By Vincent Delforge, Special to Kickin’ the Tires
It took 14 years for Madera Speedway to once again host the ARCA Menards West Series and this long-awaited race kept all its promises.
Kaden Honeycutt delivered an almost perfect performance by winning the 51FIFTY Jr Homecoming ARCA 150 presented by the West Coast Stock Car/Motorsports Hall Of Fame, having led all laps. As in Roseville, the other 0.333 mile Californian race visited this year, all he missed was pole position. The latter was obtained for the first time in his career by Eric Nascimento, Jr. But in the race, the driver of the No. 4 Chevrolet of Nascimento-Joiner Motorsports only had the opportunity, like other drivers, to admire the rear bumper of Honeycutt’s No. 17 Chevrolet.
Honeycutt who won his second career victory after that of Roseville and thus consolidated the first position in the owner standings of Steve McGowan. With Bruce Cook, the latter formed McGowan Motorsports with Cook Racing Technologies, a team that could become the first in history to win the championship without winning the drivers’ championship at the same time. Indeed honeycutt replaced Landen Lewis behind the wheel of the No. 17.
If Honeycutt largely dominated the race, behind him, the fight for the other positions was fiercely contested. An usual Bullrings close racing and some cars did not emerge intact. Sean Hingorani, despite a complicated race, did well in the championship by seeing his two main rivals, Trevor Huddleston and Tyler Reif finish behind him following a collision and its consequences in the last corner of the race. Hingorani now has a 31-point lead over Huddleston and 33 over Tyler Reif with only one race remaining in Phoenix, AZ, on November 3.
Here is the race review of the race.
The entry list is reduced by two drivers with the withdrawals of R.J. Smotherman and P.J. Pedroncelli. Finally Nick Joanides of Jan’s Towing Racing uses his usual No. 71 instead of the No. 41 for which he offers the owner standings points to Chris Lowden of Lowden-Jackson Motorsports. As a reminder, the two teams have a technical and logistical alliance.
Note that during the free practice session on Friday, David Mayhew drove a second car, the No. 42, for McGowan-CRT. This is in preparation for the Phoenix race. It is his teammate Kaden Honeycutt who will be the fastest in the practice on Saturday ahead of Eric Nascimento, Jr.
During the qualifying session, the order will be reversed between the two drivers. Eric Nascimento, Jr. getting his first career pole on his home track. Only 59 thousandths of a second separate the two drivers. Central Coast Racing drivers Todd Souza and Tyler Reif occupy the second row. Newcomer Brody Armtrout is 18th just ahead of Canadian veteran David Smith who brings up the rear in 19th position.
Hingorani to the Rear and Green Flag!
Sean Hingorani, fifth on the starting grid, will finally start dead last following an unapproved adjustments. Once the pace car frees the pack, Honeycutt side by side with pole sitter Eric Nascimento, Jr. manages to overtake him on the outside line by coming out of the last turn better and thus leads the first of the 150 laps of the race.
The first yellow came out on the eleventh lap following rookie Monty Tipton stopped in the grass of the backstretch due to a mechanical problem just before the leader caught up with him. The restart was given on lap 15 with Honeycutt retaining the lead ahead of Eric Nascimento, Jr., Tyler Reif, Todd Souza and Tanner Reif for the top-five. The rest of the top 10 being made up of Trevor Huddleston, Bradley Erickson, Ethan Nascimento, Dustin Ash and Joey Iest.
Long run under green of 63 laps without Honeycutt being able to take off from his rear bumper Eric Nascimento, Jr. before the second yellow flag just after the halfway point on the 78th lap. This results from the immobilization on turn 3 of Tanner Reif who was fourth. Hard blow for the BMR driver who will lose 50 laps to repair. Takuma Koga, 13th, receives the free pass. Note that Hingorani had climbed slowly but surely to sixth position.
Aggressiveness increasing, the yellow flags are out!
Restart on the 88th lap with Honeycutt leading but behind him tempers were heating up and so was contacts between the cars. The car bodies are full of traces of these contacts.
On the 92nd lap Hingorani dives inside Huddleston on turn 3 and Tyler Reif tries to interfere too. Tyler touches the back of Hingorani on turn 4. The Venturini Motorsports driver goes sideways but manages to keep control of his car. But Hingorani unintentionally causes a slowdown and Tyler Reif pushes Dustin Ash against the outside wall as he enters the frontstretch. Ash hits the wall, his Toyota will not survive this shock. Ryan Philpott, 13th, receives the free pass. Note the abandonment of Brody Armtrout following brake problems.
The green flag was waved on lap 101 and it didn’t take long for the battles to resume. Contacts are increasing and the top 10 is significantly modified. Honeycutt is still leading. Eric Nascimento, Jr. touches Huddleston for second position entering turn 3. Nascimento controls his car avoiding the spun. It must be said that Nascimento is trying to regain the position he lost at the restart.
Indeed he is experiencing problems with his transmission. A little further behind them, Keller was hit by Hingorani between turns 1 and 2. Both cars were damaged. Hingorani loses a lap before being able to restart and will have to return to his pit box to repair the damage to his front and rear bumpers. Nick Joanides, 13th, receives the free pass. This is the third time in a row that the driver who is 13th has benefited from the free pass. Who dared to say that the 13th brought bad luck?
The restart on the 109th lap is a copy of the previous one. Honeycutt maintains his first position and Eric Nascimento, Jr. struggles to gain speed due to his transmission problems. He is overtaken by Souza and Erickson. No. 4 is now fifth. Note that Souza took second position at Huddleston.
The fifth yellow arrives on the 116th lap following David Smith’s spun and Hingorani is put back into the leader’s lap thanks to the free pass. And guess what position the driver of the No. 15 Toyota was in? Thirteenth obviously!
It was Hingorani who caused the sixth yellow flag on the 125th lap by losing a piece of his bodywork. Robbie Kennealy, 14th, receives the free pass and comes within one lap of the leaders. Hingorani drops back to 13th position after making a quick stop through his pit box. Note the return to the track 50 laps behind of Tanner Reif. His objective is to grab a few points.
Restart, Pileup, and Red Flag!
The restart is given on the 129th lap and there is carnage in the pack with six cars involved. If Honeycutt keeps his first position, behind him, Eric Nascimento, Jr., fifth, is once again struggling to gain speed… It’s the pileup behind him. His little brother Ethan Nascimento hits him and it’s the domino effect. Takuma Koga in turn collides with Ethan Nascimento and Philpott, Tipton and Kennealy all do the same. Koga, Tipton and Philpott going for a spun in the grass. Big damage for Ethan Nascimento, Koga and Kennealy forcing them to retire. No free pass since Kennealy is involved.
The red flag will be out on the 130th lap for 15 minutes while the track is cleaned and Speedy Dry is applied to dry up the fluids lost by the damaged cars.
At the restart, Honeycutt once again managed to keep the lead ahead of Souza. Huddleston and Erickson battle for third position. Erickson forced to take the outside line will be overtaken by Tyler Reif and Joey Iest. In front Kaden Honeycutt widens the gap on Souza. Tyler Reif manages to pass Huddleston for third position with two laps remaining. But Huddleston will push him entering the last lap and regain this third position. This bump and run will not please Tyler who will do the same thing on turn 3 and send Huddleston into a spun.
Meanwhile Honeycutt crossed the finish line as winner, 4 seconds ahead of Souza. Tyler Reif was third and Huddleston finished only 11th. Officials quickly penalized Tyler Reif for aggressive driving and relegated him to last place in the leader’s lap, 11th. With Huddleston ultimately 10th and Tyler Reif 11th, Hingorani is more than happy to finish in fifth as he increases his championship lead over his two opponents. Joey Iest is third ahead of Bradley Erickson. The rest of the top 10 consists of Eric Nascimento, Jr., Kyle Keller, Nick Joanides, Ryan Philpott and Huddleston.
Honeycutt receives the checkered flag and climbs into the grandstand and offers it and his gloves to a young spectator.
“Oh my gosh, it just feels so good man. These guys work their butts off and they deserve this type of stuff every fricking week. This car was phenomenal. I was so worried about the speedy dry. There was so much put down in [turns] 1 and 2 where my lane and where I wanted to run. Just executed on that restart, got down on the bottom and kicked their fricking butt. That’s what this team is about. That’s what we want to do is win this team championship in 2023. Got one more, got to go to Phoenix.” Honeycutt said.
In the championship Sean Hingorani (534 points) is 31 points ahead of Trevor Huddleston (503), 33 over Tyler Reif (501). Todd Souza (485) and Bradley Erickson (485) are tied with 49 points behind.
The next race on November 3 at Phoenix Raceway, Avondale, AA, the Diamond Casino West Valley 100, will be the twelfth and final race of the 2023 season.
See you quickly for the full driver-by-driver analysis of this Madera race.