ARCA Menards West Series: Sonoma Race Preview

By Vincent Delforge, special to

This Saturday, June 11, 2022, Sonoma Raceway will host the General Tire 200, the fifth ARCA Menards West Series race of the season in Sonoma, CA. The second of the three road races of the year. This year, back to the short Sonoma version of 1.990 miles – 11-turn, like the one used between 1998 and 2018, named The Chute. 

It will be the 998th race since the inception of the West Series in 1954 and the 43rd here in Sonoma. The West has been there since 1969, including nine combined Cup / West races between 1989 and 1997 when the two series had the same technical regulations. 

Curiously, the Californian road track has always refused to Bill McAnally Racing. The Roseville team failing several times in second position ! Will this year be the right one ? 

The General Tire 200 is a 64-lap (127.36-mile) race starting Saturday 11, 2022 at 11:20 a.m. PT / 2:20 p.m. ET. It will be preceded Friday 10 by a combined practice/qualifying session of one hour and 10 minutes at 4:05 p.m. PT / 7:05 p.m. ET. 

Among the drivers, we note the presence of a few road ringers from the West as well as three drivers from the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series who come to perfect their experience of road circuits including Colby Howard, Dean Thompson and Jack Wood. Indeed the Truck Series is present this year in Sonoma for the first time since 1998. 

The race procedure:  

The starting field for the General Tire 200 is limited to 26 plus provisional positions. This event will be run under the 2022 ARCA Menards Series West rules, procedures, regulations and specifications. 

QUALIFYING: Starting lineup set by each car’s fastest lap recorded during combined practice / qualifying session. 

RACE PIT STOP: There will be a competition caution at or near Lap 32. Pitting during any caution period in this event will be for adding fuel, making repairs and adjustments only, no tires can be changed unless approved by ARCA Officials. Positions will not be gained or lost among those pitting on the same lap unless penalty or going a lap down on pit road. All cars will be required to make at least one pit stop prior to last 10 laps of race. 

The maximum tire allotment available for this event is as follows: The maximum tire use at track for the event is eight (8). Per ARCA Rulebook, maximum number of tires allowed in pit box for use in race is four (4) for emergency use only with approval by an ARCA Official.

ARCA West at Sonoma 

West, arca, sonoma
Sonoma Raceway layout. Photo Courtesy of Sonoma Raceway via Vincent Delforge.

The West Series was the first NASCAR series on this road track in 1969 with the victory of the late Ray Elder.  

There were even two races in 1969. The second won by the late Jack McCoy. 

It will be necessary to wait until 1978 for the drivers of the West to return to Napa Valley. Jimmy Insolo winning the race three years in a row. 

Following the closure of Riverside road track at the end of the 1988 season, the NASCAR Cup Series logically settled in Sonoma. Between 1989 and 1998 the Cup and the West will race together nine times. The Cup drivers claiming the nine victories. However, some years, the West also performed there in stand alone. 

In 1998 Kevin Harvick won the race, his fifth and last victory of the season at the end of which he would win the championship. 

Then nothing until 2006. And since the West comes every year except for 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Last year Chase Briscoe, a rookie in the Cup Series, came to familiarize himself with driving a stock car on the road track he was discovering. This did not prevent him from winning the race by having led from the first to the last lap. He had beaten Dylan Lupton and P.J. Pedroncelli. The last winner to date in Portland, Jake Drew, had taken pole position, his first in his career. 

Among the drivers, Jimmy Insolo and Bill Schmitt won three races each. For the owners it is Bob Bruncati who dominates the stats with four victories including the very first for the team in 2007 with David Gilliland. Jason Bowles (2008 and 2009) and Derek Thorn (2013) having won the team’s other victories. Jerry Pitts Racing has three wins. Among the teams still in activity, only two have ever won here, Naake-Klauer Motorsports in 2012 and McGowan Motorsports in 2015. 

Finally, among manufacturers, Ford dominates with 15 wins ahead of Chevrolet with 12. Buick (5), Pontiac (5), Oldsmobile (2), Dodge (2) and Toyota (1) share the other victories. 

Note that the poleman won the race 12 times out of 42. The race was only won nine times by a driver starting beyond the second row. The qualifying session will therefore be essential. At least that’s what the statistics tell us! 

The drivers   

The preliminary entry list is made up of 24 cars. It is time to detail it driver by driver.  

No. 04 Eric Nascimento (Nascimento Racing)  

Author of a good race last year in Sonoma, Eric was not rewarded when a technical problem forced him to slow down when he was seventh. He was then hit from behind and had to retire on the 42nd lap. For his return behind the wheel in Portland, he had struggled in the rain. We should see him to his advantage in Sonoma and the top-10 should be a formality. 

Starts      Wins      Top5      Top10      Pole      Best result      At Sonoma 
7     0      1      2     0      5th (1x)      1 start, best result : 14th 

No. 05 David Smith (Shockwave Motorsports) – WITHDRAWN 

The Canadian veteran knows the track having already driven there in TransAm in the T2 category. After withdrawing from Portland, this will be his first race in the West Series. Dave Fuge will be his crew chief. 

Starts      Wins      Top5      Top10      Pole      Best result      At Sonoma 
0      0      0     0      n/a  n/a 

No. 4 Sebastian Arias (Nascimento Racing)  

With a partial schedule due to a limited budget, Arias had to skip the Portland race. Sonoma will be his first career road course race in the West Series. Mike Nascimento will also be his crew chief. Mike will therefore have a lot of work to do with the two team cars in his charge! The number one objective for Arias will be to re-enter the top-10 in the championship. He is currently 11th, three points behind Paul Pedroncelli. 

Starts      Wins      Top5      Top10      Pole      Best result      At Sonoma 
4     0      0      1     0      8th (1x)      n/a 

No. 6 Jake Drew (Bruncati Racing)  

Last year for his first road race, Drew had taken pole position in Sonoma. The race had been a little more complicated. However, even if he had lost two positions from the start, he had managed to maintain third position until the 42nd lap.

But during a restart, he was pushed off the track by Moore and then hit by Dave Smith. He had been able to take advantage of the overtime to recover seventh position. He tested here in mid-May and is full of confidence after his first victory. He is the big favorite for the win. 

Starts      Wins      Top5      Top10      Pole      Best result      At Sonoma 
13     1      8      11      3      1st (1x)  1 start, best result: 7th 

No. 7 Takuma Koga (Jerry Pitts Racing)  

Koga has already done six races in Sonoma with as best result of 11th place last year. But he drives a chassis that won the race three years in a row between 2017 and 2019. And given that he is confident after his fine top-five in Portland, he will have to be reckoned with. Personally, Jerry Pitts has a victory here as crew chief, it was in 2019 with Noah Gragson. 

Starts      Wins      Top5      Top10      Pole      Best result      At Sonoma 
94      0      3      18      0      5th (3x)      6 starts, best result : 11th  

No. 9 Tanner Reif (Bruncati Racing)  

He knows the track for having tested there last month with his team. In addition, he was able to benefit from the coaching of Boris Said, one of the ultimate road ringer. He enjoys the track and arrives well prepared. It should therefore offer us another good performance. 

Starts      Wins      Top5      Top10      Pole      Best result      At Sonoma 
4      1      2      3      1      1st (1x)      n/a 

No. 13 Todd Souza (Central Coast Racing)  

He had made a great start in 2021 in Sonoma. So good that he was penalized for a jumping start… Fifth at the end after having spent the whole race in the top-five. In Portland he finished third. Confirming if it was still necessary that Souza is an excellent driver on the road circuit. But his victory at Tooele dates back to 2008. In 13 races at Sonoma he has six top10s and a top-five. 

Starts      Wins      Top5      Top10      Pole      Best result      At Sonoma 
101     1      15      54      0      1st (1x)      13 starts, best result: 5th  

No. 16 Austin Herzog (Bill McAnally Racing)  

Three weeks ago he did some testing here with BMR as part of a NASA Norcal competition. He had progressed throughout the day. He is confident and will want to erase his poor performance from Portland from his memory. 

Starts      Wins      Top5      Top10      Pole      Best result      At Sonoma 
5      0      1      4      0      3rd      n/a 

No. 17 Landen Lewis (McGowan Motorsports with Cook Racing Technologies)  

For his first career start in the West Series he had simply won the Bakersfield race having led the last 65 laps. At 16, he already has experience on all types of circuits, including road ones. Indeed 2021 was a breakout year for Landen who won the Legend Car “Trifecta” of Dirt, Asphalt and Road Course Nationals and the NC State Championship. Its crew chief will be Amber Slagle. 

Lewis is filling in for Carson Hocevar, who was initially entered in the No. 17. An injury at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has Hocevar on the mend.

Starts      Wins      Top5      Top10      Pole      Best result      At Sonoma 
1   1   1   0   1st (1x)   n/a 

No. 21 Jack Wood (Bill McAnally Racing with GMS Racing) 

The main objective of Wood’s return to the West Series is to give him seat time to perfect his driving on the road circuit and to be better prepared for the Truck Series race. He will be driving a car entered jointly by Bill McAnally Racing, which provides the car and logistics, and GMS Racing, which provides some of the crew members.

His only race at Sonoma was in 2019 where he finished 16th. He will have Tom Ackerman as crew chief as in the Truck Series this year. Ackerman knows Sonoma as a crew chief but that dates back to 2011 in the Cup Series. 

