By Christian Koelle, Staff Writer
Friday Night, Jake Drew entered Phoenix Raceway with one thing in his mind, redemption.
Just 125-days ago, Drew just missed out on earning the ARCA Menards Series West championship by mere positions. A dead tie between him and Jesse Love had him so close to the championship but not enough to secure that title. He earned that redemption when he was the highest finishing West Series regular in Friday’s race. He also earned the first top-five finish of his small ARCA Menards Series career.
“A top 5 to start this season has me feeling very proud and thankful,” said Drew. “Proud to see how far I’ve come since last year but also thankful to have another chance. This finish also helps a lot in our championship as I’ve already built a little cushion to start the season with. It’s definitely a confidence booster but they also taught me a lot. Derek (Kraus) and I were battling a lot of the night and I feel they both taught me valuable lessons on the racecraft side of things.”
Friday’s race marked the beginning of the 11-race ARCA Menards Series West season. It intertwined with the second race of the ARCA Menards Series, with the best from that Series competing against West Series regulars. In Friday’s race, Drew even finished one spot better than defending West Series champion, Jesse Love, who was promoted to the National Series for the 2022 season. Considering that wasn’t entirely his goal, he exceeded his own expectations.
“We really just wanted a smooth day to start the year and that’s exactly what we got,” said Drew. “I wanted to put last year behind me and get a good start on this new season. Practice went very well and I felt very comfortable with the car and we didn’t make many large changes. I was super pleased with our speed and was looking forward to the race! In the beginning of the race I felt I was going to be fighting to stay in the top 10 but quickly found a good rhythm and slowly starting moving my way up. I was happy with where we were at in 7th and those late cautions were really making me nervous but happy we came out with and even stronger result.”
Drew departs Phoenix Raceway as the technical ARCA Menards Series West points leader as Taylor Gray and Sammy Smith are ARCA Menards Series East regulars while Daniel Dye and Rajah Caruth are both National Series regulars. He holds a six-point lead over Cole Moore in ARCA Menards Series West standings.
“I feel we are very strong right now and I hope our momentum will carry on through the year,” said Drew. “I’m confident it will but I just want to take it race by race and as a team does our job the best we can. If we do that we will surely be in the championship chase.”
Drew’s career has been short and sweet it seems, with only 10 career starts under his belt. Last year he earned four top-five and seven top-10 finishes en-route to second in points. Drew spoke on one of the races from last season, Irwindale, that he feels got away from him but added that he feels much more confident in 2022.
“Last year when we got 2nd at Irwindale I truly felt I let that slip away,” said Drew. “We didn’t have the winning car but we were in a position to capitalize and I didn’t make it happen. This year I feel much more confident in my abilities in the car which helps me have the confidence to control the race better.”
The next race for the ARCA Menards Series West comes on March 26th at Irwindale Speedway. Drew finished top-five in both races last year at Irwindale including the runner-up finish in the July 4th race. Following Friday’s race, Drew made sure to shout out his sponsors and supporters.
“The best support team I could ask for made up of all my friends and family that come to each race or watch live at home,” Drew added. “Jay Braxton and Stilo USA, Offset sport, Group A apparel. Everyone in the shop Mike, Mode, Chris, and Bill. The whole sunrise, team 6 and 9 everyone is so supportive and helpful I could never ask for anymore. And finally and most importantly Bob Bruncati. I’m so thankful for everything he does for me to give me the opportunity to do what I love and succeed.”
Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography