ARCA Menards West Series: 2024 Irwindale Doubleheader Race Preview

By Vincent Delforge, Special to Kickin’ the Tires

It’s been almost a month since the last ARCA Menards West Series race. A race contested on the Sonoma road track in California and won by Sam Mayer and Sigma performance Services. The 2024 season continues with two races, July 4 and 6, at the half-mile at Irwindale Speedway located in Irwindale, CA. It’s somewhat of a doubleheader even though the two races will be perfectly distinct with separate practice and qualifying sessions.

The arca menards series west returns to irwindale speedway for a doubleheader race weekend.
Photo Courtesy of ARCA Menards Series via Vincent Delforge.

But why two races on the same short track two days apart? Quite simply because the race initially planned here on March 30 was canceled due to unfavorable weather.

Last year there were also two races at Irwindale won respectively by the 2023 champion Sean Hingorani in March and by Trevor Huddleston in July.

Winner in March 2023 Sean Hingorani will be present to defend his title and for this he will be back with Venturini Motorsports, the team with which he won the 2023 championship. Incredibly, with this return to Venturini Motorsports, Hingorani will ride at Irwindale for a fourth different team this season! He started in Phoenix with Hattori Racing Enterprises before doing the Bakersfield race with Sigma Performance Services and finally doing the two road races in Portland and Sonoma with Jerry Pitts Racing!

In addition to the regular West Series drivers, we note that Isabella Robusto will once again drive the No. 55 of Venturini Motorsports. Jake Finch will drive the team’s third car. There will also be the presence of Kole Raz back at the wheel of the Jerry Pitts Racing No. 5 with which he won the Bakersfield race last April.

This will be the 35th and 36th  race at Irwindale which has hosted the West Series since 1999. A first race won at the time by Steve Portenga. A race sponsored by Jan’s Towing. Today this company is still involved in the West Series but no longer only as a sponsor of the race. Indeed, the founder of Jan’s Towing, Jan Qualkenbush, today owns his own team Jan’s Racing with Nick Joanides as driver. And for the first time this season, the team will enter a second car, the No. 9 for local driver Michael Killen.

But Killen will not be the only West Series debutant at Irwindale, in fact Sigma Performance Services will have Jaron Giannini behind the wheel of its No. 23.

The July 4th race, the NAPA Auto Parts 150 presented by West Coast Stock Car Motorsports Hall of Fame will be 150 laps (75 miles) and all activities will be concentrated on the single day of Thurrday with the single practice from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. PT. The General Tire Pole Qualifying at 5 p.m. PT and finally the race at 7 p.m. PT. which will be broadcast live on FloRacing.

The second race contested on July 6, the West Coast Stock Car Motorsports Hall of Fame 150 presented by NAPA Auto Parts, will have exactly the same timetable except a start scheduled for 7:05 p.m. PT and will also be broadcast live on FloRacing.

ARCA West at Irwindale

The arca menards series west returns to irwindale speedway for a doubleheader race weekend.
Photo Courtesy of ARCA Menards Series via Vincent Delforge.

-71st season in history.   

-Race No. 1021 and 1022 since the inception of the West Series in 1954.              

-2024 race No. 5 and 6 of 12.       

This will be the 35th  and 36th race since 1999. 

As far as statistics are concerned, of the 34 races already contested in Irwindale Speedway we can highlight:   

-Among the manufacturers Chevrolet leads the dance with 15 wins ahead of Toyota (9), Ford (9) and Dodge (1). 

-The most successful team at Irwindale is Bill McAnally Racing with 16 wins. Bruncati Sunrise Ford Racing follows with six wins. 

-Austin Cameron is the most successful driver at Irwindale with five wins. In all, 19 different drivers have won at least one race. 

-Among the manufacturers Chevrolet leads with 12 poles ahead of Ford (11), Toyota (8), Dodge (2) and Pontiac (1).    

-Bill McAnally Racing is the most successful teams with nine poles. Bruncati Sunrise Ford Racing follows with six.   

-The track record is owned by Butch Gilliland at 100.722 mph achieved in 1999 (June race).   

-The poleman has won the race 13 times.   

-Austin Cameron won the race in 1999 (August race) from 17th position on the starting grid, which is a record.  

-As far as yellow flags are concerned, the record is 9 in 2000 (June race). The 1999 August race holds the record for the number of yellow flag laps with 79.  

– The July 2023 race holds the record for the fewest caution with just one and only seven laps spent behind the pace car.

-The most leader changes occurred in June 1999 with 26. The fewest leader change is zero, four times in August 2008, March 2017 and during the two races of 2022.

-The largest starting field was in July 2008 with 31 cars.

-The smallest starting field was in 2022 (March) and 2023 (July) with 15 cars.

The Race Procedure 

CREW CHIEF HANDOUT: The starting fields for the NAPA Auto Parts 150 and the West Coast Stock Car Motorsports Hall of Fame 150 are limited to 22 starters plus provisionals. The events will be run under the 2024 ARCA Menards Series West rules, procedures, regulations and specifications.

QUALIFYING: Starting lineup set by speeds in Timed Session qualifying, plus provisionals. No adjustments or repairs may be made on car after entering pit road to qualify. All cars must make a qualifying attempt, and all drivers must practice before they can qualify.

RACE PIT STOP: Pitting is restricted to repairs, adding fuel, adjustments, and emergency tire changes only. Pitting is not required. Any tire changes must be approved by ARCA.

TIRE ALLOTMENT: Per ARCA Rulebook, maximum tire usage for this event (purchased plus from-home tires) is eight (8). Maximum number of tires allowed in pit box for use in race is four (4), for emergency use only.

The entry list is made up of 22 drivers. Including 10 drivers who will make their first West Series race at Irwindale. Note that there are also four newcomer to the West Series with Jaron Giannini, Rick Goodale, Tim Goulet and Mikey Killen.

Note: Unless otherwise noted, drivers are entered for both Irwindale races.

The Drivers   

No. 0 Tony Huffman (Fierce Creature Racing)  WITHDRAWN

Unfortunately due to a leg injury, Huffman will not be present in Irwindale.

Starts              Wins              Top5              Top10              Pole              Best result              At Irwindale
3 (3 DNS)000021stn/a

No. 05 David Smith (Shockwave Racing) 

If the start of the season for the Canadian veteran seems to be an ordeal, as he has experienced so many incidents, the last race in Sonoma nevertheless allowed him to reach the finish with a car in good condition even if it was far from the top-10. This doubleheader at Irwindale comes at the right time to give him confidence and more speed. Indeed, the Californian half-mile evokes good memories for the driver of No. 05. It was here in March 2023 that he obtained his first career top-10. His crew chief will be Brandon Carlson.

Starts              Wins              Top5              Top10              Pole              Best result              At Irwindale
20            0            0              1             0              10th             2 starts, best result : 10th

No. 1 Robbie Kennealy (Kennealy Keller Motorsports) 

After two races on a road track where Kennealy had everything to learn, return to an oval which he knows well. It was here last year in March that Kennealy made a thunderous debut by obtaining fifth position in his first career race. With the experience acquired since then, he will be one to follow closely. KKM is now much stronger and more structured than last year for the team’s debut. Charlie Wilson, experienced crew chief, also had a lot to do with the development of the team.

Starts         Wins         Top5         Top10         Pole         Best result         At Irwindale
9 (1 DNS)01205th1 start, best result 5th

No. 3 Todd Souza (Central Coast Racing) 

Lots of experience for veteran Souza at Irwindale since he has been coming to the West Series since 2006. His best result was obtained last July with fourth position. This also corresponds to his last race with his iconic No. 13 since from the next race at Shasta he left the 13 to Tyler Reif. His crew chief will be Jason Dickenson. Let’s hope that he will finally be spared from the mechanical problems which like leeches have not let go since the start of the season.

Starts               Wins               Top5               Top10          Pole             Best result               At Irwindale
124              1               22               70              0               1st (1x)               11 starts, best result  4th  

No. 5 Kole Raz (Jerry Pitts Racing)

Return of Kole Raz at the wheel of the No. 5 with which he brilliantly won the Bakersfield race last April. This will be his first race in the West Series at Irwindale but he can already be considered one of the big favorites for victory. In fact, he has never done worse than third position in three career races! Dustin Ash will be his crew chief.

Starts               Wins               Top5               Top10               Pole         Best result               At Irwindale
3      1       3       3      0       1stn/a

No. 7 Takuma Koga (Jerry Pitts Racing) 

If Koga had finally found his way back to the top-10 in Portland for the first time this year, the Sonoma race was more complicated, like his start to the season. The experienced Japanese driver will take part in his 17th race at Irwindale, the first dating back to 2002, the year of his West Series debut. The race usually held in March seems to be successful for him since he obtained seventh position both in 2022 and last year. Hopefully this date change will have no impact on his statistics. His crew chief will be Denny Moyer.

Starts               Wins               Top5      Top10         Pole       Best result               At Irwindale
117               0               4              25               0             5th (4x)               16 starts, best result 7th (2x)     

No. 9 Mikey Killen (Jan’s Racing)

New to the West Series, Killen from La Verne, CA, will drive a second Jan’s Racing car. However, if the lack of budget should have forced him to a start and park on March 30, the postponement of the race allowed him to find the necessary money. And as he knows this oval by heart to race there in Irwindale in the Jr. Spec Late Model Series championship created this year by Bob Bruncati and also in some Pro Late Models races, you will have to keep a close eye on him.

Especially since Jan’s Racing proved in Bakersfield, another half-mile, that the team had the speed to compete for the top-five. Rip Michels being the crew chief of the team’s two cars (with the No. 71 of Nick Joanides). It is with joy that we will see the iconic orange and blue colors again. In fact Killen wanted to have a paint scheme paying tribute to Bob Bruncati and his glorious Bruncati Sunrise Ford Racing team.

Starts              Wins              Top5              Top10              Pole              Best result              At Irwindale

No. 11 Danica Dart (Kennealy Keller Motorsports)  *Only the July 6 race*

The No. 07 removed after Phoenix to make way for No. 11 in Bakersfield and for the rest of the season did not bring more success to the young driver. Involuntarily involved in an accident on her debut in Phoenix during the first lap, she was unable to start the following race due to engine failure.

The young rookie will be keen to finish the race to gain maximum experience. But unlike Phoenix or Bakersfield, she already knows the half-mile of Irwindale. But we will have to wait until Saturday’s race to see her on the track due to lack of budget for the July 4 race. Her crew chief will be John Keller.

Starts              Wins              Top5              Top10              Pole              Best result              At Irwindale
2         000040thn/a

No. 12  Kyle Keller (Kennealy Keller Motorsports)

After two good ninth positions acquired on the road tracks, Keller arrives in Irwindale with newfound confidence and the desire to fight for the top-five again. In addition, he has just announced that he will make his debut in the NASCAR Xfinity Series next September on the Watkins Glen road track with MBM Motorsports, the team led by Carl Long.

Apart from a sway bar problem last July, Keller is still performing well at Irwindale where he has already obtained a sixth and a fourth position in his previous races. Brian Kizer will be his crew chief.

Starts              Wins              Top5              Top10              Pole              Best result            At Irwindale
26     0        6        16        0        4th (3x)        3starts, best result : 4th

No. 13 Tyler Reif (Central Coast Racing) 

This is the kind of oval that should allow Tyler Reif to confirm his leadership in the 2024 championship, he who has just passed his road races with flying colors as his second position in Sonoma proves. In Irwindale he finished third in March and sixth in July last year. But this will be his first time with his crew chief Michael Munoz and CCR. But the team has a lot of experience on the Californian oval and any other result other than at least a top-five will be considered a failure.

Starts               Wins               Top5               Top10      Pole      Best result               At Irwindale
18   1     8     10     3     1st    2 starts, best result : 3rd

No. 15 Sean Hingorani (Venturini Motorsports)

Winner here last year for the first time in his career in the West Series, Hingorani is back with Venturini Motorsports and his ambitions have not changed. He wants victory. The 2023 champion rode in Phoenix for Hattori Racing Enterprises then in Bakersfield with Sigma Performance Services and finally during the two road races with Jerry Pitts Racing.

Despite his constant changes, he is second in the championship! Note that he is already planned to participate in the Bakersfield (October 26) and Phoenix (November 8) races with Venturini Motorsports. As for the other races, this remains uncertain at present.

His crew chief will be Tab Smith.

Starts              Wins              Top5              Top10              Pole              Best result            At Irwindale
214101121st (4x)2 starts, best result 1st

No. 16 Jack Wood (Bill McAnally Racing)

His first top-five of the season obtained in Sonoma brought a smile back to Jack Wood after a complicated start to the season.

And on the Irwindale oval where BMR has 16 victories in 34 races, or almost 50%, Jack Wood has all the cards in hand to achieve his first career victory. It was here in 2019 that he made his first race in the West Series. He finished 10th there with his family team. Kevin Bellicourt will be his crew chief.

Starts              Wins              Top5              Top10              Pole              Best result              At Irwindale
23051304th (3x)2 starts, best result 10th

No. 19 Eric Johnson, Jr. (Bill McAnally Racing) 

Johnson, Jr. had his career-best finish at Sonoma with a seventh-place finish. But it is precisely on the road track that we were waiting for the rookie whose experience on ovals is much less. He will make his first race at Irwindale behind the wheel of a West Series car. But he will be able to benefit from the wise advice of his experienced crew chief John Camilleri who has already had the podium here in 2019 with third position taken by Derek Kraus.

Starts            Wins            Top5            Top10            Pole            Best result            At Irwindale

No. 20 Jake Finch (Venturini Motorsports)

Jake Finch did not particularly shine in Portland for his only race of the season in the West Series. However, he knows Irwindale from having driven there in 2022. He finished sixth in his first career race in the West Series. At the time he was driving the car entered by the family team Phoenix Racing. His crew chief will be Tyler Barrett.

Starts            Wins            Top5            Top10            Pole            Best result            At Irwindale
300206th1 start, best result 6th

No. 23 Jaron Giannini (Sigma Performance Services) 

Born November 16, 2004 in Las Vegas, NV, Jaron Giannini, the pro Late Models points leader at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, will make his West Series debut at the wheel of the No. 23 SPS. A very efficient car and which with Sam Mayer has just won the last race to date in Sonoma.

Giannini knows Irwindale having already raced there in the Modified Series in 2022 for example, finishing on the podium each time. Giannini knows the SPS team well since it is with him that he races in Pro Late Models. In addition, he often participates in the preparation of cars in the race shop. Chris Bray will be his crew chief.

The arca menards series west returns to irwindale speedway for a doubleheader race weekend.
Photo Courtesy of Ethan Smith via Vincent Delforge.
Starts            Wins            Top5            Top10            Pole            Best result            At Irwindale

No. 27 Bobby Hillis, Jr. (Fierce Creature Racing)

His 100th race in the West Series will not remain as the best memory of his career following the breakage of his suspension at Sonoma. Hillis, Jr. knows Irwindale Speedway very well since he has been coming there since 2001. At the time already with his team and the No. 27 he finished in 16th position. A race which consisted of 250 laps compared to 150 today.

He has two top-10s in the Californian half-mile with a ninth position obtained in March 2023 as his best result. Tony Huffman injured in the leg, he will not be present either to pilot No. 0 or to occupy his position as crew chief. The experienced Ed Ash will take the role of crew chief.

Starts      Wins      Top5      Top10      Pole      Best result      At Irwindale
100     0      0      8      0      8th (1x)      13 starts, best result 9th

No. 31 Rick Goodale (Rise Motorsports) *Only the July 4 race*

A retired police officer from Maryland, Rick Goodale will make his West Series debut. He will share No. 31 with owner/driver Tim Goulet. Goodale racing on July 4 and Goulet on July 6. Note that Goodale is the team’s spotter and that his experience as a driver is very limited. Tim Goulet will be his crew chief.

The arca menards series west returns to irwindale speedway for a doubleheader race weekend.
Photo Courtesy of Rise Motorsports via Vincent Delforge.
Starts      Wins      Top5      Top10      Pole      Best result      At Irwindale

No. 31 Tim Goulet (Rise Motorsports) *Only the July 6 race*

Withdraw in 2023 before the race in Las Vegas, this should be Goulet’s “real” debut in the West Series. But he is still looking for money to supplement his budget and will only race on July 6. Sharing his car with Rick Goodale (July 4). Rick Goodale will be his crew chief.

Starts      Wins      Top5      Top10      Pole      Best result      At Irwindale

No. 41 Johnny Borneman III (Lowden Jackson Motorsports)  WITHDRAWN

*UPDATE: the team is withdraw. Borneman III is the most experienced driver in the West Series at Irwindale since he has already done 23 races there (out of 34 possible). His first dating back to the year 2000. He obtained six top-fives and 13 top-10s. His best result being a 2nd position in 2001. He had brake problems for his last race here in 2021. Tony Jackson will be his crew chief.

Starts      Wins      Top5      Top10      Pole      Best result      At Irwindale
128      3      27      61      1      1st (3x)      23 starts, best result 2nd

No. 50 Trevor Huddleston (High Point Racing) 

Trevor is what you might call “the local kid” when it comes to Irwindale. His father Tim, owner of his HPR team, is also the owner of the oval. Huddleston has been racing there since he was very young and has scored dozens and dozens of victories in every category possible, including the West Series. Indeed two of his three career victories were obtained on this oval. The latest in July 2023. It is an understatement to say that he is one of the big favorites for victory. Jeff Schrader will be his crew chief.

Starts           Wins           Top5           Top10           Pole           Best result           At Irwindale
69        3           25        55           2           1st (3x)         9 starts, best result: 1st (2x)

No. 55 Isabella Robusto (Venturini Motorsports) 

After a very good performance for her first race in the West Series at Phoenix (sixth), Robusto proved to everyone that her accident last year is nothing more than a bad memory and that she has no nothing affected her driving skills when she obtained third and sixth position in quick succession in Portland and Sonoma. She will discover Irwindale but discovering a track is not a problem for her as she has demonstrated on many occasions. Her crew chief will be Owen Smith.

Starts              Wins              Top5              Top10              Pole              Best result              At Irwindale

No. 71 Nick Joanides (Jan’s Racing)

With two top-10s obtained in seven races at Irwindale, Joanides will ride there this year for his new team and with strong ambitions, especially after obtaining a very convincing top-five over another half-mile in Bakersfield. He knows this oval by heart. He has found success in other categories there. With Rip Michels, his crew chief, they were able to do tests there in March and establish a good setup. Competition in the West Series is tough as the series is competitive but Jan’s Racing is evolving and intends to play again for the top-five and better quickly.

The arca menards series west returns to irwindale speedway for a doubleheader race weekend.
Photo Courtesy of Nick Joanides via Vincent Delforge.
Starts              Wins              Top5              Top10              Pole              Best result              At Irwindale
320       210   0      4th      7 starts, best result 8th

No. 77 Garrett Zacharias (Performance P1 Motorsports)

Zacharias failed to qualify at Phoenix with Rise Motorsports. He is trying his luck again with one of the oldest and experienced teams in the West Series, PP1M. Indeed, with Bill McAnally Racing, PP1M is the only other team still in operation that was already there in 1999 when the West Series first came to Irwindale Speedway. Born April 4, 2004, the pilot from Candor, NY will discover Irwindale. But with Joe Nava’s team, he was able to do a private test session at the end of March to acclimatize to his new working environment. Roger Bracken will be his crew chief.

The arca menards series west returns to irwindale speedway for a doubleheader race weekend.
ARCA Menards West Series: 2024 Irwindale Doubleheader Race Preview 7
Starts              Wins              Top5              Top10              Pole              Best result              At Irwindale
0 (1 DNQ)0000n/a

Final notes

-Unfortunately Naake-Klauer Motorsports will not be present with its No. 88 at Irwindale, nor at Shasta for that matter (July 27). The team is focusing on its Pro Late Models program this week and has a TransAm race at the end of the month.

-Initially scheduled for the March race at the wheel of the No. 21 for Nascimento-Joiner Motorsports, Henry Barton will not be present. The team is also not entering its No. 4 for Eric Nascimento, Jr.

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