By Vincent Delforge, Special to kickinthetires.net
This Friday, November 4, the Desert Diamond Casino West Valley 100 was largely dominated by a driver, Sammy Smith. He had a car, prepared by Kyle Busch Motorsports, far above the others as it was so fast. He took the victory from pole position despite a one-lap penalty for aggressive driving at the restart of the second segment. It’s his first career West Series victory.
But he wasn’t the only one to celebrate after the checkered flag. Jake Drew could finally celebrate his title of champion 2022. He who only had to take the start to formalize his championship crown. He will have had a complicated race. 15th on the starting grid, he went up to third position before losing positions in the last 20 laps. His car is getting tighter and tighter. Drew is the 40th driver to win the championship since 1954.
He offers Bob Bruncati and his Bruncati Sunrise Ford Racing team his fourth and last championship because the team ceases its activities in the West Series. The team also won the rookie championship with Tanner Reif. Even better, the team finished with a super 1-2 in the final championship standings.
The 69th season is over and we are looking forward to the next one. In the meantime here is the race review of the 11th and last race of 2022.
Apart from the last-minute withdrawals of Jalen Mack and KBM’s second car, due to a lack of driver, the remaining 30 drivers all took part in the sole practice/qualifying session. Sammy Smith disgusts the competition by slamming a time of 26.570 seconds, or 135.491 mph.
Smashing the track record held by Ty Gibbs since the 2021 final. He relegates Jesse Love to 469 thousandths! Rookie Andres Perez de Lara confirms his burst of speed seen in Las Vegas by taking third position ahead of his teammate at DGR Taylor Gray. Note the fine performances of rookies Bradley Erickson (8th), Sean Hingorani (9th) or Landon Pembelton (12th).
Jake Drew is 15th. Chris Lowden 30th and last.
From the start Sammy Smith controls Jesse Love and the duo from DGR. Behind it’s a bit of a mess with the entire pack cutting the dog leg and it’s three, four or even sometimes five-wide that they arrive in turn 1! Believe it or not, everything is going to be fine!
That said, we won’t have to wait long before the first yellow flag in the 6th lap when Christian Rose goes spun in turn 4. Decidedly 2022 was really not his year. And his ordeal is not over, as we will see later…
At the restart of the 11th lap Smith retained the lead ahead of Gray. Behind the Venturini drivers all go back to the top-five. Erickson and Landen Lewis are the best of the regular West riders in seventh and eighth.
At the end of the 14th lap, Jake Drew slides a little in turn 4 and comes into contact with Jake Finch. Fortunately, without consequences for the two drivers who are at the end of the top10.
On lap 21, Carson Hocevar slid alone out of turn 2 and crashed the back of his Chevrolet against the wall. Second caution.
At the restart of the 27th lap, Smith had to contain Gray who attempted an attack from the outside. Gray seemed to have done the hardest part when he slipped on turn 4 and let Smith slip away in the lead. Worse, Love and Conner Jones past him.
The third yellow arrives shortly after with a spun from Sebastian Arias on turn 2. Bobby Hillis, Jr. receives the free pass and returns to a lap behind the leaders.
The restart on the 32nd lap is a carbon copy of the previous one. Gray tries the outside on Smith but fails to get past him. Perez de Lara, returned to the top-five on lap 36, followed like his shadow by Jake Finch.
As the race settles into a certain monotony for the first positions, so much Smith is far ahead of the others, the Canadian David Smith and the Australian Bridget Burgess do not understand each other and cling in the dog leg, sending the Canadian in spun which causes a new yellow flag. This one arriving just before the halfway point, the officials will proceed to the 5-minute break at the same time. Jesse Love is in trouble with the five minute clock and will lose a lap in his pit box… RJ Smotherman received the free pass in 24th position.
On the 51st lap the restart is given and Taylor Gray finally manages to make the outside of Sammy Smith… who does not appreciate losing his first place and goes to the rear bumper of the No.71 in the backstretch. Gray went into a huge slide and took Conner Jones with him into the wall at turn 3. The officials did not hesitate and penalized Smith one lap for aggressive driving. He will leave in 23rd position. The Japanese Takuma Koga receives the free pass. As for Gray and Jones, their cars are parked in the infield.
A completely different physiognomy for the restart with 44 laps to go with Mexican rookie Andres Perez de Lara in the lead ahead of Parker Chase. At Venturini, one driver replaces another at the forefront. Behind Love and Smith are fighting for the place of lucky dog. Smith who will manage to overtake Love without too much difficulty while weaving through the traffic of drivers better ranked than him… That’s how fast he is!
The sixth yellow is caused by RJ Smotherman who is stopped against the wall at turn 4. A godsend for Smith who benefits from the free pass. He was in 20th position.
Perez de Lara and Chase lead at the restart with 27 laps to go. Jake Drew passes Jake Finch and is now third. Smith is unleashed as he gains six positions on the first lap. Then another six places the next lap!!! He is eighth and will gain another two places per lap over the next three laps… He is third behind Perez de Lara and Landon Pembelton when the seventh yellow flag is raised following the accident involving Kyle Keller, Christian Rose and Joey Iest in the turn 4. Keller leaned on Rose and spun off before hooking the unfortunate Iest who hadn’t asked for anything… Jesse Love, 21st, received the free pass.
At the restart, 19 laps from the end, Smith only took two corners to overtake the first two and take back what he would not let go until the end, the first position. Hillis, Jr. causes the eighth yellow by starting in spun in turn 4. The young Katie Hettinger, very discreet until then receives the free pass. She is 20th. Love has already returned to eighth position…
The restart is given eight laps from the end with Smith ahead of Perez de Lara. Drew loses positions due to an increasingly tight car coming out of the corners. He fell back to 10th position.
New incident involving Rose six laps from the end. This time he hooked up with Sean Hingorani. If Rose can still get back on track. For Hingorani, his right rear wheel is broken and he is heading for the pit lane. Burgess, 20th, receives the free pass. Note that Love is now in fourth position.
Overtime one and two!
All this gives us a first overtime which will only last a few seconds because Christian Rose, again, is slower than a three-legged turtle… That said, Love has already taken advantage of it to come back to second behind Smith… While Drew doesn’t is more than 15th.
The second overtime will be the good one. Even though he tried to intimidate her by zigzagging like crazy behind the pace car, Smith manages to contain Love as if nothing had happened and flies away to victory. Giving Kyle Busch Motorsports his last victory with the Toyota firm. We’re not going to lie to each other, Sammy Smith was so much faster than without his penalty and the 10 yellow flags, he would have won with a lap ahead of the second!
Love is second ahead of Perez de Lara, Pembelton and Todd Souza who took advantage of the last restart to gain two positions. The rest of the top 10 is made up of Landen Lewis, Erickson, Chase, Finch and Tanner Reif. The latter, thanks to this 10th position, retains his second place in the championship in addition to being the ROTY of the year.
Jake Drew finished 13th, his only non-top-10 result of the year. But he can let his joy burst out. The 2022 champion is him.
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/2022-11/AW/
Driver & owner standings: www.racing-reference.info/standings/2022/AW/