Starts      Wins      Top5      Top10      Pole      Best result      At Sonoma 
15      0      1      8      0      5th      1 start, best result: 16th  

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

It was here a year ago that Paul made his first career West Series race. On a track he knew well from having ridden there in other series, he had done a good job finishing on the leader lap in 13th position. So far this season he has only done six laps due to four start and park in as many races. His usual crew chief and friend Rodd Kneeland will not be with him as he is taking part in the race as a driver. Hopefully Paul can do the race in full. 

Starts      Wins      Top5      Top10      Pole      Best result      At Sonoma 
12      0      0      1      0      8th      1 start, best result: 13th  

No. 32 Dale Quarterley (Quarterley Racing)  

His return to West Series in Portland was cut short. Electrical problem due to humidity. Here it should be dry in the wine country. He knows Sonoma well, having already done three races there. His best result, for his only finished race, being a ninth position in 2011. 

Starts      Wins      Top5      Top10      Pole      Best result      At Sonoma 
10     0      1      6     0      2nd (1x)     3 starts, best result: 9th  

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

Excellent last year on the long version of Sonoma where he took third position. He also knows the short version “The Chute” for having already driven there three times. But at the time P.J. was a pure underdog and he wasn’t even aiming for the top-10.

Today he is a top driver and as he loves this road circuit, we should see it to his advantage. It also conducted a test session there last month. Ty Joiner his crew chief has never won there but he has already obtained four top-fives including a second position in 2008 with Eric Holmes. 

Starts      Wins      Top5      Top10      Pole      Best result      At Sonoma 
26      1      6      9      2      1st (1x)      5 starts, best result: 3rd  

No. 39 Andrew Tuttle (Last Chance Racing)  

West, arca, sonoma
Andrew and Taniesha Tuttle pre-race. Photo Courtesy of Last Chance Racing via Vincent Delforge.

First race in Sonoma for Tuttle and it is his wife Taniesha who will be crew chief for the first time. The car used in Portland has been repaired. The objective will be to finish the race without incident. With Vince Little, a race instructor in Sonoma, as his teammate, he should be able to show us some great things. 

Note: a husband and wife duo who are driver/crew chief in West Series is not common. They are added to a short list of which I suggest you learn more by reading this article: 

Starts      Wins      Top5      Top10      Pole      Best result      At Sonoma 
10    0     0     0     0     12th (1x)     n/a 

No. 40 Dean Thompson (Niece Motorsports) 

Thompson had a wise run last year avoiding trouble while gaining position after position. This had allowed him to obtain a good sixth place for his first race in Sonoma. This year his number one objective with Niece Motorsports will be to perfect his knowledge of the track in order to obtain a good result in the Truck Series race. Seat time is a very important thing for drivers.

Joe Lax will be, like in Trucks, his crew chief. It’s the first time we’ve seen him in the West Series since 2010. He knows Sonoma as a crew chief, having competed there in the Cup Series in 2013. 

Starts      Wins      Top5      Top10      Pole      Best result      At Sonoma 
7   0      1      2      2      2nd       1 start, best result: 6th  

No. 52 Ryan Philpott (Philpott Racing)  

Absent from the West Series since 2013, Ryan Philpott made a remarkable comeback last year by obtaining ninth position with his small team made up of loyal friends including the Koski family. Only 20th on the starting grid, he had thwarted all the pitfalls of a wild race to obtain his best result in Sonoma where he now has four starts. Like last year, Chuck Dozhier will be his crew chief. A position he has held regularly with Ryan since 2011 (19 races for four top-10s). 

Starts      Wins      Top5      Top10      Pole      Best result      At Sonoma 
35    0     0     8    0     6th (1x)  4 starts, best result: 9th 

No. 54 Joey Iest (Naake-Klauer Motorsports)  

Cruel disappointment last year for Iest who, after a good qualifying (5th) and an excellent start to the race, saw his engine break after just six laps when he was in third position. As said at the beginning of the article, his team has already won here. Tom Klauer the co-owner of the team having two top-10 finishes in six races as a driver. If all the stars align well Iest will be a candidate for victory. 

Starts      Wins      Top5      Top10      Pole      Best result      At Sonoma 
17      1      6      8      0      1st (1x)      1 start, best result : 20th  

No. 68 Rodd Kneeland (Rodd Racing)  

Last year, following a problem with the transmission during practice and then with the clutch on the pre grid, he was unable to do the slightest lap in the race. A disappointment for him and his family team, of which Sonoma has often been the only race of his season for a few years. He loves Sonoma but Sonoma has never been kind to him yet. His best result here being a 14th position in 2018. Note that his car was prepared with the help of Naake-Klauer Motorsports. 

Starts      Wins      Top5      Top10      Pole      Best result      At Sonoma 
11      0      0      0      0      11th (1x)      5 starts, best result : 14th  

No. 77 Nick Joanides (Performance P-1 Motorsports)  

West, arca, sonoma
Nick Joanides’ Performance P-1 Motorsports No. 77 Toyota Camry. Photo Courtesy of Joe Nava via Vincent Delforge.

What a pleasure to see PP1M again. The team having participated in only two races this season. Nick Joanides, the luxury replacement, will once again be called upon. He will even have a busy day, because after the Sonoma race, he will join Irwindale to participate in an SLM race with PP1M.

Joanides knows the Sonoma track well, having ridden there in the past. Even if it was a long time ago, the last time dating back to 2004! But it will be his first time in a West Series car. Last year with the same car, Dave Smith had given up following an accident. 

Starts      Wins      Top5      Top10      Pole      Best result      At Sonoma 
 15  0   1   4   0   4th (1x)  n/a 

No. 80 Brian Kamisky (Dereck Copeland Racing) 

Accidented last year in Sonoma, Kamisky is a pure road ringer. He has two career top-10s, both obtained on another road circuit, that of Tooele in Utah. As has been the case since his West Series debut in 2020, Derek Copeland will be his crew chief. 

Starts      Wins      Top5      Top10      Pole      Best result      At Sonoma 
6      0      0      2      0      8th      1 start, best result: 16th  

No. 85 Vince Little (Last Chance Racing)  

The Portland race was a life-size test session. Here Little will not be in unknown territory. Indeed he is a race instructor in Sonoma. His knowledge of the track should allow him to stand out. 

Starts      Wins      Top5      Top10      Pole      Best result      At Sonoma 
 1  0   0   0   0   14th (1x)  n/a 

No. 86 Tim Spurgeon (David Racing with Nascimento) 

Only 15th following an accident last year in Sonoma, Spurgeon has a lot of experience on this road circuit. As proof, he has already done eight races here. He often flirted with the top-10 without ever managing to enter it. Will 2022 be the right year?

Mike David, 2007 West Series champion, will be his crew chief. Spurgeon has two career top-10s obtained on the road tracks of Tooele (8th in 2016) and Portland (6th in 2021). As has been the case for two years, there is a technical partnership between his team led by Mike David and Nascimento Racing. 

Starts      Wins      Top5      Top10      Pole      Best result      At Sonoma 
16      0      0      2      0      6th  (1x)    8 starts, best result: 11th  (2x) 

No. 88 Bridget Burgess (BMI Racing)  

Last year for her first road race in the West Series, Burgess had done an excellent job. Well qualified, she had quickly entered the top-five at the start of the race before being pushed by an opponent. Back down to 16th position, she knew how to be fast enough to get back into the top-10. Her eighth position at the finish being a very good result. But for Bridget, this eighth position had a bitter taste. After another great performance in Portland last Saturday, she intends to finally get her first career top-five, which would be deserved. 

Starts      Wins      Top5      Top10      Pole      Best result      At Sonoma 
24     0      0      6      0      7th (2x)       1 start, best result: 8th  

No. 91 Colby Howard (Bill McAnally Racing) 

A driver for McAnally-Hilgemann Racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Howard will make his West Series debut with the sole aim of getting more seat time. Why? Because it will be his first race on the Californian road circuit.

As in Truck Series he will have Mark Hillman as crew chief associated for this race with John Camilleri, crew chief specialist in the West Series and champion in 2019 with Derek Kraus. Howard, however, knows how to drive an ARCA-like car having already done four races between 2018 and 2019 in the national series. He had obtained four top-10s there, but all on ovals. 

Starts      Wins      Top5      Top10      Pole      Best result      At Sonoma 
0      0      0      0      0      n/a     n/a 

No. 99 Cole Moore (Bill McAnally Racing)  

While his first races on road circuits in 2016 with BMR did not end well due to technical problems, Moore had returned an almost perfect copy last year for his first start at Sonoma. Qualified 10th, he had methodically climbed up to fourth position. Which was his first top-five at the time. Portland being a bad memory to erase from his memory, he intends to bounce back on a track he enjoys. 

Starts      Wins      Top5      Top10      Pole      Best result      At Sonoma 
21      0      6      12      0      2nd    1start, best result: 4th 

Final notes  

-Bobby Hillis, Jr., absent for budgetary reasons, had obtained the 10th position here last year. 

-Who will be the 201st winner in the history of the West Series? The 200th being Jake Drew at Portland in the previous race of the 2022 season.  

-Which of Herzog, Wood, Howard 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 first at Portland?   

-Will Bill McAnally Racing manage to put its four cars in the top-10 like in 2010? That year, Paulie Harraka, Brandon Davis, Eric Holmes and Moses Smith finishing second, third, fourth and ninth, respectively. 

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

Featured Photo Credit: Photo by NASCAR Media via Vincent Delforge.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *