ARCA Menards West Series – Kern County race preview

By Vincent Delforge, special to

This Saturday, April 23, 2022, Kern County Raceway Park will host the third ARCA Menards West Series race of the season in Bakersfield, CA. This very fast half-mile D-shaped oval was opened in 2013 to replace the Mesa Marin short track. A superb modern oval with a banking of 14° in turns and 8° in straightaways. 

Not present on the calendar in 2021, the track is back for its 12th race in history. The Salute to the Oil Industry NAPA Auto Parts 150 will take place overnight with a scheduled start at 8:15 p.m. PT (11:15 p.m. ET). The race will be 150 laps or 75 miles and will be divided into two segments. The Midway Break at or near the conclusion of the Lap 75. The maximum tire use at track for the event is 10 on race day. Per the ARCA Rulebook, the maximum number of tires allowed in pit box for use in race two. 

A single two-hour practice/qualifying session (2:30 to 4:30 p.m. PT) to determine car setups and establish the starting grid. 

It will be the 996th race since the inception of the series in 1954 and the 12th on the half-mile of Kern County Raceway Park where we come since 2013. If in 2020 Taylor Gray had won the race with his Ford from David Gilliland Racing, it is indeed Bill McAnally Racing who is the team having had the most success here with six.

And six consecutive victories divided between Todd Gilliland (two) in 2016 and 2017 then Derek Kraus (four) between 2017 and 2019. Bob Bruncati Racing has a victory in 2014 with Dylan Lutpon. Gene Price Motorsports having won the first two races here with his iconic driver Greg Pursley (2013-2014). The last victory being owned by Dalton Sargeant in 2015 for Jefferson-Pitts Racing. 

Toyota is the most prolific manufacturer here with six victories ahead of Ford and its five wins. 

With eight out of 11 races won from the front row including five from pole position, it seems obvious that starting grid position is very important here. Benefiting from clean air is a major asset. With an average of six cautions per race and four races extended by an overtime, it seems preferable to set up your car for short runs. But the science of statistics is not always an exact science! 

No former winners are present, so we will be entitled to a seventh different driver on Victory Lane in Kern.  

The 100th race for Todd Souza 

Even if he does not pay much attention to this kind of thing, it should be noted that Todd Souza by starting the race at Kern will enter a fairly select private club. The famous club of 100 and more. In history, not so many have reached 100 races in their career.

The absolute record holder being the late Jack Sellers with 282 races (for 304 entries). He leads Hershel McGriff with 273. In total they are 36 in this club. The last driver to reach the symbolic 100 races mark is Greg Pursley during the 2015 season finale in Phoenix. And this year, we will even see a second driver reach 100 races with Takuma Koga. But that will be for the Las Vegas race next October. 

In the meantime here is the table of the 36 drivers.

Jack Sellers  282 
Hershel McGriff  273 
Ray Elder  240 
Bill Schmitt  236 
Jack McCoy  204 
Scotty Cain  181 
Jim Cook  166 
Jimmy Insolo  164 
Scott Gaylord  161 
10  Johnny Steele  142 
11  John Krebs  141 
12  Brett Thompson  139 
13  John Soares, Jr.  137 
14  Dick Bown  136 
15  Don Noel  134 
16  Lloyd Dane  130 
17  Ron Gautsche  130 
18  Butch Gilliland  123 
19  Daryl Harr  121 
20  Johnny Borneman, III  119 
21  Richard White  117 
22  Rick McCray  116 
23  Chuck Bown  113 
24  St. James Davis  113 
25  Austin Cameron  112 
26  Ed Brown  109 
27  Pat Mintey  109 
28  Jim Robinson  109 
29  Bill Sedgwick  109 
30  Roy Smith  109 
31  David Mayhew  107 
32  Ernie Stierly  105 
33  Eric Holmes  104 
34  Jim Bown  102 
35  Sonny Easley  101 
36  Greg Pursley  100 

Note that despite my archives of which I have encoded a large part on (but the work is not finished). If there is one thing I am sure of it is that there are no other drivers who have reached 100 races. But it is probable, even certain, that some race results are missing for the drivers covering the period 1956-1964. A driver like Scotty Cain is probably closer to 200 races than the 181 currently counted. One day maybe the missing archives will resurface somewhere.. I hope so! 

