ARCA Menards West Series: Portland Race Review

By Vincent Delforge, special to

Last year, it was tears of sadness flowed from Jake Drew’s eyes after his disqualification in Portland despite crossing the finish line first. This year it was tears of joy that filled the eyes of the young Californian from Fullerton. 

In dantesque conditions, under an increasingly intense rain, he crushed the competition to win the Portland 112, his first career victory. A ‘Lucky 13’ since he will have had to wait for his 13th career race to finally receive what everyone agrees that it was only a matter of time, namely the winner’s trophy. He is the 14th driver to visit Victory Lane for Bob Bruncati, for whom it is the 38th victory as a team owner. 

Above all, Drew becomes the 200th different winner since the creation of the West Series in 1954. This 997th race in history is also the first to take place entirely in the rain. A race shortened by officials after 42 laps out of the 57 scheduled due to weather conditions. 

ARCA West Practice/Qualifying 

The one and only practice/qualifying session started with a little delay, the time for all the cars to go through scrutineering once they had been brought into line with the wet track conditions. Because yes, it was in the rain that the 16 drivers were going to ride. Only 16 following the withdrawal of Clark Lukens for a family issue and Canadian David Smith. The latter explaining: “We ran into some unforeseen issues. As it is our debut we wanted everything to be as good as we could. It is the way we operate”. He will be in Sonoma next week. 

Very quickly three drivers distinguished themselves by showing great control in the rain. TransAm driver Connor Mosack who used his knowledge of the track as well as his training the day before with the NASCAR Xfinity Series car in the same conditions. Daniel Dye, who was his first experience on the road circuit and in the rain. And finally Jake Drew, the big favorite. 

In the end, it was Dye who took pole position in front of Drew, his first in his career. A pole obtained with a car supplied by Bill McAnally Racing but operated by GMS Racing. The two teams already have a technical alliance in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

As for the regular BMR drivers, Austin Herzog and Cole Moore, it was much more complicated with 10th and 12th position respectively. Connor Mosack and Tanner Reif occupying the second line. Due to an electrical problem, his car refusing to start, Andrew Tuttle did not take part in the session just like Paul Pedroncelli. 

The Race   

It is again with a little delay, due to the length of the Xfinity race, that the start is given. The rain is light but present. The track is very wet. 

As announced and unlike last year, the start, as well as the restarts, are done without going through the first chicane. 

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The field takes the green flag for the ARCA Portland 112. Photo Courtesy of Luis Torres via Vincent Delforge.

When the green flag was waved, Dye took advantage of his pole position to hold on to the top position with Drew just behind. The other drivers being under the sprays of water projected by the first two. But from the first braking zone at Turn 4, Dye and Drew shot straight into the grass and go spun. If Dye doesn’t hit anything, Drew tapped the tires barrier with his rear bumper. Fortunately, at low speed and without damage to his Ford. 

Reif took the opportunity to take command but from the start of the second lap, Mosack was up to him in the chicane. The two cars touch each other a little. And on the re-acceleration, Mosack takes the lead even before entering turn 4. Todd Souza, Takuma Koga and Bridget Burgess complete the top-five. 

Note that throughout the race, many drivers will make incursions into the shoulders, spun or miss the braking of the first chicane. Forcing them to makes a stop before resuming the race. 

Dale Quarterley’s return to the West Series ends with a mechanical problem. Paul Pedroncelli, due to the weather conditions, made a start and park. 

Dye and Drew ride faster than the others and come back very quickly towards the top-five. 

On Lap 8, Drew overtook Dye for fifth position. At the same time Cole Moore joins the pitlane with a broken windshield wiper. He will lose a lot of time and finish the race outside the top-10, a blow for the third-place driver in the championship. 

First Caution 

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Andrew Tuttle on track at Portland International Raceway. Photo Courtesy of Luis Torres via Vincent Delforge.

On Lap 9, after many problems throughout the day, Andrew Tuttle came to a halt in the chicane. Most of the top 10 drivers, including the leaders, go through the pitlane. Drew and Koga remained on track and are on the front row for the restart on Lap 14. 

From then on we will attend a festival from Drew. He literally surfs the water with his outboard boat! Mosack struggles to follow him. Two laps after the restart, he is already nearly two seconds behind the leader. On the 20th lap, he was almost six behind! 

All drivers are in trouble! Souza, Dye, Burgess, or Reif will all go spun. That of Reif is particularly impressive. Trying to take a pass on the outside of Tuttle, whose car is crumpled on the driver’s side, Reif puts two wheels in the grass and after a long slide finds himself stopped in the wrong direction in the backstretch but fortunately P.J. Pedroncelli, Eric Nascimento, Herzog and Moore manage to avoid it. 

No sooner has the officials announced that there will be no caution marking the halfway mark than Joey Iest goes and drives his car’s front bumper into the tire barrier at Turn 4. This is the second yellow flag of the race. All the drivers take the opportunity to go through the pitlane. 

For many, including leader Drew, the main job of the crews is to allow him to see through the windshield. We must remove the fog! 

Drew the ‘Swimming Portland Champion!’ 

At the restart with 26 laps to go, Drew leads ahead of Mosack as the weather conditions deteriorate more and more. The waltz of the drivers starts again. Reif, Koga, Dye, Tuttle, all spun again or missed the first chicane. 

In front Drew is on another planet and he is widening the gap quickly. On lap 38, he was nearly 14 seconds ahead of Mosack. The Bruncati driver drives two seconds per lap faster than his nearest pursuer.  

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Jake Drew on track at Portland International Raceway. Photo Courtesy of Luis Torres via Vincent Delforge.

On the 40th lap, the officials announced that due to deteriorating weather conditions, there would only be two laps left before the checkered flag. 

Therefore at the end of the 42nd of the 57 scheduled laps that the checkered flag is lowered. Jake Drew wins the race with more than 18 seconds over Mosack and increases his championship lead from five to 14 points over his teammate Tanner Reif. sixth here, 170 points to 156. Cole Moore is now 21 points behind the leader but remains third in the championship ahead of Todd Souza who moves from sixth to fourth position. P.J. Pedroncelli is fifth. 

“It was definitely a tricky day, a stressful day, but I’m happy to make it all worth it with a win,” Drew shared with Kickin’ the Tires. 

The rest of the top 10 is made up of Souza, Dye, Koga, Reif, Burgess, P.J. Pedroncelli, Herzog and Iest. For Koga despite the start of an electrical fire, it is the second consecutive top-five in Portland. Bridget Burgess earned her best career result. 

Race results : 

Driver standings:  

Next race June 11, 2022 for the second road race of the season at Sonoma Raceway (1.990-mile) in Sonoma, Calif., for the General Tire 200.  

And don’t miss the next article ‘Teams reactions and analysis’ which will be available this Wednesday.

Featured Photo Credit: Photo Courtesy of Luis Torres via Vincent Delforge.

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