By Vincent Delforge, Special to Kickin’ the Tires
Landen Lewis has finally won a victory this season and with style! This fourth race of the ARCA Menards West Series season, the Portland 112, on the Portland International Raceway road track in Oregon, offered us an incredible spectacle from the first to the last lap. After three consecutive second places, the McGowan Motorsports with Cook Racing Technologies driver took the checkered flag first after an intense battle throughout the race and especially an epic final lap!
This obviously consolidates his position as leader of the championship where he now has a 24-point lead over Sean Hingorani, only 11th here.
Here is the race review of the race.
Todd Souza surprises everyone during practice with an incredible time of 72.746 seconds! Or 4.958 seconds faster than Hingorani, the second. Yes, but this time was achieved by cutting the first chicane. Which curiously did not earn him the cancellation of his time.
That said, with a second fastest lap of 75.983 seconds, taking the chicane correctly, he is still the fastest with a 1.721 second lead. A difficult practice for many drivers such as Dylan Lupton, Roxali Kamper and Eric Nascimento, all three having had engine problems. Or David Smith who crushed the back of his car in a tire barrier.
During the qualifying session Landen Lewis was the fastest and obtained his second consecutive pole position after that of Bakersfield. It is again Hingorani who takes the second position. They precede Cole Custer, William Sawalich, Parker Retzlaff and Riley Herbst. Caleb Shrader is the best rookie. As for Souza, he is curiously only 11th.
Niether of the Nascimento brothers participated in the session. The reason? An engine switch between Ethan’s car and his big brother Eric’s car. The decision was made to favor Eric, who is very comfortable in Portland. Kyle Sieg, who drives the No. 46 car usually entrusted to RJ Smotherman, was unable to complete a single lap due to a technical problem, as was rookie Roxali Kamper, whose engine failed during practice.
It is under a magnificent sun that the start is given with an unchanged top-five at the end of the first lap. Lewis leading the field. Note that Tanner Reif and Kyle Keller had to start from the back following unapproved adjustments. But despite the adjustment of his steering wheel during the pace laps, Tanner Reif, up to 15th position, lost control of his Chevrolet BMR No. 16 on Turn 12 at the end of the third lap and there he was again in 21st position.
On lap five, ARCA East leader William Sawalich, in fourth position, missed his braking on the entry to Turn 4 and crashed into the back of Cole Custer’s car. If Custer is doing well after mowing the lawn, the same is not true for the young Joe Gibbs Racing driver.
The front of his Toyota is smashed and his engine hood has been bent in front of his windshield. Sawalich will manage to reach his pit box, not without having also twice made incursions into the grass, due to lack of visibility. Time to repair and he will lose two laps on the leaders.
Davey Magras spun off on Turn 4 on lap six without causing a yellow flag.
Fire and red flag!
On the eighth lap, several things will happen. First of all, Eric Nascimento has to stop and go in the first chicane because he couldn’t take the bend. He lost his seventh position to Souza. But the latter is the victim of a mechanical failure and pulls straight between the fourth and fifth corners. It hits the tire barrier violently.
A fire is visible from the engine compartment, but it will be extinguished by the automatic extinguisher. His Ford is destroyed. Souza, whose his 112th career start, was unscathed but had to give up trying to finish the Portland 112. The free pass was awarded to Sawalich, who was two laps behind the leaders.
But it’s not over yet because Dylan Lupton, who had moved up the rankings, finds himself in difficulty with his front brakes locking up, which leads to overheating and a fire in the engine. Stopped in turn 7, he has to get out of his burning car. The damage is significant on the No. 24 and it is the retirement.
The red flag is brandished time to evacuate the car and clean the track. It will last nine minutes and 10 seconds. Kyle Sieg took the opportunity to go through his pit box to make adjustments but he was too fast entering the pit road and received a penalty. He will go back to the rear.
The restart is given on the 12th lap with Lewis still leading. Hingorani misses his restart a bit and is under threat from Herbst who manages to take second position from him on the 14th lap. The driver of the No. 5 of Jerry Pitts will then swoop down on the leader. It was then that Kyle Keller, whose car had been smoking since the previous lap, went into spun turn 5 following the failure of its engine. Davey Magras also starts spun on turn 9. New yellow flag. Sawalich is again the beneficiary of the free pass and returns to the leader’s lap.
Lewis took advantage of this yellow flag to make his first pit stop. Most of his opponents, as Custer, will also make their first pit stop the following laps. But disaster for Lewis. He entered the pit lane a lap too early, it was closed. And he is penalized and loses many positions. It is Herbst who inherits the leadership in front of Trevor Huddleston.
At the restart of lap 22, the top 10 was made up of Riley Herbst ahead of Trevord Huddleston, Cole Custer, Dale Quarterley, Caleb Shrader, Tanner Reif, Landen Lewis, Takuma Koga, Sean Hingorani and Tyler Reif. If Herbst keeps the first position, behind him Custer passes his teammate Huddleston and will approach the leader.
Tanner Reif and Ryan Philpott both had engine trouble and ended up in their pit box on lap 28. If Philpott has to retire, Reif can get back on track four laps behind the leader. At the restart of lap 22, the top 10 was made up of Riley Herbst ahead of Trevord Huddleston, Cole Custer, Dale Quarterley, Caleb Shrader, Tanner Reif, Landen Lewis, Takuma Koga, Sean Hingorani and Tyler Reif. If Herbst keeps the first position, behind him Custer passes his teammate Huddleston and will approach the leader.
Tanner Reif and Ryan Philpott both had engine trouble and ended up in their pit box on lap 28. If Philpott has to retire, Reif can get back on track four laps behind the leader.
The first three, Herbst, Custer and Huddleston widened the gap on Hingorani who managed to take fourth position from Quarterley on lap 29. The next lap Custer manages to take the advantage over the leader between turns 6 and 7. But the halfway yellow flag is waved almost simultaneously and Herbst regains the lead in the backstretch. After analysis, the officials confirm that it was indeed Herbst who was the leader when the yellow flag was waved. David Smith is the free pass.
The restart is given on the 33rd lap and Custer goes directly up to Herbst. The two pilots go through several side-by-side turns until the seventh where Custer manages to take the advantage.
Once in front Custer must fight to contain Herbst and Huddleston. But the latter will be overtaken by Hingorani and Lewis on the 37th lap.
No yellow flag on lap 39 when Eric Nascimento went off the track on Turn 12. He lost many positions. Suddenly on lap 41 the No. 5 Ford of Herbst started to smoke. He loses time on the leader. Parker Retzlaff, sixth, makes a spun turn 5 without causing a yellow flag. On lap 43, while he was still second, the problem worsened and Herbst had to enter the pitlane. It’s the abandonment, rear end problem.
Dale Quarterley, fifth, misses the chicane but does not mark the stop. He will have to make a stop & go penalty 11 laps from the end, causing him to lose contact with the top10. Kyle Sieg suffered an engine failure on the 45th lap.
Problem for Nascimento on the 49th lap who stops his car between the fourth and fifth corners. Oil leak failure. Too bad he was in ninth position. Davey Magras receives the free pass.
Restart on lap 53 with Custer still leading ahead of Hingorani, Lewis, Huddleston and Sawalich who made a spectacular comeback! Lewis will take advantage that Hingorani misses his restart to take second position from the Venturini Motorsports driver.
A last yellow flag and a wild finish!
Tyler Reif breaks his left front suspension and has to stop on the side of the track at Turn 4. Heartbreaking for the youngest of the Reif brothers when the top five was possible. This causes a fifth and final yellow flag. Bradley Erickson is the free pass and he will make the most of this opportunity, he who was down to 13th position at that time of the race.
The restart is given two laps from the end and Custer will not make the best restart of his life. Lewis took the opportunity to take command of the race at the entrance of Turn 4. Behind Huddleston did the same on Hingorani. Quarterley and Shrader gain positions and are fifth and sixth.
The last lap will be epic. Custer dives inside the first chicane and regains the lead for a few tens of feet. Lewis doesn’t let go and passes it back to the acceleration towards Turn 4. They are side-by-side in the twisty part. Coming out of Turn 7 Custer appeared to miss a gear and leaves Lewis alone in the lead. Custer is even passed by Hingorani and Huddleston in the backstretch.
But these two hooked up between Turns 11 and 12 and spun. Custer recovered his second position but too late to try anything. In front Lewis passes as the winner under the checkered flag with almost 2 seconds ahead of Custer. Quarterley finished third ahead of Sawalich and Retzlaff rounded out the top-five. Erickson is sixth ahead of Shrader, Koga, Magras and Eric Johnson, Jr, another rookie closes the top 10.
Hingorani and Huddleston finish 11th and 12th, losing big championship points. A championship led by Lewis with 24 ahead of Hingorani and Tyler Reif, 25 over Erickson and 28 over Huddleston.
Next race this Friday, June 9 at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, CA for the General Tire 200. Second and final road race of the 2023 season.
See you on Wednesday for the full driver-by-driver analysis.