The drivers  

The preliminary entry list is made up of 20 cars. it is time to detail it driver by driver. 

No. 4 Sebastian Arias (Nascimento Racing)  

Sebastian Arias seems to have integrated well into his new team. The race at Irwindale gave him his first career top 10. But if he found a good rhythm at the end of the race, the delay accumulated in the first segment had taken away all hope of a top-five. He will discover the Kern’s half mile. His crew chief Mike Nascimento took Luis Tyrrell to 14th position here in 2013. It’s up to them to do better this year. Which is possible, the car being fast. With this chassis, Jack Wood had driven with the best in 2019 before suffering an electrical failure. 

Starts     Wins     Top5     Top10     Pole     Best result     At Bakersfield 
3    0     0     1    0     9th     N/A 

No. 6 Jake Drew (Bruncati Racing)  

The championship leader will have one and only objective, to win his first victory on a track where he has never raced in the West Series. His consistency in the top-five is an asset for aiming for the championship. But even if he doesn’t tell the media, it’s obvious his self-esteem took a hit when his young teammate and rookie Tanner Reif won the Irwindale race. Drew is of the champion class, we know it. This first victory will eventually come. The earliest would be best. Bill Sedgwick, his crew chief, has never known victory there but with two second positions obtained in 2018 (Derek Thorn) and 2019 (Jagger Jones), he knows the right settings! 

Starts     Wins     Top5     Top10     Pole     Best result     At Bakersfield 
11    0     6     9     3     2nd (2x)     N/A 

 No. 7 Takuma Koga (Jerry Pitts Racing)  

With seven starts at Kern, Koga is the most experienced rider here but has never been successful there. His best result being an 11th position obtained in 2019. However his crew chief Jerry Pitts has excellent stats here with for example two victories obtained with Greg Pursley in 2013 and 2014. The last time the West came here in 2020 he had took rookie Kyle Keller to 6th position for his second career race. This should help the Japanese find his way to the top-10. 

Starts     Wins     Top5     Top10     Pole     Best result     At Bakersfield 
92     0     2     16     0     5th (2x)     7 starts, best result : 11th 

 No. 9 Tanner Reif (Bruncati Racing) 

After a remarkable performance at Irwindale, the rookie will have the most complicated task to do, namely to confirm! His mastery of his Ford is impressive. He is very fast, does not make mistakes, resists pressure, in short, he has all the ingredients to visit Victory Lane many times this year. With Jeff Schrader, the agreement is perfect and in addition Schrader also has a victorious past at Kern since he won the race with Dylan Lupton in 2014 and as recently as 2020 had obtained a third position with Blaine Perkins. Good omens for this Saturday! 

Starts     Wins     Top5     Top10     Pole     Best result     At Bakersfield 
2     1     1     1     1     1st (1x)     N/A 

No. 11 Chris Lowden (Lowden Motorsports)  

Lowden will discover the Kern track and the objective will be to finally have a problem-free race this year. However, its chassis has potential because Travis Milburn had obtained a sixth position with it in 2019. 

Starts     Wins     Top5     Top10     Pole     Best result     At Bakersfield 
3     0     0     0     0     13th     N/A 

No. 12 Kyle Keller (Kyle Keller Racing)  

In 2020 for his second career race, the first at Kern, Keller had impressed by battling for the top-five. He finally finished in a superb sixth position. That year he was driving for Jerry Pitts. This year he is driving his own car. After having to skip the Irwindale race because his car could not be repaired in time after his accident in Phoenix, he intends to use his perfect knowledge of the track to finally start his season by obtaining at least a top 10. 

Starts     Wins     Top5     Top10     Pole     Best result     At Bakersfield 
4     0     2     3     0     4th     1 start, best result : 6th 

No. 13 Todd Souza (Central Coast Racing)  

The 100th! It will be the 100th career race for the veteran in the West Series and all with his faithful friend and crew chief Michael Munoz. He enters a very closed club (see at the beginning of the article). He has already raced Kern 6 times with 4 top-10s including a fifth position as the best result in 2019. Todd Souza who recently announced that this year would be his last full-time as a driver before continuing as a part-time driver but at full time as owner. He remains on three top-10s in the last three races at Kern. As always, he will be one of the great animators of the race. Because with Souza one thing is sure, you never get bored! 

