rette Jones Racing.

The entry list is made up of 32 drivers, three more than last year. Note the appreciated return of Johnny Borneman, III with his usual No. 41 from Lowden-Jackson Motorsports as well as the two Nascimento-Joiner Motorsports cars driven by Eric Nascimento, Jr. (No. 4) and debutant Travis McCullough in the No. 21 who had skipped the Portland race.

Last year, Cup Series driver Ryan Preece won the race for the Stewart Haas Racing team. This team which has just announced its closure at the end of the 2024 season.

The General Tire 200 is a 64-lap (127.36-mile) race starting Friday 7, 2024 at 3:30 p.m. PT. It will be preceded by a combined practice from 10:40 a.m. – 12 p.m. and a 20-minute qualifying session from 12:10 – 12:30 p.m. PT. The race will be broadcast live on FloRacing.

ARCA West at Sonoma 

The West Series was the first NASCAR series on this road track in 1969 with the victory of the late Ray Elder.  

There were even two races in 1969. The second won by the late Jack McCoy. 

It will be necessary to wait until 1978 for the drivers of the West to return to Napa Valley. Jimmy Insolo winning the race three years in a row. 

Following the closure of Riverside road track at the end of the 1988 season, the NASCAR Cup Series logically settled in Sonoma. Between 1989 and 1998 the Cup and the West will race together nine times. The Cup drivers claiming the nine victories. However, some years, the West also performed there in stand alone. 

In 1998 Kevin Harvick won the race, his fifth and last victory of the season at the end of which he would win the championship.

Then nothing until 2006. And since the West comes every year except for 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

-71st season in history.   

-Race No. 1020 since the inception of the West Series in 1954.  

-This will be the 147th road track (including the 4 street races) race in history.            

-2024 race No. 4 of 12.  

-This will be the 45th race at Sonoma Raceway since 1969 including nine combined Cup / West races between 1989 and 1997 when the two series had the same technical regulations. As far as statistics are concerned, of the 9 races already contested we can highlight:   

-Amon the manufacturers Ford leads with 17 wins ahead of Chevrolet with 12. Buick (5), Pontiac (5), Oldsmobile (2), Dodge (2) and Toyota (1) share the other victories.  

-32 different drivers have won at least one race at Sonoma. The most prolific drivers at Sonoma are Jimmy Insolo, Bill Schmitt and Hershel McGriff, three wins each.  

-14 times in history the driver starting on pole position wins the race at Sonoma in 44 races, including the last two races. 

-The most successful team at Sonoma Bruncati Sunrise Ford Racing with five victories. Jerry Pitts Racing has three wins. Among the teams still in activity, only one have ever won here, Naake-Klauer Motorsports in 2012.

-Among the manufacturers, Ford and Chevrolet leads with 15 poles each ahead of Buick (5), Pontiac (4), Dodge (2), Toyota (2) and Oldsmobile (1).  

-The qualifying lap record for the 1.990 mile version was set in 2014 by Kyle Larson at 92,794 mph.

The Race Procedure 

CREW CHIEF HANDOUT: The starting field for the General Tire 200 is limited to 32 starters plus provisionals. This event will run under the 2024 ARCA Menards Series West rules, procedures, regulations and specifications.

QUALIFYING: Starting position will be set by each car’s fastest recorded lap in Timed Session Qualifying.

RACE PIT STOP: There will be a scheduled caution at or near Lap 32. Pitting during any caution period in this event will be for adding fuel (no fuel may be added prior to lap 20), making repairs and adjustments only, no tires can be changed unless approved by ARCA Officials. Positions will not be gained or lost among those pitting on the same lap unless penalty or going a lap down on pit road.

TIRE ALLOTMENT: Per ARCA Rulebook, maximum tire usage for this event (purchased plus from-home tires) is eight (8). Maximum number of tires allowed in pit box for use in race is two (2) for emergency use only, any change must be approved by ARCA officials.

The entry list is made up of 32 drivers. Including nine drivers who will make their first West Series race at Sonoma. Note that there are also one newcomer to the West Series with Brent Crews.

