ARCA Menards Series West: 2024 Irwindale #2 Race Review

By Vincent Delforge, Special to Kickin’ the Tires

The sixth race of the 2023 ARCA Menards West Series season, the second of two races of the Irwindale doubleheader, the West Coast Stock Car Motorsports Hall of Fame 150 presented by NAPA Auto Parts, saw 2023 champion Sean Hingorani cross for a second consecutive time the finish line as the winner in three days.

However, unlike the July 4 race, this one was more complicated for the Venturini Motorsports driver. In fact he was heading towards a second place at best when he was able to take advantage of the misfortunes of his teammate, Isabella Robusto, 31 laps from the finish.

Hingorani then had to battle hard and successively against Nick Joanides, Tyler Reif and Jack Wood during an overtime which caused some confusion among the officials regarding a jump start and a overtime procedure. After review Hingorani was indeed credited with the victory, allowing him at the same time to take the lead in the championship against Tyler Reif.

Here is the full summary of the July 6 race.

ARCA West Practice/Qualifying

Sean hingorani swept the arca menards series west races after isabella robusto cut a tire late while leading.
Photo by Diego Alvarado via Vincent Delforge.

Note that following his accident during practice on July 4, Rick Goodale is once again the driver of the No. 31 of Rise Motorsports in place of his owner/driver/crew chief Tim Goulet. Unfortunately there was no solution to Robbie Kennealy’s broken engine. But the team spirit is very strong at Kennealy-Keller Motorsports because the latter will join the mechanic team of his teammate Danica Dart who, unlike Thursday’s race which she did not do, is present with her No. 11.

During the practice, the broken sway bar which had caused him a complicated end of the race on July 4 was repaired and Nick Joanides is the fastest. Kennealy took a few laps in the No. 11 to check the setup before letting Dart take the wheel.

Joanides will confirm in the qualifying session by obtaining the first pole of his career, the first for Jan’s Racing. He didn’t spun during his first lap like last Thursday. A first lap in more than 19 seconds but a second in 18.380 sec (97.333 mph). He is ahead of Tyler Reif. Isabella Robusto and Sean Hingorani occupy the second row. Bobby Hillis, Jr., victim of an electrical problem and a choking engine, is 18th and Rick Goodale will start from last position.

Joanides to the Rear!

Sean hingorani swept the arca menards series west races after isabella robusto cut a tire late while leading.
Photo by Ethan Smith via Vincent Delforge.

Following a small delay in the timing allowing post qualifying session adjustments, polesitter Joanides is forced by the officials to start the race from the rear. This gives Tyler Reif first position for the drop of the green flag. Robusto, however, was not going to give her the opportunity to escape at the head of the race; on the contrary, she took command on the second lap, thus leading her first career laps.

Trevor Huddleston, the local hero, comes back like a cannonball on the leader. He takes first position on the third lap but Robusto gets stuck in his rear bumper. Bobby Hillis, Jr. stopped for good on lap four, wanting to prevent his electrical problems from causing his engine to break. Tough first half of the season for the friendly veteran. Tyler Reif has dropped to fourth and is under threat from Jake Finch.

In difficulty with his car since the start Garrett Zacharias spun on the ninth lap and hit the wall hard on Turn 2. The rear of the No. 77 Toyota of Performance P1 Motorsports was destroyed. This causes the first yellow flag of the race on lap 11. Rick Goodale, very slow and already one lap behind the leaders, benefits from the first free pass. Quite the opposite of Joanides who is literally flying on track and has already returned to 10th position.

The restart was given on lap 23 with Huddleston leading ahead of Robusto, Sean Hingorani, Reif and Finch for the top-five. The ranking does not change in the top-five until the 30th lap when Finch overtakes Reif for fourth position. Joanides continues his comeback and is sixth on the 35th lap. He entered the top-five on the 40th lap. In ninth and tenth position, Jack Wood and Eric Johnson, Jr., Bill McAnally Racing drivers, both complained of a very tight car just like in the previous race.

Robusto leads the Charge!

Sean hingorani swept the arca menards series west races after isabella robusto cut a tire late while leading.
Photo by Diego Alvarado via Vincent Delforge.

Huddleston’s first position is increasingly threatened by Robusto. On the 50th lap, there are only two tenths of a second separating them. Joanides passes Finch on lap 52 for fourth position. The gap between the first two oscillates at each lap from less than a tenth to a maximum of two tenths. Hingorani is alone in third position, two seconds behind the leading duo, and sees Joanides, who is regularly the fastest driver on the track, coming towards him.

On the 64th lap, Robusto took advantage of the overtaking of Johnson, Jr., eleventh, who lost a lap, to overtake Huddleston on Turn 4. Huddleston, going to the low line, lost his grip and slipped slightly. Robusto by going even further inside on the apron did not require as much.

At mid-race the complete classification is as follows: Robusto leader with almost six tenths ahead of Huddleston, Hingorani, Joanides, Finch, Reif, Kole Raz, Wood, Jaron Giannini, Todd Souza, Johnson, Jr. (- 1), Kyle Keller (-1), Mikey Killen (-1), Takuma Koga (-2), Danica Dart (-2), David Smith (-4), Rick Goodale (-6), Zacharias (out) and Hillis, Jr. (out).