Starts     Wins     Top5     Top10     Pole     Best result     At Bakersfield 
99    1     14     52     0     1st (1x)     6 starts, best result: 5th 

No. 16 Austin Herzog (Bill McAnally Racing)  

The young driver from Clovis, CA, returns to the scene of his West Series debut. It was in 2018 and he had obtained a good eighth position with the team of Jeff Jefferson whose crew chief was… Charlie Wilson, who three years later is again his crew chief at BMR. Wilson who also obtained a fourth position with David Mayhew in 2013. So, on familiar ground, we will finally be able to see the true potential of Herzog. Especially since at Kern, BMR has already had a lot of success with six victories in 11 races. 

Starts     Wins     Top5     Top10     Pole     Best result     At Bakersfield 
3     0     1     2     0     3rd     1 start, best result : 8th 

No. 17 Amber Slagle (McGowan Motorsports with Cook Racing Technologies) 

Amber is back! After doing three races last year, the driver/crew chief/technician is back with Steve McGowan’s team in partnership with Bruce Cook. This association has already made Josh Berry run this year in Phoenix. For Amber, it will be the first time at Kern but on another fast half-mile oval, Irwindale, she had shown her speed by securing a fourth position on the starting grid. Unfortunately a mechanical problem had prevented her from confirming in the race. However, she had obtained her first career top 10 in Roseville at the end of last season. Sean Samuels, will be her crew chief, will also discover the track of Kern. 

Starts     Wins     Top5     Top10     Pole     Best result     At Bakersfield 
10th (1x)  N/A 

No. 31 Paul Pedroncelli (P.J. Pedroncelli Racing)  

It will be a first at Kern for Paul Pedroncelli. As we know, this year is dedicated to helping his son in the quest for the championship. On the ovals it will systematically be “start and park”. The experience at Kern is the same for its crew chief, road ringer Rodd Kneeland, meaning nothingness. But it’s so great to see them that the result doesn’t matter. 

Starts     Wins     Top5     Top10     Pole     Best result     At Bakersfield 
10     0     0     1     0     8th     N/A 

No. 33 P.J. Pedroncelli (P.J. Pedroncelli Racing)  

A contender for the championship, P.J. will discover this oval on which he has never raced in previous years with a car from the West Series. Fortunately his crew chief, Ty Joiner already has notes in his computer since he officiated in this role at BMR between 2015 and 2017 with three top-fives including a victory in the final in 2017 with rookie Derek Kraus. In 2020 with Jack Wood, at Velocity racing, they had obtained the 10th position. 

Starts     Wins     Top5     Top10     Pole     Best result     At Bakersfield 
24     1     5     7     1     1st (1x)     N/A 

No. 39 Andrew Tuttle (Last Chance Racing)  

Andrew tuttle kern Andrew Tuttle’s car for Kern County Raceway Park. Photo Courtesy of Andrew Tuttle via Vincent Delforge.

Tuttle’s Kern experience is limited and dates back to 2018 when he rode for John Wood and Kevin McCarty’s team. He had finished 19th in this race. This year with his own LCR team he will have a lot to deal with. After having to forfeit Irwindale for logistical reasons, he returns with the same car as in Phoenix. Avoiding problems in the race will be the number one objective. After all can happen. 

Starts     Wins     Top5     Top10     Pole     Best result     At Bakersfield 
7    0    0    0    0    15th (2x)    1 start, best result : 19th 

No. 42 Landen Lewis (Cook Racing Technologies) 

This will be the West Series debut for the 16-year-old from North Carolina. Last year he impressed on his debut in the ARCA Menards national series. His performance with a car managed by Mark Rette in DuQuoin, Illinois did not go unnoticed. On the one-mile dirt track, he took pole position and led all the laps to claim a superb victory over Ty Gibbs in overtime! He will be Amber Slagle’s teammate in a joint effort between the CRT and McGowan teams. His crew chief Derek Peebles will also discover the Kern track. 

Starts     Wins     Top5     Top10     Pole     Best result     At Bakersfield 
N/A  N/A 

No. 50 Trevor Huddleston (High Point Racing)  

With the family team led by his father Tim Huddleston, the blue Ford No. 50 driven by Trevor is performing well as we saw in Irwindale. And if I could sometimes be critical of Trevor and his inconsistency from race to race. One thing is certain, at Kern he has always been very good. As proof in four races, he obtained the 6th, 3rd, 8th and 4th positions respectively. So it is obvious that he will be a candidate for victory this Saturday. Even if he knows the track for having already been there as a crew member, Travis Thirkettle will be crew chief for the first time at Kern. 

Starts     Wins     Top5     Top10     Pole     Best result     At Bakersfield 
 50    2      18    42     0     1st (2x)    4 starts, best result: 3rd  

No. 54 Joey Iest (Naake-Klauer Motorsports)  

Iest has already made a race in 2020 at Kern and it did not leave him with a great memory. Victim of two accidents, he had painfully reached the finish in 12th position. But since then, the chronic bad luck he suffered in the West Series left him and he is now a formidable driver, still very fast. The start of the 2022 season was somewhat complicated for the driver of Ford No. 54 and he will be keen to finally obtain a result worthy of his rank. As crew chief, Mike Naake has never really known success in Kern either with Iest or previously with Jeremy Doss or Luis Tyrrell. It’s up to them to make the statistics lie! 

Starts     Wins     Top5     Top10     Pole     Best result     At Bakersfield 
15     1     6     7     0     1st (1x)     1 start, best result : 12th 

No. 66 Eric Rhead (66 Rhead Racing) 

Unfortunately, and for the second time in a row, the small family team from Utah must forfeit. The car that crashed in Phoenix still could not be completely repaired, as confirmed by crew chief Roxi Gabbard: “No, we will not be making it. We are still working on getting the clip installed and put back together with new parts. We were hoping to but just not enough time to complete everything.”

Starts     Wins     Top5     Top10     Pole     Best result     At Bakersfield 
N/A  N/A 

No. 77 Tripp Gaylord (Performance P-1 Motorsports)  

See the news about Tripp Gaylord available here: .

To sum up, this third generation driver will make his debut in the West Series on a track that he will discover with a big car from ARCA. 

And for the record, know that Dave McKenzie, his crew chief, was his father’s crew chief in 2001 with no less than nine top-10s including an eighth position at Mesa Marin, the former Bakersfield oval! 

Starts     Wins     Top5     Top10     Pole     Best result     At Bakersfield 

No. 86  TBA (David Racing with Nascimento Racing)  

Will Tim Spurgeon be the driver? Nothing is certain at the moment. A pilot providing budget is sought. Toyota No. 86 and its crew chief Mike David, 2007 West Series champion, will be on hand ready to do anything to obtain the best result if they are given the opportunity to race. 

Starts     Wins     Top5     Top10     Pole     Best result     At Bakersfield 

No. 88 Bridget Burgess (BMI Racing)  

For her first full season in 2020 Bridget had finished 14th at Kern in a race where she had not been spared bad luck. The start of the 2022 season does not reflect the qualities she is showing. She was in the top 10 at Irwindale before yet another technical problem ruined everything. The small team lacks the means but not the courage. Fingers crossed that our favorite Aussies can finally get the result they deserve. 

Starts     Wins     Top5     Top10     Pole     Best result     At Bakersfield 
22     0     0     5     0     7th      1 start, best result: 14th 

No. 99 Cole Moore (Bill McAnally Racing)  

This will be the first West Series race at Kern for Cole Moore. The 2021 rookie demonstrates that he has acquired a new status this year, that of safe bet. In fact, he improves with each race. As proof, his recent second position at Irwindale, full of wisdom, mastery and stubbornness. This is how he can aim for the championship. He only needs his first victory to free his mind. There is no doubt that afterwards he will take on another dimension. His crew chief Mario Isola already has four races under his belt here. With the best result of a 10th position obtained in 2016 with Julia Landauer. 

Starts     Wins     Top5     Top10     Pole     Best result     At Bakersfield 
19     0     5     11     0     2nd    
 Final notes 

-Who will be the 199th winner in the history of the West Series? The 198th being Tanner Reif. At Irwindale in the previous race of the 2022 season. 

-Which of Herzog or Moore will be the 24th different winner for Bill McAnally Racing and will win the team’s 99th victory (100th if you include the 2003 All-Star Showdown), the 3rd at kern County?  

To all these questions and many more, we will have the answers this Saturday.  

Featured Photo Credit: Photo Courtesy of Amber Slagle via Vincent Delforge.

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