The Drivers   

No. 0 Tony Huffman (Fierce Creature Racing)

As with the previous two races, Tony Huffman will drive the No. 0 with a planned start and park. In fact FCR is renting the car but as long as there is not a driver providing the budget, it is Huffman who takes the wheel. Thus the team scores valuable points in owner standings. Remember that Huffmanl is primarily the crew chief of his teammate and owner Bobby Hillis, Jr. (No. 27). Although for the two road races, he received help from Ed Ash in preparing the cars.

Starts              Wins              Top5              Top10              Pole              Best result              At Sonoma
2 (2 DNS)000021stn/a

No. 05 David Smith (Shockwave Racing)  

Last year for his first race in the West Series on the Californian road track, David Smith had a wise race avoiding problems which led him to a good 15th position at the finish. Big points which at the end of the season had assured him a place in the top 10 of the championship. He should do the same tactic this year. The car used here will be the same as in Portland where it was not the most docile to drive. Brian Carlson will obviously be his crew chief.

Starts              Wins              Top5              Top10              Pole              Best result              At Sonoma
19            0            0              1             0              10th             1 start, best result : 15th

No. 1 Robbie Kennealy (Kennealy Keller Motorsports) 

Kennealy learns quickly and for his first road track race in Portland, he rode a race full of intelligence to finish not far from the top 10. The competition will be greater in Sonoma, but the experience gained in Oregon will be useful. The car is good, reliable and the KKM driver, helped by his crew chief Charlie Wilson, could surprise more than one person.

Starts         Wins         Top5         Top10         Pole         Best result         At Sonoma
8 (1 DNS)01205thn/a

No. 3 Todd Souza (Central Coast Racing) 

His mastery on the road track is well established for Souza, but the car still needs to hold up. Portland was a disappointment, he and Jason Dickenson, his crew chief, will be keen to return to the top of the standings in Sonoma where he has already done 15 races and obtained excellent results including three top tens in the last three races contested here.

Starts               Wins               Top5               Top10          Pole             Best result               At Sonoma
123              1               22               70              0               1st (1x)               15 starts, best result  5th  

No. 4 Eric Nascimento, Jr.  (Nascimento-Joiner Motorsports) 

Bubba has already demonstrated three times that he is very fast at Sonoma Raceway. Last year he was involved in an accident following contact with Souza. A seventh position as best result does not reflect his value on this road track. But Eric Nascimento, Jr. has rarely been spared from mechanical problems in the West Series. Without it he would have a much more impressive CV. Will this year be the good one? We wish him. His crew chief will be Ty Joiner.

Starts         Wins         Top5         Top10         Pole         Best result         At Sonoma
21        0         5         10        1         2nd (1x)         3 starts, best result: 7th

No. 5 Sean Hingorani (Jerry Pitts Racing)

If the 2023 champion is spared from mechanical problems unlike Portland where his brakes played a bad trick on him by losing their effectiveness even though he was one of the fastest on track, he will be a candidate for victory. Firstly because he is a great driver, secondly because he has an excellent car in Jerry Pitts Racing. Dustin Ash will be his crew chief as in Portland.

Starts               Wins               Top5               Top10               Pole         Best result               At Sonoma
20      4       8       9      2       1st (4x)       1 start, best result 6th  

No. 6 Caleb Shrader (Jerry Pitts Racing)

It’s going to be interesting to see Shrader in Sonoma. He has done the Portland race twice, a track he knows by heart, showing each time, especially this year, that he was one of the fastest on the track. Sonoma, he will discover with his West Series car. But if, like his teammate Hingorani, he is spared the mechanical problems that ruined his race in Portland, he will have to be counted on for victory. Jerry Pitts will be his crew chief.

Starts               Wins               Top5               Top10               Pole         Best result               At Sonoma
2      0       0       1      0       7thn/a

No. 7 Takuma Koga (Jerry Pitts Racing)  

The only Jerry Pitts Racing driver spared from mechanical problems in Portland, the Japanese obtained a well-deserved top-10. Sonoma was never really lucky for him. In fact in eight races, he has not done better than 11th. Not to mention that there was also a very violent and spectacular accident in 2022. But on the road track, Takuma Koga has this ability to be always faster at the end of the race and this allows him to gain positions. Managing tire wear will be an important criterion on this winding circuit. Denny Moyer will be his crew chief.