During the next 40 laps, Robusto often led with more than a second ahead of Huddleston. The latter seeing the trio composed of Hingorani, Joanides and Finch come back very strongly on him.

Robusto into the Wall!

Sean hingorani swept the arca menards series west races after isabella robusto cut a tire late while leading.
Photo by Ethan Smith via Vincent Delforge.

Isabella Robusto widened the gap until the 115th lap where she has a lead of almost 1.6 seconds, the following laps will see her lead disappear little by little and at the start of the 121st lap, her right front tire blows up and she hits the outside wall on Turn 2. Disaster for the young driver who has no other choice than to join the pitlane to permanently park her injured Toyota. She gets out of her car and dejectedly sits against it.

Sean Hingorani, who had overtaken Huddleston on the 116th lap, did not ask for as much and found himself leading the race with 28 laps to go.

But the tire problems won’t stop there. The long run under the green flag put them to the test and on the 131st lap Huddleston, still second, also suffered a slow puncture of his right front tire and was overtaken by Joanides, Finch and Reif in the backstretch. The tire which will burst at the end of the frontstretch from the start of the 132nd lap.

He managed to avoid the crash and enters the pitlane. However, the officials waved the yellow flag. This green flag run lasted 110 laps. This is the second longest green flag in West Series history at Irwindale. The longest dating from 2002 with 163 laps. But at the time the race was 200 laps compared to 150 today. Jaron Giannini benefits from the free pass, he is in eighth position.

Overtime!

Sean hingorani swept the arca menards series west races after isabella robusto cut a tire late while leading.
Photo by Sal Sigala Jr. via Vincent Delforge.

At the restart on lap 141, Hingorani easily retained first position. Indeed Joanides, second, made his tires spin when re-accelerating and blocked the drivers following him a little. Reif finds himself second. Finch is third. But as he came back hard on the latter, Joanides touched him between Turns 3 and 4 sending the driver of the No. 20 Venturini Motorsports into the wall. The contact is not too strong and Finch can leave quickly. This causes the third yellow flag. Todd Souza is the free pass in eighth position.

It is therefore with an overtime that the race will end. The restart was given on the 152nd lap and Hingorani took off perfectly in front of Reif, Joanides and Jack Wood who had a superb end to the race. Wood who makes the outside on Joanides and Reif in Turns 1 and 2 and takes second position by entering the backstretch. But in front Hingorani took a two-length lead and took the checkered flag as winner.

An arrival that wreaks havoc. Indeed the checkered flag was waved a lap too early. The Overtime rule stipulating that we make a green/white/checkered flag. Out here the flagman waved the checkered flag instead of the white flag. The officials will then wave the yellow flag to signal the end of the race. Another small controversy over a possible jumped start by Hingorani. But after reviewing the restart, the officials confirm that Hingorani executed the restart perfectly and confirm that he is the winner of the race.

Without getting into controversy, know that while Sean jumped on the roof of his car to celebrate his victory then into the arms of his team members before heading towards the fence and climbing it to greet the crowd, the promoter and interviewer of the race Tim Huddleston uttered some profanity, open mic, against Sean and his team. As it was broadcast live on TV I had to talk about it a little but I will stop there. The important thing was the superb spectacle offered on the track by the drivers.

“My restarts have been good all season,” Hingorani said. “These guys at Venturini really taught me how to restart these ARCA cars. We had to restart for wins last year and we got here into a position to do it this year. It just came natural to me, and I couldn’t be more grateful for my guys. We need to keep our momentum up. I feel like we’ve been executing really well every week. We had a brake failure at Portland [International Raceway] and that’s the only setback we’ve had so far this year. Things have been rocky at times, but we’ve been pushing through it [and now] here we are.”

The rest of the top 10 is made up of Wood, Reif, Joanides, Giannini, Raz, Souza, Finch, Huddleston and Johnson, Jr.

Tyler Reif, a little disappointed with the end of the race, said: “It was a good race up until the end. I thought we had a restart line. [Connor Mosack] jumped it in the national race [at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course] and got a 30 second penalty. We’re a four-car garage versus a NASCAR garage out of North Carolina. We’re putting up a good fight and we’re going to get them at the next one.”

With this second consecutive victory Hingorani (293) seizes leadership in the championship with two points ahead of Reif (291). Wood is third (262) ahead of Huddleston (259) and Keller (252).

The halfway point of the season has been reached and we will meet for the seventh race of the year at Shasta Speedway in Anderson, CA on July 27 for another 150 lap race.

Visit Kickin’ the Tires on Wednesday for reactions, analyzes and complete statistics from teams and drivers regarding this Irwindale doubleheader.

One thought on “ARCA Menards Series West: 2024 Irwindale #2 Race Review

  1. If this so called “journalist” is going to report on the announcers comments, why doesnt he comment on what preceeded that or that the Venturi people were saying and doing to him. Obviously a poor attempt at journalism Mr. Delforge.

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