By Vincent Delforge, special to KickinTheTires.net
A week after the deluge in Portland, it was under a magnificent sun that the fifth race of the season in ARCA Menards Series West took place at Sonoma Raceway. If the climatic conditions were different, one thing did not change, the name of the winner, namely Jake Drew. Dominant throughout the General Tire 200, the Fullerton, Calif. driver won his second race in a row, both on road courses. The last time a driver won back-to-back road races was Noah Gragson in 2016.
This 998th race in history is also the second cut of part of its planned length, with 56 laps completed out of the 64 scheduled. In Portland it was due to the rain which increased in intensity, but here it is due to time constraints. Indeed the program was busy in Sonoma with the next race of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series whose live broadcast on TV was a priority.
With this new victory, Jake Drew now has a 35-point lead in the championship over Todd Souza. Tanner Reif having lost a position following an accident. And in his misfortune it was without counting on a few road ringers who came between Drew and him and collected big points.
Once again, victory eluded Bill McAnally Racing, which nevertheless saw three of its drivers finish in the first six positions, including the second with Colby Howard.
ARCA West Practice/Qualifying
The only session combining practice and qualifying allowed Drew to shine and take pole position in Sonoma for the second consecutive year in 80.397 seconds. Leading Landen Lewis by 0.737 seconds in the No. 17 McGowan/Cook Racing Technologies Chevrolet. Lewis who replaced at short notice Carson Hocevar, injured in NCWTS at Gateway, and who preferred to concentrate on the Truck Series race.
The “grandpa” Dale Quarterley, so unlucky in Portland, signed a good third position, just ahead of Todd Souza.
Brian Kamisky, who had obtained 14th position out of the 24 drivers, unfortunately broke his engine at the end of the session. Without a backup engine, he had to forfeit the race. Another driver who had a major engine problem was Nick Joanides. The driver of the No. 77 of PP1M was unable to complete a timed lap. However, with the help of a technician from engine manufacturer Robert Yates Engines, the problem could be solved for the start of the race.
Following engine changes, they will be three from the rear of the field for the start, Joanides but also BMR drivers Jack Wood and Cole Moore.
As soon as the green flag was waved, the pack rushed at full speed on turn 1. Drew took advantage of his pole position to retain the lead ahead of Lewis. Behind them, the frictions between the cars are already starting and it will not stop for the whole race! The sun is beating down and tempers will quickly overheat!
The first laps will however be among the “quietest” of the race. Very quickly Joanides loses time following engine misfires. Paul Pedroncelli, who had not driven in practice, did his traditional start and park on the second lap. The first notable incident was Andrew Tuttle’s pirouette on the fifth lap in the hairpin (Turn 11) but the driver of No. 39 was able to resume the race without causing a yellow flag. He will, however, be the first to lose a lap to leader Drew on lap eight. Moore and Wood are fast and move up quickly to the top 10.
On the ninth lap, Joanides came to a halt at the entrance to the pitlane with a broken engine, this caused the first yellow flag. Tuttle benefits from the free pass.
While occupying eighth position, Dean Thompson joined the pitlane to solve a technical problem. But the repair is long and he loses two laps.
The restart is given on the 13th lap with Drew who retains his leadership ahead of Souza who goes on the attack and is now in second position. The fight is intense for the top-10 positions. Moore took advantage of the restart to overtake his teammate Austin Herzog for fifth position in lap 15..
The Cautions Breed Cautions
Race instructor Vince Little, who knows Sonoma by heart, provokes the second caution by hitting the tires barrier in Turn 10. Thompson obtains the free pass, allowing him to return to a lap behind the leader.
From the restart on lap 18 Souza dives inside Turn 2 and takes command of the race. Shortly after in Turn 7, Lewis also overtook Drew for second position. But not for long because the driver of the Ford No. 6 of Bruncati Racing does not wait for the end of the lap to regain his position.
And from the 20th lap, Drew recovers the position he prefers, the first, when Souza makes a mistake in Turn 7. Sebastian Arias and P.J. Pedroncelli, both in the top-10 cling in the hairpin, without causing a yellow flag.
The third yellow flag involves three drivers. The action starts in turn 7 with Rodd Kneeland making a muscular overtaking on Bridget Burgess. This one does not appreciate and from the beginning of the “esses” (Turns 7 and 8) will make it clear to Kneeland that she was not happy.
By pushing him into a spin, the latter is hit by poor Arias who was passing by and hadn’t asked anyone. Both drivers finishing in their race in the tire barrier. Kneeland getting out of his Chevrolet No. 68 to show Arias his displeasure. The driver of the No. 4, however, being an innocent victim of the accident!
The only happy with this caution is Dean Thompson who, thanks to this second consecutive free pass, returns to the leader’s lap. Like many Souza took the opportunity to go through the pitlane… But the “bad pitlane” in his case and he joined the track without losing position but without having to refuel either! BMR driver Austin Herzog also made an additional pit stop to check for possible suspension damage. Luckily for him, that’s not the case.
The restart is given on the 29th lap with Lewis and Quarterley, who did not stop at the pits, in the first two positions. But the green flag lasts only a few hundred meters before the big accident of the race. Coming out of turn 3a, Joey Iest pushes Tanner Reif in spin across in front of the whole pack. Takuma Koga cannot avoid Reif’s car and crashes into it violently.
Fortunately, the two drivers are unharmed. On the other hand, their cars are very damaged. This incident could have championship consequences for rookie Reif. Because this abandonment makes him lose 23 points on Drew. Little receives the free pass.
Those who had remained on the track during the previous yellow went through the pitlane, namely Lewis, Quarterley, Souza,.. and Eric Nascimento who also had to change to a flat tire. He drove over debris from Reif and Koga’s cars.
Jake Drew recovers the first position with Cole Moore just behind him for the restart. Both drivers seem to be faster than the rest of the field with the exception of Colby Howard, now third. Souza does a spin in lt Turn 7, no caution.
Truncated limit switch
Barely two laps after the restart, Tim Spurgeon hit the tire barriers in Turn 7. New caution even he managed to get back on track on his own.
New restart with Drew increasingly threatened by Moore. Just behind Lewis, author of a magnificent late braking, manages to take third position from Howard in the hairpin.
Moore tries a hard attack on lap 43 on Drew with the hairpin but he goes too far outside the race line, where there is dust and immediately loses the first position. With dirty tires Moore goes wide on turn 2 on the next lap and loses second to Lewis.
A sixth yellow flag was waved on lap 47 for debris in Turns 3-3a.
Drew once again managed to repel the attacks of his opponents at the restart of the 50th lap and retained first position ahead of Lewis. Poor Lewis who will be harpooned by Moore in the hairpin at the end of the lap. The two pilots go into spin. Moore is over-excited and restarts without the slightest precaution and what had to happen happened… the other drivers arriving all in close formation, Dean Thompson, Ryan Philpott and P.J. Pedroncelli, all in the top-10, pile into the Toyota No. 99 by Moore.
This yellow flag will last for six laps, forcing the officials to announce that the race will end on the 56th of the 64 scheduled laps due to time constraints. It is therefore behind the pace car that the race ends with Drew winning ahead of Howard. Once again Bill McAnally Racing finished second.
The rest of the top-10 is completed by veteran Dale Quarterley, who achieved his best result in West since his second place finish at Irwindale in 2004! Jack Wood with the car entered jointly by BMR and GMS Racing will have had a race full of maturity to climb from the back of the pack to fourth position. Joey Iest, for once spared by technical problems is fifth.
Sixth-placed Austin Herzog bounces back perfectly from Portland’s disappointment. Eric Nascimento, Todd Souza and Tim Spurgeon follow in seventh, eighth and ninth position respectively. All three were able to return after various problems. Finally Bridget Burgess obtains another top-10 on the road circuit.
In the championship Drew now has 269-points, 35 more than Todd Souza who wins a position against Tanner Reif (-37 points). Moore, with two consecutive races out of the top-10, also drops a position and is now at 38 points. Herzog returns to the top-five 39 points behind. If Drew has a good lead, the battle for second position is very tight.
Race results : www.racing-reference.info/race-results/2022-05/AW/
Driver standings: www.racing-reference.info/standings/2022/AW/
Next race July 2, 2022 for the second race of the year at Irwindale Speedway, CA.
And don’t miss the next article ‘Teams reactions and analysis’ which will be available this Wednesday.
Featured Photo Credit: Photo Courtesy of Luis Torres via Vincent Delforge.