ARCA Menards West Series – Phoenix race preview

By Vincent Delforge, special to

Created in 1954, the West Series will begin its 69th season this Friday, March 11, 2022 and already the third under the aegis of the ARCA. This race will be combined with the ARCA Menards Series (Race No. 2) and will also be the setting for the first of 10 races at the 2022 Sioux Chief Showdown. 

The 2022 season will have 11 races, two more than last year, spread between March and November when we will return here to Phoenix for the final. This is not the first time the West Series season will have 11 races. This has already been the case four times in 1980, 1984, 1989 and 1992 

Phoenix Raceway, located in Avondale, AZ is hosting the opening race of the West Series championship for the 12th time. This will be the 49th race on this tri-oval one-mile located in the middle of the desert. The General Tire 150s will also mark the 994th race since the series’ inception. It is at Evergreen on August 20, for the seventh race of the season that the milestone of the 1000th race will be reached. 

Everything will take place on the single day of Friday with a practice/qualifying session at 2:00 pm and the start of the race at 5:30 pm (MT). Add two hours for the East Coast. 

The starting lineup will be determined by the ranking of the unique practice/qualifying session. The first 30 on speed and the rest of the starting grid according to the provisional places. 

The race will be split into two segments with the midway break scheduled at or near the conclusion of Lap 75. It will be broadcast live on MAVTV (TV), FloRacing (Internet) and MRN (Radio). 

Ty Gibbs, winner of both Phoenix races in 2021 will not be present. 

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Ryan Roulette and his car at the shop. Photo by Andrew Tuttle via Vincent Delforge.

Jesse Love, the 2020 and 2021 double champion, is not putting his title on the line this year as he focuses on the ARCA Menards Series (National). However, the majority of his opponents from last season will be there with the aim of becoming the new champion. We therefore find Jake Drew, Cole Moore, P.J. Pedroncelli, Joey Iest and Todd Souza. But they won’t be the only ones making the full season as they’ll be joined by Kyle Keller, Tanner Reif, Takuma Koga, Andrew Tuttle, Bridget Burgess, Chris Lowden and maybe a few others. 

The entry list is substantial since in addition to the drivers from the West and the national series, there will also be drivers from the East Series such as 2021 champion Sammy Smith. 

We will go through the entry list together driver by driver in two parts. The 21 drivers from the West first and then the 19 drivers from the National and East Series. Even if it is necessary to specify that officially all the pilots will mark points for the two championships West and National. 

ARCA Menards West drivers 

No. 4 Sebastian Arias (Nascimento Racing)  

The deal between the young Colombian driver and Nascimento Racing was concluded just a few days ago and should, according to Mike Nascimento, comprise seven to eight races. Arias returns with his sponsors who allowed him to make his debut last year. He finished 26th right here in Phoenix last race. We saw last season that the Toyota No. 4 was particularly fast with Eric “Bubba” Nascimento. Henry Nascimento will be the crew chief. 

Starts  Wins  Top5  Top10  Pole  Best result  At Phoenix 
26th  1 start, best result : 26th 

No. 6 Jake Drew (Bruncati Racing) 

Jake almost won the championship last year. It took a few seconds and only one position lost by his ex teammate Trevor Huddleston to Jesse Love. This year Drew is driving No. 6 and will have Bill Sedgwick as crew chief. Either one of the crew chiefs with the best statistics in the history of the West Series. Drew will have two goals, the first to finally earn his first victory and the second to win the championship. And he is a big favourite. Note that he will turn 22 on March 12, the day after the race. A victory would be a wonderful birthday present! 

Starts  Wins  Top5  Top10  Pole  Best result  At Phoenix 
2nd (2x)  2 starts, best result : 11th  

No. 7 Takuma Koga (Jerry Pitts Racing) 

Second season with JPR for the Japanese pilot. Jerry Pitts will be his crew chief. After a 2021 season full of ups and downs, he hopes to be in the top five more often and win his first victory. Last year he had long been a candidate for the top 10 in the first race in Phoenix before having an accident. 

Starts  Wins  Top5  Top10  Pole  Best result  At Phoenix 
90  15  5th (2x)  8 starts, best result : 15th  
Tanner reif irwindale test janu 29 2022
Tanner Reif at the open ARCA test. Photo Courtesy of Travis Reif via Vincent Delforge.

No. 9 Tanner Reif (Bruncati Racing) 

At 17, the eldest of the Reif brothers will make his debut in the West Series. Bob Bruncati carrying on the tradition of always having a rookie every season. Jeff Schrader will be his crew chief. He was able to test his new Ford over several days and will be one to follow closely. 

Starts  Wins  Top5  Top10  Pole  Best result  At Phoenix 
N/A  N/A 

No. 13 Todd Souza (Central Coast Racing) 

At 57, the veteran of the West Series is gradually approaching 100 career starts. Always with his friend and crew chief Michael Munoz. He led the championship in 2021 before experiencing a period of technical bad luck. This year, he intends to return to victory and finally win his first championship. In Phoenix, as for the road races, he will use a Ford in technical partnership with David Gilliland Racing. 

Starts  Wins  Top5  Top10  Pole  Best result  At Phoenix 
97  14  51  1st (1x)  11 starts, best result : 7th 

No. 16 Austin Herzog (Bill McAnally Racing) 

After racing in the West Series in 2018 for Jefferson Pitts Racing, Austin is BMR’s new rookie and he will directly have the difficult task of sporting the iconic No. 16! Charlie Wilson will be his crew chief as in 2018 and he too will make his debut at BMR. He worked at JPR again last year. The world is small. The rookie title is the minimum goal for Herzog. 

Starts  Wins  Top5  Top10  Pole  Best result  At Phoenix 
8th  N/A 

No. 17W Josh Berry (Cook-McGowan Racing) 

Josh Berry will drive for his debut in the West Series a car that has already had many successes in the past in the hands of David Mayhew or more recently Zane Smith. Indeed Steve McGowan is renowned for the quality of preparation and the speed of his famous Chevrolet No. 17. Amber Slagle who drove this car last year will be his crew chief. Note that Slagle will drive this car herself in Bakersfield on April 23rd. Berry has already done a few races with this type of car in ARCA East and in the national series between 2014 and 2021. 

Starts  Wins  Top5  Top10  Pole  Best result  At Phoenix 
N/A  N/A 
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Derek Kraus’ ARCA car. Photo Courtesy of Bill McAnally via Vincent Delforge.

No. 19 Derek Kraus (Bill McAnally Racing) 

The 2019 champion of the West Series (the ast year under the aegis of NASCAR) is taking advantage of a weekend off in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series to freelance in his favorite series. He had already done this last year with a fine fifth position, the best of the three BMR drivers. He will have Shane Wilson, his new NCWTS crew chief at his side. This will allow the duo to perfect their understanding, which will be useful for the rest of their Truck season. The only goal, victory! 

Starts  Wins  Top5  Top10  Pole  Best result  At Phoenix 
43  10  29  34  1st (10x)  2 starts, best result : 3rd 

No. 21 Chris Lowden (Lowden Motorsports) 

His return last year was aborted due to a problem with his medical certificate. But he decided to make his first full season at 57. The number one goal is to have fun. The rest of the story is yet to be written. He will have the technical support of an old West Series fox, John Wood. Finally it is not Tony Jackson but Dave Jackson who will be his crew chief. For owner’s points, he will use No. 21 instead of No. 11. 

Starts  Wins  Top5  Top10  Pole  Best result  At Phoenix 
15th  N/A 

No. 27 Bobby Hillis, Jr. (Tim Richmond Racing) 

Note that Bobby Hillis, Jr., who will do a partial season in 2022 focusing on road racing, will do a start and park with his usual car but not for his Fierce Creature Racing team. Indeed it will ride for driver/owner Tim Richmond who uses the same number, 27, in the ARCA National Series. Allowing Richmond to obtain a few additional owner points for the national championship while he could not do this race in Phoenix. Ralph Byers will be the crew chief. Note that with 17 races in Phoenix, he is by far the most experienced driver on this oval. 

Starts  Wins  Top5  Top10  Pole  Best result  At Phoenix 
89  8th (1x)  17 starts, best result : 11th 

 No. 31 Paul Pedroncelli (P.J. Pedroncelli Racing) 

The patriarch of the pedroncelli family started his career last year to support his son’s efforts in his first full season. He has taken a liking to West racing since he is returning for a second season. If last year, except on the road races, his role was to race cautiously since he used P.J.’s backup car. This year, depending on P.J.’s results, it could again be the same thing on the ovals. Family friend Rodd Kneeland will be his crew chief on the ovals. Kneeland driving his own car himself on road races. 

Starts  Wins  Top5  Top10  Pole  Best result  At Phoenix 
8th  1 start, best result : 34th 

No. 33 P.J. Pedroncelli (P.J. Pedroncelli Racing) 

He almost created a big surprise in 2021. Who would have thought that this pure underdog was going to be a candidate for the championship until the last race? Not many people. Lot of first times with first top10, first top5, first pole and first victory last year. With his crew chief Ty Joiner, the two men seem to have found the perfect alchemy to obtain great results with a small budget. If 2022 goes like 2021, P.J. will be a hot favorite for the championship. 

Starts  Wins  Top5  Top10  Pole  Best result  At Phoenix 
22  1st (1x)  3 starts, best result : 11th 

No. 39 Andrew Tuttle (Last Chance Racing) 

This year he decided to create his own team and on the advice of his wife baptized it Last Chance Racing. Because as he said, soon to be 40 years old (in June), it’s now or never to have a career in motor racing. Michael Parker will be his crew chief and his car comes from the old John Krebs team. He made a run in 2021 to replace Chris Lowden. He will discover the Phoenix Raceway. 

Starts  Wins  Top5  Top10  Pole  Best result  At Phoenix 

No. 54 Joey Iest (Naake-Klauer Motorsports) 

If during his first half-season in 2020 Joey was very fast, he was constantly the victim of mechanical problems. Last year, bad luck left him alone and he proved to be a driver always at the forefront. Achieving six consecutive top 5s including his first career victory. He fought until the last race for the championship. Naake-Klauer still having a technical alliance with David Gilliland Racing, the objective will be the championship. Iest focusing this year on the West Series. As a reminder, last year he did the East/West Series double program. Mike Naake will be his crew chief. 

Starts  Wins  Top5  Top10  Pole  Best result  At Phoenix 
13  1st (1x)  3 starts, best result : 12th 

No. 66 Eric Rhead (66 Rhead Racing) 

It is a real Utah gang that we are dealing with Eric Rhead (driver), his wife Roxi Gabbard (crew chief) and Al Jones (owner). Rhead is a 1984 born rider from West Jordan, UT who between 2008 and 2021 won numerous Late Model and Modified races in Utah, Nevada and Idaho. He is the 2021 champion at Magic Valley Speedway, ID. Number 66 is his usual number regardless of the series in which he rides. He has a Chevrolet and it will be his West Series debut. What are his plans for the future? 

Starts  Wins  Top5  Top10  Pole  Best result  At Phoenix 
N/A  N/A 

No. 70 Kyle Keller (Kyle Keller Racing) 

It is with his own family team that Kyle will make his first full season. His car comes from the old John Krebs team. He will use the No.70 only for this race. Then he will wear the No.12. His father John Keller will be his crew chief. He has already done three races between 2020 and 2021, all for JPR. And Kyle had shown to be very efficient. If the car is good, Keller could well be the good surprise of the year. 

Starts  Wins  Top5  Top10  Pole  Best result  At Phoenix 
4th  N/A 

No. 77 Nick Joanides (Performance P-1 Motorsports) 

Times are tough for one of the oldest teams in the West Series. One of Joe Nava’s sponsors having decided to stop a few weeks before the start of the season. The team plans to have several drivers this year like last year. But they will have to bring in the budget… In order not to lose too many owner points, PP1M will be present in Phoenix with veteran Nick Joanides, one of the faithful of the team. But it will be to make an S&P unless by Friday a sponsor is found. Dave McKenzie, the faithful crew chief of the team will be faithful to the post!

Starts  Wins  Top5  Top10  Pole  Best result  At Phoenix 
13  4th (1x)  1 start, best result : 16th 

No. 85 Ryan Roulette (Last Chance Racing) 

Ryan made his West debut last year right here during the final. He was driving for PP1M and finished 28th. This year he will be one of the LCR pilots. Its crew chief is the experienced driver Josh Fanopoulos. He will drive a Toyota Camry bought from BMR. 

Starts  Wins  Top5  Top10  Pole  Best result  At Phoenix 
28th  1 start, best result : 28th 

No. 86 Tim Spurgeon (David Racing with Nascimento) 

Apart from racing on road circuits or on dirt track, Tim Spurgeon has never done any racing in the West on an asphalt oval. So it will be a big first for him. But his crew chief is Mike David, the 2007 champion who has won at Phoenix in 2008. He can provide him with valuable advice. The team has a technical alliance with Nascimento Racing. 

Starts  Wins  Top5  Top10  Pole  Best result  At Phoenix 
15  6th  First start 

No. 88 Bridget Burgess (BMI Racing) 

The young Australian had a particularly difficult 2021 season with her share of bad luck. But her sponsors trust her again and this allows the Burgess family to invest. Indeed a new Chevrolet was acquired from the former Levin Racing team. Her mother Sarah will again be her crew chief. 

Starts  Wins  Top5  Top10  Pole  Best result  At Phoenix 
20  7th   3 starts, best result : 22nd (2x) 

No. 99 Cole Moore (Bill McAnally Racing)  

The ROTY 2021 intends to win the championship this year but it also wants to win its first victory. “Freed” from the cumbersome Jesse Love, he is now the leader of the BMR team since his new teammate, Austin Herzog, is a rookie. Mario Isola will once again be his crew chief. 

Starts  Wins  Top5  Top10  Pole  Best result  At Phoenix 
17  10  4th (2x)  2 starts, best result : 10th 

ARCA Menards Series and ARCA Menards East drivers. 

  • Fast Track Racing, the team owned by Andy and Michelle Hillenburg will be present with four cars for Tim Monroe (01), Zackary Tinkle (10), Bryce Haugeberg (11) and D.L. Wilson (12). If the name of the team refers to speed, the reality of the track is often more laborious. 
  • Venturini Motorsports. The team with the best statistics in ARCA nationale series. Recent winner at Daytona with Corey Heim, the latter will not be present and it is Jesse Love who will drive the No. 20. His teammates will be Parker Chase (15) and Toni Breidinger (25). 
  • Rev Racing, Max Siegel’s team, will be present with its two drivers Nick Sanchez (2) and Rajah Caruth who will drive the No. 61 instead of his usual No. 6. 

The teams with only one car are the following: 

  • Alex Clubb (03) and his own Alex Clubb Racing team. 
  • Mystic Motorsports with Brian Kaltreider (07) 
  • Kyle Busch Motorsports with 2021 East Series Champion Sammy Smith (18). As a reminder, KBM has taken over the sporting activities in ARCA from Joe Gibbs Racing. 
  • Brett Holmes Racing which will have Connor Mosack at the wheel of the Chevrolet No. 23. 
  • Rette Jones Racing with his Ford No.30 driven by Amber Balcaen. 
  • Van Alst Motorsports with Greg Van Alst (35) 
  • Cook Racing Technologies with Christian Rose (42). Note that this team has a technical alliance with Cook-McGowan Racing. 
  • GMS Racing with Daniel Dye (43) 
  • Brad Smith (48) and his eponymous Brad Smith Motorsports team. 

Without forgetting David Gilliland Racing with Taylor Gray (17) even if the participation of the team is not guaranteed following the tragedy which took place on March 8 with the accident of his racing hauler on Interstate 20, near Longview, Texas. A tragic accident with several injuries but above all the death of Steven C. Scotts, the driver of the hauler. The equipment and the racing car were badly damaged in the accident. 

Our hearts go out to the families and friends of the victims of the accident. 

Featured Photo Credit: Photo by NASCAR Media.

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