ARCA Menards West Series: Phoenix II Race Preview

By Vincent Delforge, Special to Kickin’ the Tires

That’s it, it’s the final! Twelfth and last race of the 2023 season and for the second time of the year at  in Avondale, AZ for the Desert Diamond Casino West Valley 100. A 100-lap race on this 1-mile oval that the West Series will visit this November 3 for the 52nd time in its history since 1977.

Photo Courtesy of ARCA Menards Series via Vincent Delforge.

The 2023 season will have been marked by the emergence or confirmation of many promising young guns whose future in the national NASCAR series seems clear. With seven different winning drivers this year in 11 races already contested, it is obvious that the West Series is doing well and is the most attractive and competitive series in the ARCA sphere. 

10 drivers and eleven teams will have completed the entire season. There were only six in the East Series and six also in the National Series. The East coast where, however, geographically the vast majority of NASCAR/ARCA teams originate. Which demonstrates the good health of the West Series since in addition to the historic teams, many new ones have joined the ranks this year.

The West Series finale generally attracts a lot of drivers and teams. Because in addition to the regulars from the West, many from the East or the ARCA national series come to swell the ranks of a race contested in front of all the teams from the national NASCAR series and therefore all the media that follow this great circus all year round. If there is a race where you have to show yourself, it’s Phoenix!

As for the West Series championship. Sean Hingorani with his four victories and his 31 point lead over his closest opponent can see this coming with quite peace of mind. Indeed it would really take a catastrophe, that is to say that he does not participate in the race, not to be crowned 2023 champion. 

But for the other positions on the championship podium, everything remains to be done because two points only separate Trevor Huddleston from Tyler Reif. And four drivers will compete for fourth position with only 12 points between Todd Souza, Bradley Erickson, Tanner Reif and Eric Nascimento.

Hingorani will nevertheless have to stay focused and fight to obtain his fifth victory of the season against numerous opponents, all thirsty for victory. And among them we find the 2023 East champion William Sawalich and also a good number of drivers from the national series like Lavar Scott or Toni Breidinger. There will also be returners or beginners. In short, the race promises to be thrilling.

The Race Procedure 

The race will be 100 laps (100 miles) and all track activities will be concentrated on two days. Thursday November 2 with the single practice from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. MT, The General Tire Pole Qualifying from 7:10 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. MT and finally the 100-laps race on Friday November 3 at 11:30 a.m. MT.

CREW CHIEF HANDOUT: The starting field for the Desert Diamond Casino West Valley 100 is limited to 30 starters plus provisionals. This event will run under the 2023 ARCA Menards Series West rules, procedures, regulations and specifications.

QUALIFYING: Starting lineup set by speeds in the timed session, plus provisionals.

RACE PIT STOP: Break pitting procedure. Break at / or near the conclusion of Lap 50. No adding or moving tires to or from pit box once race has started. All cars will be required to make at least one pit stop prior to last 10 laps of race.

TIRE ALLOTMENT: Per ARCA Rulebook, maximum tire usage for this event (purchased plus from-home tires) is 10. Maximum number of tires allowed in pit box for use in race = 4, 2 for break and 2 for emergency use; all emergency tire changes must be approved by ARCA official (EIRI).

ARCA West at Phoenix

This will be the 52ne race on this tri-oval one-mile located in the middle of the desert since 1977 and Cale Yarbourough’s victory. 

As far as statistics are concerned, of the 51 races already contested in Phoenix Raceway we can highlight:   

-Ken Schrader is the most successful driver with four wins. Richard Petty, Greg Pursley and Ty Gibbs follows with three. In all, 37 different drivers have won at least one race. 

-Among the manufacturers, Chevrolet leads the dance with 16 wins ahead of Ford (14), Toyota (10), Pontiac (6), Dodge (3) and Buick (2).  

-Among the manufacturers, Chevrolet leads with 21 poles ahead of Ford (12), Toyota (8), Dodge (4), Pontiac (3) and Buick (3).   

-The most successful team is Bill McAnally Racing with five wins. Petty Enterprises, Gene Price Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing follows with three wins each.  

-Concerning the poles, Gene Price Motorsports and Duncan Racing are the most successful teams with four.  

-The track record is owned by Ty Gibbs for Joe Gibbs Racing at 135.064 mph achieved in 2021.   

-The poleman has won the race 14 times.   

-Ricky Rudd won the race in 1995 from 29th position on the starting grid, which is a record.   

-As far as yellow flags are concerned, the record is 13 in 2023 (March race). The 2023 March race holds the record for the number of yellow flag laps with 78.  

-Note that from 1988 to 1996 the Phoenix race was combined with the NASCAR Cup Series.  

The Drivers   

There will be 30 drivers trying to win the race this Friday.

No. 01 Robbie Kennealy (Kennealy Keller Motorsports) 

The rookie Kennealy will make his first race in Phoenix and he would like to finish the season as well as when he started it last July in Irwindale, that is to say with a top-five. It won’t be easy given the number of cars entered here, not to mention that he will have to learn racing on a fast one-mile oval. His crew chief, the experienced Charlie Wilson, will be a valuable asset for Kennealy and his team. Note that he will use No. 01 instead of his usual No. 1.

Starts         Wins         Top5         Top10         Pole         Best result         At Phoenix

No. 02 Dylan Smith (Young’s Motorsports)

Dylan “Mamba” Smith will make his West Series debut in Phoenix. He has limited experience in the ARCA National Series with two career starts. But each time he finished ninth (IRP 2022 and Toledo 2023). After a stint this year at Venturini Motorsports in Toledo, he returned to Young’s Motorsports as in 2022. With this car Leland Honeyman finished eighth in the first race of the season in Phoenix. It’s up to Smith to do at least as well. Andrew Abbott will be his crew chief.

Starts            Wins            Top5            Top10            Pole            Best result            At Phoenix  

No. 05 David Smith (Shockwave Racing) 

In March he had a good race despite a spun in the second lap. A 17th position under the checkered flag with the satisfaction of having gained one second per lap compared to 2022. A great progression for a team which had just seen the light of day a few months earlier. 

The technical alliance with Naake-Klauer Motorsports allowed the Canadian veteran to continue his progress with a reliable car. It remains for David Smith to be in the pace from the first laps after a restart. It is often in the first two laps following a restart that he loses the most time on his opponents. As always this year, Brandon Carlson will be his crew chief.

Starts              Wins              Top5              Top10              Pole              Best result              At Phoenix
15            0            0              1             0              10th             2 starts, best result 17th

No. 1 Jake Finch (Phoenix Racing)

Like last year, Jake Finch and the Phoenix Racing team led by his father James Finch will be present for the last race of the season in the West Series. Here, last year with his crew chief Johnny Allen they obtained a good ninth position. The goal will be to do at least as well.

Starts         Wins         Top5         Top10         Pole         Best result         At Phoenix
200206th1 start, best result 9th

No. 2 Sebastian Arias (REV Racing) 

For his only race of the year in the West Series at Sonoma he experienced mechanical problems and finished 21st. He is back with REV Racing for his second and last race of the season. He knows the Phoenix track well having already done three races there in the West Series with a 16th position last year as his best result. His crew chief will be Steve Plattenberger.

Starts      Wins      Top5      Top10      Pole      Best result      At Sonoma  
9 (+1 DNS)0      0      2     0      8th (2x)      3 starts, best result: 16th   

No. 3 Todd Souza (Central Coast Racing) 

Souza is in good shape as demonstrated by his good second position in Madera, his best result of the year. He has not left the top 10 since the fifth race of the season at Sonoma. And he likes Phoenix. He will make his 15th career start there and although he only finished 11th last March, he had obtained a top-five during the previous race in November 2022. This will be his 120th career start in the West Series. 

The last? As a full-time driver, yes. But he should do a few more races, the ones he enjoys the most, in the coming years. Jason Dickenson will be his crew chief as has been the case since CCR had two cars this season (race No. 7 at Shasta).

Starts               Wins               Top5               Top10          Pole             Best result               At Phoenix
119              1               22               69              0               1st (1x)               14 starts, best result : 5th    

No. 4 Eric Nascimento (Nascimento-Joiner Motorsports) 

Fast in Phoenix last March, Eric Nascimento unfortunately lost a lap on the leaders at the start of the race following an engine cutout. Despite an excellent pace he was never able to benefit from the free pass and had to settle for a disappointing 14th position as he could have hoped for better. He has just obtained six top-10s in a row, including four top-fives and his first career pole. Eric and his team led by his experienced crew chief Ty Joiner hope to close the 2023 season with a first victory.

Starts         Wins         Top5         Top10         Pole         Best result         At Phoenix
19        0         5         9        1         2nd (1x)         2 starts, best result: 14th   

No. 6 Lavar Scott (REV Racing)

This will be the West Series and Phoenix debut of Lavar Scott. The 20-year-old driver from Carney’s Point, NJ will be behind the wheel of his No. 6 REV Racing Chevrolet with Jamie Jones as crew chief instead of Jay Lupo as has been the case throughout the 2023 East and National Series season. of ARCA. Between the two series, he achieved 7 top5s and 9 top10s in 10 races. In March, at the wheel of the No. 6 Jack Wood was very fast but suffered an accident just after the halfway break.

Starts               Wins               Top5      Top10         Pole       Best result               At Phoenix

No. 7 Takuma Koga (Jerry Pitts Racing)   

Disappointing season for Koga who experienced a lot of bad luck with several accidents for which he was absolutely not responsible, such as the one suffered here last March during the first restart of overtime. He was hit by a car in distress while he was in the running for a top 10 finish. This will be his twelfth race in Phoenix.

Starts               Wins               Top5      Top10         Pole       Best result               At Phoenix
112               0               4              24               0             5th (4x)               11 starts, best result : 15th  

No. 12 Ryan Roulette (Fast Track Racing) Start: 24th – Fin: 24th (crash) 

Our Air Force Officer Ryan Roulette returns to the West Series for the first time since the Phoenix race at the start of the 2022 season. He should have raced last March but ultimately withdrew from his own team. This time he will be at the wheel of the No. 12 of Fast Track Racing. It was here in 2021 that he made his West Series debut at the wheel of the PP1M car. This year he made three races in the ARCA East and National series, all with Fast Track Racing. Jeremy Petty will be his crew chief.

Starts            Wins            Top5            Top10            Pole            Best result            At Phoenix  
2000022nd2 starts, best result 22nd

No. 13 Tyler Reif (Central Coast Racing) 

Tyler Reif returns to the scene of his first West Series victory. It was last March when he demonstrated having the best car and also the daring necessary to come back after an accident on lap 11 when he was pushed into the wall by Hingorani. His team had done an excellent job and thanks to two free passes, he was able to return to the top of the ranking and win the race. At the time he was driving for Lowden-Jackson Motorsports. 

Since Shasta (race No. 7) he has been a driver for Central Coast Racing and if Tyler wins he will become the very first driver in history to win two races on the same circuit in the same year and for two different teams! And with his crew chief Michael Munoz, he have all the necessary ingredients to achieve it. Tyler will just have to keep his cool until the checkered flag and avoid the mistake made in Madera.

Starts               Wins               Top5               Top10      Pole      Best result               At Phoenix
13   1     4     6     2     1st    2 starts, best result 1st  

No. 15 Sean Hingorani (Venturini Motorsports) 

Hingorani knew how to play placed in Madera obtaining a fifth position. But with the problems of his two main opponents, he now has a safety margin of 31 points ahead. So apart from a catastrophe, the 2023 championship can no longer escape him. He will just have to race smart and carefully while avoiding problems. Obviously he would like to end his 2023 season with a new victory, especially since in Phoenix he has so far never experienced success with a 23rd position in 2022 and a 16th last March. Kevin Reed, Jr. will be his crew chief.

Starts               Wins               Top5               Top10               Pole         Best result               At Phoenix
16      4       6       7      2       1st (4x)       2 starts, best result 16th  

No. 16 Tanner Reif (Bill McAnally Racing) 

Victim of a vibration which spoiled his race last March when he only finished 12th, Tanner Reif would like to conclude his 2023 season with a victory with his crew chief John Camilleri and his BMR team. Once again a victim of bad luck with a mechanical failure in Madera, the oldest of the Reif brothers had nevertheless found the right rhythm with two third positions in Roseville and Las Vegas. Bill McAnally who would like to obtain his 100th victory. The last season where BMR did not win a single race was in 2013. That is an eternity for the most victorious team in the history of the West Series.

Starts               Wins               Top5               Top10         Pole      Best result               At Phoenix
22              2               9               15              2             1st (2x)               3 starts, best result 10th   

No. 17 Kaden Honeycutt (McGowan Motorsports with Cook Racing Technologies) 

Two victories in three races. Here is a replacement who does better than the driver he replaces! And what’s more, he discovered the tracks each time. This will also be the case for Phoenix. Honeycutt’s objective is to preserve first position in the owners’ ranking and thus offer Steve McGowan and Bruce Cook their first West Series title. 

And with 18 points ahead of Bill Venturini (No. 15), the driver of the No. 17 has a nice margin ahead and this will give him the opportunity to play for victory without too much restraint. The car is fast in Phoenix. Landen Lewis finished second last March with it. Sean Samuels will be his crew chief. Never change a winning team !

Starts               Wins               Top5               Top10               Pole               Best result               At Phoenix
322301st (2x)n/a

No. 18 William Sawalich (Joe Gibbs Racing) 

Poleman last March, Sawalich had a good race before making a mistake by going into a spun while trying to overtake Honeyman on the 54th lap. He then suffered the law of Tyler Reif and ended his race by colliding with Erickson during the second restart of overtime. Since then, the 2023 East Series champion has learned a lot and become a driver who is constantly a candidate for victory. 

With six successes between the national series (2) and the East (4), Sawalich would like to finally experience Victory Lane in the West Series where, curiously, he has not had the opportunity to really play for victory since Phoenix. Indeed, whether in Portland or Sonoma, he certainly obtained top-fives but without being able to play for victory. Matt Ross will obviously be his crew chief.

Starts            Wins            Top5            Top10            Pole            Best result            At Phoenix  
3   4th 1 start, best result : 13th

No. 20 Dean Thompson (Venturini Motorsports)

First start in 2023 in the West Series for Thompson who had not driven in the series since Sonoma last year. This time he will be with Venturini Motorsports as in his five races this year in the ARCA national series. He had very good results there with five top10s including three top-fives in five races. He also competed in the entire NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship with four top-10s including two top-fives in 22 races for TRICON Garage, with which he will be full-time again in 2024. 

In the West in Phoenix he did two races with a 15th position in 2021 as his best result. Shannon Rursch will be hs crew chief. Thompson will have to rise to the occasion as he pilots the car of 2023 National Series champion Jesse Love.

Starts             Wins             Top5             Top10             Pole             Best result             At Phoenix
801222nd2 starts, best result 15th

No. 21 Ethan Nascimento (Nascimento-Joiner Motorsports) 

For his first career race, Ethan Nascimento did not have it easy. Discovering Phoenix, the car and the competition with 31 other furious people was daring. And before his oil leak problem, he had shown great abilities. He had in fact made a comeback from the last position on the starting grid to reach the top-10. With now seven races of experience, he will have to be watched, especially since Nascimento-Joiner Motorsports is now a team accustomed to top-fives. Mike Nascimento wil be his crew chief.

Starts              Wins            Top5              Top10  Pole      Best result              At Phoenix
7 (+ 1 DNS)         0   0  2   0   8th   1 start, best result : 26th 

No. 23 Bradley Erickson (Sigma Performance Services) 

At the start of the season, he finished third in Phoenix with the NKM car, this time he will be at the wheel of the No. 23 of his new team with whom he has been racing since Roseville. If the first two races were difficult, everything now seems in place as proven by his fourth position obtained during the last race in Madera. As in Madera, Chris Bray will be his crew chief.

Starts             Wins             Top5             Top10             Pole             Best result             At Phoenix
150       3       10       0       3rd        2 starts, best result 3rd  

No. 25 Toni Breidinger (Venturini Motorsports)  

Breidinger was heading towards a good top-10 when she was sent into the wall by Honeyman last March. This somewhat sums up the bad luck with which she is burdened in the West Series. Indeed, in four races, all in Phoenix, she has never been able to do better than 15th despite the fact that she had the pace to do better. Cayden Lapcevich will be his crew chief.

Starts            Wins            Top5            Top10            Pole            Best result            At Phoenix  
4  0  0  0  0  15th  4 starts, best result 15th 

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

Following his accident in Las Vegas (brakes failure), Hillis, Jr. had to skip Madera. He returns for the last race of the season with the fluorescent yellow car. This car is equipped with new suspensions thanks to technical assistance from Naake-Klauer Motorsports. This will be his 21st start at the Avondale, AZ track where he achieved an 11th position in 2004 as his best result. Tony Huffman will be his crew chief.

Starts      Wins      Top5      Top10      Pole      Best result      At Phoenix
95     0      0      8      0      8th (1x)      20 starts, best result : 11th 

No. 28 Jack Wood (Pinnacle Racing Group)

Based in Mooresville, NC, Pinnacle Racing Group was founded on February 4, 2023 by Mark Webb and Jerry Webb in partnership with Shane Huffman and heads of Chevrolet’s driver development program, Lorin Ranier and Josh Wise. The team that competes in Late Model races as well as ARCA and the East Series will make its debut in the West Series. 

With Luke Fenhaus, the No. 28 has visited Victory Lane twice this season in Nashville and Iowa in ARCA East. Shane Huffman will be the crew chief. Wood who has never been successful in Phoenix since in three races he suffered three accidents and his best result is only a 24th position in 2020. Last March for REV Racing he was very fast before being victim of an accident.

Starts              Wins              Top5              Top10              Pole              Best result              At Phoenix
18031004th (2x)3 starts, best result 24th  

No. 38 RJ Smotherman (Wood Motorsports) 

Smotherman had to pass on Madera due to a lack of budget. A shame because since his return to competition with John Wood Motorsports, he had obtained two top 10s in two races. This will be his third start in Phoenix and Mike Holleran will be his crew chief. It will have a new chassis and for the first time an Ilmor engine. Jerry Pitts Racing having helped the team to be able to race. In March at Phoenix with LJM he had to abandon following a drivetrain problem.

Starts              Wins              Top5              Top10              Pole              Best result              At Phoenix
9      0           0           3           0           7th      2 starts, best result 26th  

No. 41 Johnny Borneman III (Lowden Jackson Motorsports) 

Photo Courtesy of Chris Lowden via Vincent Delforge.

In 2023 Johnny Borneman III only did the Sonoma race and this with his own team where he finished ninth. This time he will be at the wheel of the No. 41 of LJM with Tony Jackson as crew chief. He is the most experienced driver at Phoenix with 22 career starts. He obtained six top-10s there, including a third position in 2004 as his best result. His last race in Phoenix was in 2021 where he finished 20th.

Starts      Wins      Top5      Top10      Pole      Best result      At Phoenix 
124      3      27      61      1      1st (3x)      22 starts, best result: 3rd   

No. 46 Justin Johnson (Lowden Jackson Motorsports) 

Photo Courtesy of Chris Lowden via Vincent Delforge.

LJM had not entered the No. 46 since the Sonoma race in June. As for Justin Johnson, it will be his return to the West Series after more than 13 years of absence. He raced twice in 2010 for owner Steve Acor at Irwindale (24th) and Phoenix (22nd). Although the races had ended in accidents, he had shown good speed by qualifying third and sixth respectively. He also raced in the Craftsman Truck Series at Phoenix in 2011 where he finished eighth. Rip Michels will be his crew chief.

