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RACING SCENE Column (Impressive ARCA newcomers)

RACING SCENE Column (Impressive ARCA newcomers)

Irwindale, CA. – The ARCA Menards West Series competed July 2 at Irwindale Speedway for the second time this season. Track management booked “Night of Destruction” events and a ten-minute fireworks show to conclude the busy evening. The event sold out quickly. “Event Sold Out” signs were placed in front of the speedway entrance. Persons without tickets turned away before entering the speedway parking lot. All 6,500 grandstand seats were occupied by spectators. Competitors were advised earlier to use the first turn pit grandstand or backstretch staging area.
On March 26 Irwindale hosted round two of 11 scheduled ARCA West races at eight speedways in five states—Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. July 2 was event six and the car count at IS increased from 16 to 21 July 2. Series rookie Tanner Reif, 17, from Nevada, set the fastest qualifying time and led every lap of the March 26 150. He drove the No. 9 Ford owned by Bob Bruncati, IS co-promoter.
Round six on July 2 had a similar scenario. Bruncati's second driver Jake Drew, 22, set the fastest qualifying time and led every lap of the 150 that ran 154 laps. Drew, the fourth different ARCA West winner of 2022, won his third consecutive ARCA feature and first on an oval. He won ARCA road races at Portland (June 4) and Sonoma (June 11). He extended his ARCA West point lead to 45 points (318-273) over Cole Moore. Another road race in Portland (September 3), three short track races and the season finale (November 4) on the Phoenix mile remain.
So Cal rising star Drew, from Fullerton, is a winning karting racer who became a karting instructor. That is how he met Bruncati, who recognized his talent. In 2020 Bruncati arranged with his IS co-promoter Tim Huddleston for Drew to become a rookie NASCAR spec late model driver. Drew won in his second night and three of eight IS features,including the double-points finale. He was rookie of the year and track champion. Drew raced a NASCAR late model in 2021 for Huddleston's HPR Chevy team and in April won a 35-lap Irwindale feature.
Drew concentrated his 2021 racing efforts as a rookie in the ARCA Menards West Series driving Bruncati's No. 6 Ford. His best results were second place finishes and he led in driver points entering the final race at Phoenix. He ended the season tied for the point lead with Jesse Love, who won the title because of the tie-breaker—most victories. Love won twice during the nine race season.One driver thought the white flag was the checkers and slowed, allowing Love to gain a position and points on the final lap. Drew had to settle for ARCA West rookie of the year. He resolved to win the 2022 ARCA West title and is fulfilling that goal so far.
The ARCA West field July 2 had eight Chevrolets, seven Fords and six Toyotas. Drivers came from three foreign nations—Australia, Columbia and Japan—and nine states. California had eight, Nevada three, and one each came from Arizona, Idaho, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, Utah, and West Virginia. Two female drivers competed. That is the most diverse ARCA field at IS in memory.
First time car entries at IS were car numbers 1, 12, 39, 42, 66 and 84. First time drivers at Irwindale were: Jake Finch, Landen Lewis, who flew from North Carolina with his racing mentor Ron Hornaday, Jr. and his daughter Candace. Rising star Lewis raced for the first time in the past series championship No. 16 NAPA Auto Parts Chevy owned by Bill McAnally, from northern California. Other new to IS drivers were West Virginia Department of Tourism-sponsored Christian Rose, 27, Eric Rhead and Andrew Tuttle.
Finch, 17, is the son of a long-time race and championship-winning ARCA and NASCAR car owner James Finch. He set the seventh fastest qualifying time in his dad's No. 1 Phoenix Construction Toyota while learning the IS progressive six, nine and 12-degree banked turns. There was no Friday night practice and only 75 minutes for ARCA practice and qualifying from 3:00 to 4:15 Saturday afternoon.
Lewis, 16, said he races super late models at his home track--Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida. He made headlines a year ago at age 15 by winning the MAVTV live nationally televised ARCA 100-lap race September 5 on the mile dirt DuQuoin, (Ill.) Fairgrounds. He was the fastest qualifier in a 15-car field and led every lap aboard Max Siegel's No. 2 Chevy. This year personable Lewis flew with Hornaday to Bakersfield and raced the Bruce Cook No.42 Toyota to the April 23 150-lap ARCA Menards West victory in an 18-car field at the half-mile Kern County Raceway Park. It also was his first visit to that speedway.
Amber Slagle, 25, was another newcomer to ARCA racing at IS. She is a full-time racing mechanic for ARCA and NASCAR teams and also operates her own vinyl graphics application firm to service racing teams. Las Vegan Kyle Keller, 17, is a 2022 ARCA West rookie who impressed everyone. He qualified his Ford tenth fastest and raced in the top seven from lap 30 to the finish. He ran fourth at lap 125 and was third with 12 laps remaining. Trevor Huddleston dropped the teen to fourth on the white flag lap, but he was the highest finishing of ten rookies. As a 14-year old, Keller won five of the 11 NASCAR junior late model features in 2018 at IS and became the track champion.
Drew ran the fastest lap of 18.951 (94.982 mph) and beat runner-up Moore by 0.458 with Huddleston third, -0.805. Fourteen of 21 starters finished with nine drivers on the lead lap. Six of the impressive young ARCA newcomers to IS finished fourth through ninth. They were: Keller (-1.123), Lewis (-1.621), Finch, Reif, Sebastian Arias (from Bogota, Columbia), and Slagle. Drivers in fifth through seventh crossed the finish line three-wide with positions changing at the conclusion. Lewis edged Finch by 0.051, and Finch was 0.062 ahead of Reif. Slagle was 4.759 seconds behind winner Drew.
The above talented and motivated young stock car racers said NASCAR Cup racing is their goal. I can only say to owners of ARCA National Series, NASCAR Camping World Truck and NASCAR Xfinity Series racing teams, keep an eye on these drivers. Get y pen ready to sign them to driving contracts. You won't be sorry.