Starts               Wins               Top5      Top10         Pole       Best result               At Sonoma
116               0               4              25               0             5th (4x)               8 starts, best result 11th     

No. 12  Kyle Keller (Kennealy Keller Motorsports)

After a good ninth position in Portland, Keller has increased ambitions for Sonoma. Last year he had a decent race with a car that was at the end of its life. The new chassis used this year on the road tracks is much more agile. Brian Kizer, his crew chief, is doing a good job and together they should be a candidate for the top-10 again.

Starts              Wins              Top5              Top10              Pole              Best result            At Sonoma
25     0        6        15        0        4th (3x)        1 start, best result : 13th

No. 13 Tyler Reif (Central Coast Racing) 

Last year for his first race in Sonoma, Tyler retired due to his fuel pump breaking. This year he is at the wheel of a car that is still very efficient on the road track. Michael Munoz, his crew chief, will be able to bring his experience to him. At the foot of the podium in Portland, the youngest of the Reif brothers scored big points, allowing him to take the lead in the championship. He will naturally be a candidate for victory.

Starts               Wins               Top5               Top10      Pole      Best result               At Sonoma
17   1     7     9     3     1st    1 start, best result : 17th

No. 15 Brent Crews (Venturini Motorsports)

The young driver from Oklahoma will make his debut in the West Series and at Sonoma. But at 16 he has already impressed by winning the dirt race at Springfield last year in the ARCA national series. And on a road track? He is excellent. As proof, his third position last year at Watkins Glen. If the No. 15 had been disappointing in Portland in the hands of Jake Finch, it should be at the top of the rankings this Friday. Larry Balsitis will be his crew chief.

Starts              Wins              Top5              Top10              Pole              Best result            At Sonoma

No. 16 Jack Wood (Bill McAnally Racing)

Wood made two races at Sonoma and both times finished fourth. Suffice to say that he will be one of the favorites this Friday. Especially since before making a mistake at the end of the race during the last restart in Portland, he was a candidate for victory. Kevin Bellicourt will be his crew chief. Will he give BMR its first victory in Sonoma? And at the same time this 100th victory for the team. A victory that is starting to be long overdue. BMR did not get us used to staying a long time without visiting Victory Lane.

Starts              Wins              Top5              Top10              Pole              Best result              At Sonoma
22041204th (3x)2 starts, best result 4th

No. 17 Marco Andretti (MMI Racing)

More comfortable on road tracks than on ovals. Andretti had a messy race in Portland but was rewarded with a seventh position. And Sonoma is a circuit that suits him, he even won an IndyCar race there in 2006. Sean Samuels will be his crew chief.

Starts              Wins              Top5              Top10              Pole              Best result              At Sonoma

No. 18 William Sawalich (Joe Gibbs Racing)

Sawalich has upgraded his road track riding level this year. And his JGR team has also put the resources into preparing an excellent chassis for him to turn left and right. Last year he finished fifth, remaining discreet throughout the race. This year, his victory in Portland makes him the favorite to win. The chemistry with his crew chief Matt Ross is perfect and the results are there to prove it.

Starts               Wins               Top5               Top10               Pole               Best result               At Sonoma
635531st (3x)1 start, best result 5th

No. 19 Eric Johnson, Jr. (Bill McAnally Racing) 

Last year Johnson, Jr. had to retire due to a broken transmission while he was just outside the top 10 after starting from the back of the pack. In Portland he suffered a broken suspension even though he was well established in the top 10. Fingers crossed that he is spared bad luck this time. John Camilleri will be his crew chief.

Starts            Wins            Top5            Top10            Pole            Best result            At Sonoma
700309th1 start, best result 27th

No. 20 Giovanni Ruggiero (Venturini Motorsports)

Good top-five in Portland despite having gone almost unnoticed! The reason, he simply ran a clean race unlike many of his opponents who increased the number of contacts or excursions into the grass. This will be his first time in Sonoma. Shannon Rursch, his experienced crew chief, will be able to provide him with the help he needs to aim for victory.

Starts              Wins              Top5              Top10              Pole              Best result              At Sonoma

No. 21 Travis McCullough (Nascimento-Joiner Motorsports)

It’s been a long time since we last saw the Californian McCullough in the West Series. We have to go back to Sonoma in 2008! That year he finished 18th with a car entered by his family team in a race which was a real crash fest with 12 yellow flags for 40 laps passed behind the pace car out of the 68 in the race! He also took part in the race in 2007 but had to retire following a broken engine. Mike Nascimento will be his crew chief.

Starts            Wins            Top5            Top10            Pole            Best result            At Sonoma
2 (+ 1 DNS)000018th2 starts, best result 18th

No. 23 Sam Mayer (Sigma Performance Services) 

The double champion of the East Series (2019-2020) comes to freelance to acquire seat time on this road track. He, who drives in Xfinity for JR Motorsports, nevertheless has good driving skills on road tracks, including at Sonoma where he finished 10th last year in NXS. Further proof of his speed on the road track, he took the pole last week in Portland in the NASCAR second division race. This will be his first West Series start since Phoenix in 2020. Chris Bray will be his crew chief.

Starts            Wins            Top5            Top10            Pole            Best result            At Sonoma

No. 27 Bobby Hillis, Jr. (Fierce Creature Racing)

This will be the 100th career race for Hillis, Jr. He becomes the 39th driver in West Series history to reach the 100 race mark. The Portland race, which he was discovering, went well with a finish on the leader’s lap. His ambitions in Sonoma are higher. In fact, he has already done two races here, the first in 2006 and the last in 2021 where he also obtained 10th position. Tony Huffman will be his crew chief. Note that Ed Ash helps here as well as in Portland.

Starts      Wins      Top5      Top10      Pole      Best result      At Sonoma
99     0      0      8      0      8th (1x)      2 starts, best result 10th

No. 30 Noah Gragson (Rette-Jones Racing)

What a pleasure to see Noah Gragson again in the West Series. His last start dates back to 2019. The current Cup Series driver for Stewart-Haas Racing comes to freelance on a road track that he loves. He made three races there in the West Series with respectively seventh (2015), second (2016) and first (2019) positions. Suffice to say that he will be one of the favorites for victory. He will have Mark Rette as crew chief. Note that he has already driven for RJR, whether in Super Late Models or even last year in the NASCAR Canada.

Starts            Wins            Top5            Top10            Pole            Best result            At Sonoma
285152411st (5x)3 starts, best result 1st

No. 32 Dale Quarterley (Quarterley Racing)

Quarterley returns to his usual No. 32 in Sonoma. He appreciates this road track where he has already done five races and obtained a podium in 2022 (3rd). Last year he was a victim of the heat while he was in the top five. He had to slow down at the end of the race to avoid fainting, finishing only 11th. His son Alex Quarterley will obviously be his crew chief.

Starts      Wins           Top5        Top10         Pole               Best result               At Sonoma 
1403902nd (1x)5 starts, best result: 3rd 

No. 41 Johnny Borneman III (Lowden Jackson Motorsports)

Borneman III had to skip the Portland race but is back on a track he knows perfectly. He made 12 starts at Sonoma and had four top-10 finishes including a fifth position as his best result in 2009. Last year in his own car, he finished in ninth position. Tony Jackson will be his crew chief.

Starts      Wins      Top5      Top10      Pole      Best result      At Sonoma
127      3      27      61      1      1st (3x)      12 starts, best result 5th

No. 42 Brandon Jones (MMI Racing)

Poleman and second in the Portland race. The seat time objective was perfectly fulfilled by the JR Motorsports driver in the Xfinity Series. It will be his first time in the West Series at Sonoma but he knows the Californian track having driven there last year in the second division of NASCAR but without obtaining a good result (21st). He will have Brian Bibeau as crew chief like in Portland.

Starts      Wins           Top5        Top10         Pole               Best result               At Sonoma

No. 50 Trevor Huddleston (High Point Racing) 

It’s not his best road track when you look at his stats. But Huddleston is improving every year and he will aim to score big points. If he succeeds, he will then be one of the favorites for the 2024 championship. Jeff Schrader will be his crew chief. Shrader who has already won on road track even if it was not in Sonoma.

Starts           Wins           Top5           Top10           Pole           Best result           At Sonoma
68        3           25        55           2           1st (3x)         4 starts, best result: 10th

No. 52 Ryan Philpott (Philpott Racing)

Mechanical problem last year for Philpott on a road track which has already allowed him to obtain a top-10 in 2021 with a ninth position. So if the car is reliable, the top 10 will be the minimum objective for Ryan and his crew chief Chuck Dozhier.

Starts       Wins       Top5       Top10       Pole       Best result       At Sonoma
42     0      0      9     0      6th (2x)   5 starts, best result: 9th  

No. 55 Isabella Robusto (Venturini Motorsports)

She was fantastic in Portland for her first road track race. She is going to discover Sonoma but with her crew chief Kevin Reed, Jr. she has the right person to allow her to have a fast car. Their duo is effective. It must be said that Kevin is used to working with female drivers. Isn’t he the one who allowed Hailie Deegan to win her first two races in the West Series (Meridian 2018 and Las Vegas Dirt 2019)?

Starts              Wins              Top5              Top10              Pole              Best result              At Sonoma

No. 68 Rodd Kneeland (Rodd Racing)

First race of the season for Rodd Kneeland and first at Sonoma since 2022 where he had an accident. Sonoma, he has made almost 50% of his career starts there (6 out of 13) with a 14th position in 2018 as his best result. But while Kneeland loves Sonoma, Sonoma hasn’t always been kind to him. His teaming up with P.J. Pedroncelli, Jr. this year to pool their strengths should benefit him. If the car is reliable, we will have to watch the No. 68. Tony Caputo will be its crew chief. Note a technical alliance with NKM for the preparation of the car.

Starts            Wins            Top5            Top10            Pole            Best result            At Sonoma
13000011th6 starts, best result 14th

No. 71 Nick Joanides (Jan’s Racing)

Engine power problem on the straights in Portland and car unstable when braking. In short, the Portland race was complicated for Joanides. Decision was made to take another chassis for Sonoma. We must hope that the engine, once overhauled, will bring more satisfaction than last week. Unlike Portland, which he was discovering, Sonoma he knows and appreciates this road track where he finished 14th last year. Rip Michels will be the crew chief.

Starts              Wins              Top5              Top10              Pole              Best result              At Sonoma
31  0       210   0      4th      2 starts, best result 14th

No. 77 Dave Smith (Performance P1 Motorsports)  

After the disappointment in Portland where he was unable to start the race due to a clutch problem, Dave Smith is determined to ward off fate and obtain a good result. He has a lot of experience in Sonoma with nine races and two top-10s including a ninth position in 2019. Roger Bracken will be its crew chief as in Portland.

Starts              Wins              Top5              Top10              Pole              Best result              At Sonoma
14 (1 DNS)01305th9 starts, best result 9th

No. 80 Brian Kamisky (Dereck Copeland Racing)

Kamisky is doing his first race of the season and it’s not surprising to see his doing this on a road track. He never had any luck at Sonoma like last year for example but he is good on this type of circuit, as proof of his two top-10s obtained at Tooele, UT in 2020. Derek Copeland will be his crew chief.

Starts              Wins              Top5              Top10              Pole              Best result              At Sonoma
7 (1 DNS)00308th2 starts (+1 DNS), best result: 16th

No. 86 Tim Spurgeon (David Racing) 

First race of the season for Spurgeon who skipped Portland last week. Last year, the man who knows Sonoma perfectly having done 10 races there in the West Series finished 12th. Former champion (2007) Mike David will be his crew chief.

Starts      Wins      Top5      Top10      Pole      Best result      At Sonoma  
19      0      0      3      0      6th  (1x)    10 starts, best result: 9th

No. 88 Tanner Reif (Naake-Klauer Motorsports) 

Not the race or result he would have liked in Portland for Tanner Reif. He intends to do better in Sonoma where his team is the only one of those active to have already won the Sonoma race in the past, it was with David Gilliland in 2012. Hoping that luck is with him because last year he was the victim of a broken suspension and in 2022 he had a serious accident with Takuma Koga whom he hit head-on! fortunately without injuries.

Starts          Wins          Top5          Top10          Pole          Best result          At Sonoma
25 16 1st (2x)2 starts, best result 18th

Final notes

-Unfortunately Davey Magras will not be present in Sonoma with his family team.

-The West Series will take a one-month break after Sonoma and return in July for two back-to-back races (July 4 and 6) at Irwindale Speedway.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *