By Vincent Delforge, special to KickinTheTires.net
Reif however did not have an easy race despite his pole position. Indeed he was going to be overtaken on the first lap by Landen Lewis. Lewis and his teammate Cole Moore from Bill McAnally Racing would occupy the front positions for almost the first two thirds of the race.
Accompanying them was Jake Drew. The championship leader would take command of the race shortly before the halfway break. He was heading for a fourth consecutive victory when a final yellow flag would change everything. Reif was going to take advantage of this last restart and the good adjustments made during the break to take the advantage by the outside line and went to victory.
Despite a final charge, Drew will not be able to regain the first position. For Bob Bruncati’s team, this is the fourth consecutive victory at Evergreen and this season. Note that Reif converted each of his two poles into victory. He, who had had a few complicated races after his resounding victory at the start of the season at Irwindale, took second position in the championship from Moore, but a good distance from Drew.
The combined practice/qualifying session was dominated by Cole Moore for a long time, but in the end it was rookie Tanner Reif who took pole position. His second in career. Ahead of Landen Lewis, Jake Drew and Cole Moore. The announced battle between the Bruncati Racing drivers and Bill McAnally Racing could not have started better.
It should be noted that among the three rookies, Californian Sean Hingorani was the best performer in seventh position behind the wheel of the Nascimento Racing car. R.J. Smotherman, of Nevada being 13th and the Canadian David Smith 15th and last.
Bruncati Racing which obtains its third poles at Evergreen after those obtained in 2015 with James Bickford and in 2020 with Blaine Perkins. This is the 43rd pole for the team. Jeff Schrader gets his 26th pole as crew chief, the second here after that of 2020. It is also the 246th pole for the manufacturer Ford.
The notable absentee as we know is P.J. Pedroncelli (see race preview).
The start is given at the end of the afternoon in front of a full grandstand. And it was Landen Lewis who was quickest to get into action and took command ahead of Reif. The first yellow flag is not long in coming following a spun from the Australian Bridget Burgess in Turn 3 on lap two.
At the restart Lewis retained the lead ahead of Cole Moore who in turn took the advantage over Reif. Drew is fourth. Quickly Andrew Tuttle lost the rhythm and one lap on the leaders. Shortly after it will be the turn of David Smith. Newcomer R.J. Smotherman having to return to the pitlane following a mechanical problem. His car is very unstable in turns. The team decides to stop after only 16 laps.
Tough day for the underdogs since Chris Lowden stops on the frontstretch causing the second yellow flag. David Smith should have received the free pass but he goes through the pitlane. Trevor Huddleston, winner here in 2019, is also going through the pitlane to make some adjustments.
At the restart Lewis had to face the aggressiveness of Moore who ended up taking the lead on the 31st lap. Lewis looks in trouble. Drew takes second from him and the top two escape. The reason is simple, Lewis leads the chasing group at a much slower pace. Reif on the 50th lap and shortly after Joey Iest will also overtake him in the following laps.
Rookie Sean Hingorani is increasingly threatening Todd Souza for sixth position. Ahead there is change. Iest takes third position from Reif but not for long because the latter regains his property thanks to the traffic of latecomers.
New caution for debris on the track. Burgess gets his first free pass of the day.
At the restart Moore leads the dance ahead of the Bruncati Racing drivers. Lewis who is still losing ground will hang with Hingorani, sending the latter into the wall of the backstretch on the 73rd lap. It is the abandonment for the driver of the No. 4 when he was fifth. Burgess receives the free pass. To calm things down a bit, the officials decided not to use this caution to take the mid-race break but to postpone it for 10 laps.
The restart took place on lap 80 with Moore still leading ahead of Drew, Reif, Iest and Souza.
On lap 86, the officials waved the yellow flag for the five-minute break. All the teams make adjustments to the chassis, tire pressure, etc. And we’ll see later, but one team will prove to be more efficient than the others. David Smith receives the free pass.
At the restart, Jake Drew put pressure on Moore and took the lead on the 92nd lap. Reif will also get rid of Moore in stride.
Andrew Tuttle, who has been battling with a recalcitrant car since the start of the race, causes the sixth yellow flag by starting in a spun on turn 2 on the 93rd lap. Smith receives the free pass again. The Bruncati Racing duo lead the field for the restart.
Race Changing Caution
Jake Drew seems to be heading for his fourth consecutive victory when the yellow flag is waved less than 30 laps from the finish following the accident of David Smith in Turn 3. Smith was however able to reach the pitlane by his own means but with the front end of his Toyota in poor condition, he had to give up. None of the three rookies will pass under the checkered flag. Burgess benefits from his third free pass and joins the top10!
At the restart Drew is attacked by the outside line by Reif who manages to take the advantage at the end of Turn 2 with 24 laps left. From then on he will widen the gap. He will thank his team led by his crew chief Jeff Schrader for the good adjustments made during the break. Because without that, he would not have been able to make this daring overtaking.
Thanks to the overtaking maneuvers of the latecomers, Drew followed by Iest came back to Reif in the last laps. Iest even clips Burgess out of Turn 2 on the last lap. But that won’t change anything. Tanner Reif controls and crosses the finish line as the winner of this 1000th race in West Series history, the 61st here at Evergreen. He leads Drew, Iest, Moore and Souza for the top-five. The top-10 is completed by Lewis, Kyle Keller, Huddleston Takuma Koga and Burgess. Tuttle and Lowden are the only two other drivers to finish the race.
Reif wins his second race of the season. This is the 40th different driver to win a race at Evegreen since 1964. Bruncati Racing gets its 41st victory, its fifth at Evergreen. Even better, this is the fourth in a row here. For crew chief Jeff Schrader, this is the 19th career victory and the fourth at Evergreen. As for the manufacturer, Ford, they won their 284th victory and the 18th on the venerable oval of Monroe.
In the championship, Jake Drew retains the lead with 43 points ahead of Reif and 45 over Moore.
Race results : www.racing-reference.info/race-results/2022-07/AW/
Driver standings: www.racing-reference.info/standings/2022/AW/
Next race September 3, 2022, we’re going back for the second time this year at Portland International Raceway, Portland, OR, for the third and last road race of the season.
Featured Photo Credit: Photo Courtesy of Sal Sigala, Jr. via Vincent Delforge.