By Vincent Delforge, special to KickinTheTires.net
Taylor Gray dominated from start to finish the Star Nursery 150 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Bullring. He who won this race last year will have made a 100% perfect copy this time. From pole position to Victory Lane having led the entire race despite nine yellow flags and an overtime, so many restarts where you had to contain your opponents. Which he did perfectly.
It was even a total triumph for the David Gilliland Racing team that we witnessed. Indeed, the 17-year-old Mexican debutant Andres Perez de Lara secured the double for the team both in the qualifying session and at the finish.
In 2022 in the ARCA Menards West Series, Gray made two races and won both aces. Indeed he had already won the season-opening race in Phoenix, AZ. It’s his fifth career win in 12 starts in career.
Behind Gray, the battles were intense within the pack. Championship leader Jake Drew ends the season for the first time outside the top-five but still does a good job in the championship by being virtually champion 2022. Indeed it will be enough for him to start the last race, shortly no matter what his opponents will do to officially receive the trophy.
This race also enters the history of the series. Indeed, for the first time since its inception in 1954 a mother/daughter duo would compete in the same race. Bridget Burgess being joined by her mother Sarah. More info: www.kickinthetires.net/nascar/arca-series/bridget-sarah-burgess-make-history-at-the-lvms-bullring/
As mentioned above, it was Taylor Gray who took pole position in 14.803 sec (91.198 mph) ahead of his teammate Perez de Lara with a 254 thousandth lead. The second line is occupied by Landen Lewis and Tanner Reif. Note the good performance of Bradley Erickson, sixth, and especially the debutant Katie Hettinger, 15, who is ninth just ahead of the last winner in Roseville Cole Moore.
The 26 pilots were all able to take part in this unique practice/quaifying session. Note that the rookie Jacob Smith, Jerry Pitts Racing, was the most assiduous, having completed 97 laps!
Brendan Gaughan and Kurt Busch say the “start your engines” and Chuck Welsh, pace car driver, leads the 26 drivers for the pace laps.
During the lowering of the green flag, Taylor Gray retains the lead ahead of Perez de Lara. Landen Lewis puts the pressure on and takes over the Mexican in the fifth round. These two will be Gray’s main rivals throughout the race. In the pack the positions are exchanged at each lap!
Andrew Tuttle, who had nevertheless been able to take part in the practice with his new engine, had to retire shortly after the start. It’s really the law of the bad series for the LCR driver… Sarah Burgess, for her first race, lacks pace at the start and is already caught by the leaders on the seventh lap.
The first yellow flag was raised following Sean Hingorani’s immobilization on the track just after the 10th lap. The poor one who has had problems since the start. At the restart Gray will retain the advantage over Lewis who is surprised by Kyle Keller.
The second yellow flag arrives very quickly. Katie Hettinger spun off at turn 3 and was immobilized. The whole field manages to avoid it… or almost. Because Chris Lowden gets into her. He who had been the victim of a similar accident with Bridget Burgess in Roseville. Both cars lose a lot of fluids and the red flag will be raised for seven minutes to clear the track between Turns 3 and 4.
Restart on lap 32 with Gray ahead of Lewis. Behind Cole Moore came back from 21st position. Indeed the BMR driver made during the second yellow flag a passage through his pit box when he was at the door of the top10.
Another yellow flag this time for a spun from Todd Souza. Vince Little receives the free pass. Curiously, the Bruncati Racing drivers, Tanner Reif and Jake Drew, are “only” battling at the doorstep of the top-five.
They have a lot to do with the duo from Naake-Klauer, Joey Iest and Bradley Erickson. But pilots Buddy Shepherd and Jacob Smith are also in great shape. In addition, rookie Tyler Reif, Tanner’s little brother, also had a superb race on his debut in the Lowden-Jackson Motorsports No. 41. Without forgetting that in front of them is always Keller and Perez de Lara. In summary, the fight for places in the top 10 is fiercely contested!
At the restart just marking the first third of the race, Gray still leads ahead of Lewis. The latter is threatening at each restart, but after two laps begins to concede a few lengths against the DGR driver. Behind Jake Drew finally joins the top-five!
Another Red Flag!
Apart from a spun in the turn 2 of Sarah Burgess on the 64th lap, the race is a little “calmer” until the 90th lap when several events will come to disturb it. First of all the big problem concerning RJ Smotherman who sees his engine explode and spill all its fluid from the frontstretch until turn 2. The problem resulting from a prior contact having damaged the entire front face of the Chevrolet No. 21. It will take 12 minutes under red flag to clear the track.
Meanwhile Amber Slagle, David Smith and Takuma Koga lost a lot of time in the pitlane due to damage to their cars. Life within the pack being hectic to say the least! Only Cole Moore passes between the incidents and is again in the top 10.
On the 99th lap, it was the restart with Gray and Lewis leading the way. Slagle, who came back 17 laps behind the leaders, gave us another yellow flag. Then it will be the turn of Sarah Burgess to do the same. The restarts follow one another with the same duo in front composed of Gray and Lewis.
But with 35 laps to go, Perez de Lara took second position from Lewis, but not for long. Joey Iest and Jake Drew make contact as they battle for fifth, which will drop the championship leader all the way to 13th.
Nick Joanides in spite of himself causes the following yellow flag less than 30 laps from the checkered flag. He was pushed by Bridget Burgess. Gray once again managed to control Lewis at the restart. Keller and Perez de Lara did not let go of a millimeter for third position.
New yellow flag with David Smith who finds himself upside down in turn 1 after being pushed by Sarah Burgess. Our Australian friends put the animation on the track!
There are only two laps left when the restart is given with Gray leading ahead… his teammate who gets rid of Lewis. Cole Moore, back in sixth position, rubs shoulders with Bradley Erickson and goes crosswise on turn 3… Unfortunately Tyler Reif, seventh, cannot avoid him.
The impact broke the young rookie’s right front wheel and sent him straight into the wall at the exit of turn 4. The impact was very violent. Ford No. 41 comes to a stop in the infield. Fortunately Tyler is unharmed.
The race will therefore end in an overtime. Gray once again mastered the reacceleration perfectly despite the pressure exerted by his teammate.
Taylor wins the race at the Bullring for the second straight year. DGR takes the double with Andres in second position who was able to resist the BMR driver Landen Lewis. The top-five is completed by Kyle Keller, once again very successful, and Buddy Shepherd, who is making a successful comeback after a three-year absence.
The rest of the top 10 is made up of Tanner Reif, Bradley Erickson, Jake Drew, Jacob Smith and Todd Souza.
In the championship Jake Drew is leading with 56 points ahead of his teammate Tanner Reif. Cole Moore, finished 14th despite his accident with Tyler Reif, is now relegated to 57 points. Jake Drew can no longer be caught in the championship in Phoenix’s last race since the maximum a driver can get is 49 points per race.
Yes, but he will have to take the start of the final to officially receive his trophy. Why? Because the ARCA gives a bonus of 50 points to all the drivers who have done all the races of the season. And it is this bonus that still offers a “little suspense” for this end of the season even if you will have understood it, the Phoenix race will be a formality for Drew.
Don’t miss this Wednesday the next article “Teams reactions and analysis” which will go into detail on the statistics and the race of each driver.
Complete race results: www.racing-reference.info/race-results/2022-10/AW/
Driver & owner standings: www.racing-reference.info/standings/2022/AW/
Next race is scheduled for November 5 at the Phoenix Raceway in Avondale, AZ for the Phoenix 100. The race will be broadcast live on FloRacing and tape-delayed on USA Network.