Last year, Jake Drew led at the checkered flag at Portland International Raceway, but a post-race penalty kept him out of Victory Lane.
This year, Drew took the checkered flag once again and got to keep it.
“It was definitely a tricky day, a stressful day, but I’m happy to make it all worth it with a win,” Drew shared with Kickin’ the Tires.
It marked Drew’s first career win in the ARCA Menards Series West division in his 13th career start. Drew showed a strong performance last year in Portland, but after a controversial finish that relegated him to a 10th place finish, finally getting this box checked was both a sigh of relief and a confidence boost he longed for.
“It’s hard to not look back at last year,” he continued, “and see what that win could have done for us championship-wise, rookie of the year, everything in that matter. But just trying to look at this year for what this year is and come back with the experience we gained last year and putting our best foot forward every time we show up. I think we show that everywhere we’ve gone. We’ve been able to do that and even looking at the points tonight and seeing where it stands already, we’re starting to get a big lead rolling here.”
To compare, Drew had just two top five results in the opening four races of 2021 with a best finish of third. So far in 2022, his worst finish was fifth at the combined season opener at Phoenix Raceway, and a runner-up finish last round at Kern County Raceway Park. That consistency has not only given him the confidence to pursue more milestones but give him a comfortable position early on in the championship standings.
But that all nearly collapsed as the field took the green flag for the Portland 112. Heading into the first turn, both Drew and polesitter Daniel Dye overshot the turn and slide off course into the grass. Drew made light contact with the rear of his race car against the tire barrier, but his Sunrise Ford Racing team was able to nurture the No. 6 machine back into contention and gave Drew what he needed to climb back through the field.
“I tried really hard to throw it away from myself, I guess,” Drew chuckled. “I spun out backwards in Turn 1. But everybody works super hard to fix all the issues, so I had a great racecar to come back to the field. It was a breeze. They made my job easy and it didn’t take long with the way pit cycles worked to be back up at the front early and took control from there to the end.”
To the end he marched. But as both daylight faded and rain fell harder, ARCA officials declared the race over 15 laps shy of the scheduled distance. While some may think that fell into Drew’s favor, his dominance showed all race long including winning over second by nearly 20 seconds.
“I think they 100 percent made the right call,” said Drew. “Even people that weren’t leading the race, I’m pretty confident saying that at least 90 percent of the people would agree that it was getting pretty ridiculous.
“I appreciate ARCA making that call whether I was in the lead or not. Safety really is the number one thing with everybody involved. Even when I was trying to come back to the field like I didn’t really feel that comfortable. It’s just too hard to see not only from the spray but our two cars specifically at Sunrise Racing were having to deal with the windshield fogging up on the inside which was making things extremely difficult. My guys did a great job cleaning it up at the halfway break to give me another chance for at least another couple of laps to have better visibility than most of the people out there.”
At just 22-years old, Drew had to hold off Connor Mosack, who to his advantage had track and condition experience from the earlier NASCAR Xfinity Series race and road racing experience being a Pirelli TransAm competitor. Mosack was third in the first stage of the Xfinity race, but a late race crash resulted in a 28th place finish. If the darkness and the rain weren’t difficult already, Drew knew he had another challenge to face.
“He was someone that I had my eye on coming into the weekend. I knew of his background not only with the TransAm series but I have some close friends that run in S series. I’ve heard his name pop up enough times this year that I knew he was someone that was going to be a contender. He definitely put on a good amount of pressure on me for a while. But we were overall tough.”
Drew looks to continue his top five streak with a chance to earn back to back victories at Sonoma Raceway next weekend in the General Tire 200. He earned the pole in 2021, and looks for nothing but momentum moving forward.
“I know I keep saying this and I’ve said that in multiple interviews about doing the best job we can but that’s the truth,” he stated. “We just gotta do our job right and do what we know how to do, and hope everything falls in the right place. We’re just gonna keep taking it one race at a time and keep doing the best job we can.”
Ultimately, the championship is the next box for Drew to check, focusing eagerly but patiently.
“It’s a long way to go.”