Starts            Wins            Top5            Top10            Pole            Best result            At Phoenix  
2000022nd1 start, best result 22nd

No. 50 Trevor Huddleston (High Point Racing) 

A smart but unrewarded race at Madera that saw him heading for the podium and further closing the gap to Hingaroni in the championship when he was sent into a spun on the final corner. He now has little chance of winning the championship but he will have to fight against Tyler Reif to maintain his second position. Which would be his best career result. With crew chief Jeff Schrader, they finished seventh last March in Phoenix.

Starts           Wins           Top5           Top10           Pole           Best result           At Phoenix
64        3           24        53           2           1st (3x)         5 starts, best result : 7th    

No. 55 Kris Wright (Venturini Motorsports)

Wright has made eleven races in the Craftsman Truck Series and two in ARCA this year with his only top 10, a 6th position at Watkins Glen in ARCA. He will be at the wheel of car No. 55 and Larry Balsitis will be his crew chief. He has already done three races in the West Series in the past, all in 2020 with two podiums in the two races on the Tooele road track with Jerry Pitts Racing and an 18th position at Phoenix for Chad Bryant’s team.

Starts             Wins             Top5             Top10             Pole             Best result             At Phoenix
302202nd1 start, best result 18th

No. 70  Kyle Keller (Kennealy Keller Motorsports) 

Seventh in Madera when he could logically hope for the top-five, Keller intends to reconnect with the latter in Phoenix as he did at the start of the season when he finished fifth. At the start of the year he drove for Jerry Pitts Racing, this time he will be with his new team with whom he has four top 10s in the last five races. Brian Kizer will be his crew chief.

Starts              Wins              Top5              Top10              Pole              Best result            At Phoenix
21     0        6        13        0        4th (3x)        3 starts, best result : 5th 

No. 71 Nick Joanides (Jan’s Towing Racing) 

Joanides and his new team created by Jan Qualkenbush continue their technical partnership with Lowden-Jackson Motorsports even if this time the owner points will not be awarded to Chris Lowden since LJM enters its own cars in Phoenix. Joanides has already driven once in the West Series at Phoenix, it was in 2004 when he finished 16th for a team led at the time by Tom Puskarich. The eighth position acquired at Madera was the first top 10 for the new team created just before the Roseville race. This is a new car that will be used in Phoenix. Dave Jackson will be his crew chief.

Starts              Wins              Top5              Top10              Pole              Best result              At Phoenix
27  0       19   0      4th      1 start, best result 16th

No. 88 Joey Iest (Naake-Klauer Motorsports) 

It only took him two races to show everyone that he is a driver who deserves to be behind the wheel full time again. Joey Iest finished fourth at Roseville and third at Madera. This will be his sixth start in Phoenix where he has curiously never experienced success. But given his state of form as well as that of his NKM team, victory will be the objective. In March with Erickson, the No. 88 finished in third position. Mike Naake will be his crew chief.

Starts             Wins             Top5             Top10             Pole             Best result             At Phoenix
261111401st5 starts, best result 12th

No. 97 Landen Lewis (CR7 Motorsports)

First West Series race for Lewis since leaving the Steve McGowan/Bruce Cook team after the Evergreen race. He drives for Codie Rohrbaugh’s CR7 Motorsports team as he had already done at Bristol in the ARCA National/East series last September where he was unfortunately the victim of an accident. For the team it will be the debut in the West Series but not in Phoenix which the team already frequents in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Todd Myers will be his crew chief. Lewis finished second in March behind Tyler Reif in the first Phoenix race of the season.

Starts             Wins             Top5             Top10             Pole             Best result             At Phoenix
16291321st2 starts, best result 2nd

Final notes

-Failing to be able to raise the necessary budget, the driver who was to take part in the Phoenix race with the Performance P-1 Motorsports team forced the team to withdraw. We will find Joe Nava’s No. 77 in 2024.

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