By Christian Koelle, Staff Writer
It’s been 85 days since the ARCA Menards Series West hit the track at Phoenix. This weekend the Series returns to Sonoma Raceway for the first time since 2019. Sonoma was one of the few events from 2020 that got canceled due to the pandemic.
The last race for the West Series was at Phoenix Raceway in March where the main ARCA Menards Series invaded. Ty Gibbs picked up the victory, his second career ARCA Menards Series West victory. In that race, defending West Series champion Jesse Love led the charge for the West finishing sixth. Fellow full-time ARCA West competitor Todd Souza finished second-best in the eighth position.
Saturday’s race will be the first at Sonoma under the ARCA Menards Series banner. Previously, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West competed at Sonoma 41 times including twice a year in 1969, 1989, 1995, 1996, and 1997. The Series took a brief hiatus from the track after 1998 and returned in 2006.
Former winners at Sonoma include Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, Jason Bowles, Brian Vickers, Mark Martin, Dale Earnhardt Sr., Ernie Irvin, Geoffrey Bodine, Davey Allison, and Ricky Rudd just to name a few. There are currently no defending race winners entering at Sonoma for this weekend’s race. Noah Gragson won the most recent event at Sonoma in 2019.
BREAKING IT DOWN:
Defending ARCA West Series champion Jesse Love will make his Sonoma Raceway debut on Saturday. During last season’s championship campaign, Love earned his first career victory on a road course at the Utah Motorsports Campus. The two starts in Utah are his sole road course starts in the ARCA Menards Series West, he finished first and second. He led the charge at Phoenix for the West series and ultimately holds the points lead as he is the highest positioned driver in points entered this weekend.
Todd Souza made his ARCA Menards Series West debut at Sonoma in 2007 where he finished sixth. Souza leads the way with experience at Sonoma with 12 total starts. Souza’s only victory in his career so far came at Utah Motorsports Campus in 2008. The ARCA West veteran will take the second position in the standings as he finished solidly at Phoenix. He has three career sixth-place finishes in points and will look to take the points to lead from Love using experience at Sonoma and momentum from Phoenix.
Trevor Huddleston enters Sonoma with two career starts under his belt. A 20th in 2018 and 10th in 2019 were the results obtained by the Agoura Hills, Californa native. Huddleston will make his 42nd career ARCA Menards Series West start Saturday and will look to make up ground on points leader Love. He tallied two victories in 2019 but failed to visit victory lane in 2020. He’ll look to continue his pattern of +10 positions every year and earn the victory Saturday.
Despite not having a start at Sonoma, Cole Moore has experience on road courses coming in 2016 at Utah Motorsports Campus. Moore finished 18th and 17th in those two races but he’ll be seeking the opportunity this weekend with Bill McAnally Racing. Moore finished 12th and will move into fourth in the championship standings prior to Saturday’s race.
“Iest from the West” has been impressive in the ARCA Menards Series East with David Gilliland Racing. Iest will return to his home series this weekend piloting the No. 54 for longtime team owner Mike Naake. In his debut on the national ARCA series earlier this year, he brought home the No. 54 in 12th. Iest currently sits fourth in ARCA East standings and is one of four drivers to finish top-ten in all ARCA East Series events in 2021. Iest will sit fifth in points once the drivers who are not entered don’t start.
Jake Drew made his ARCA Menards Series West debut earlier this year with Sunrise Ford and will look to build off a strong run at Phoenix. Drew finished the race in 18th, in his debut, against the main ARCA Menards Series drivers so throw the rookie in the blender and where he came out, it was impressive. The driver from Fullerton, California will look to be a sponge this weekend and soak in all he can in just his second start.
Long-time NASCAR driver Dylan Lupton will make his return to the ARCA Menards Series West for the first time since he ran a full-season in 2014 finishing second in points to Greg Pursley with Sunrise Ford. Lupton has two career starts at Sonoma with the best finish of third in that 2014 runner-up campaign. He’s also finished second and third at Utah Motorsports Campus. He made his NASCAR Cup Series debut at Sonoma in 2016 finishing 35th with BK Racing.
Normally, the field is filled with NASCAR Cup Series regulars looking to gain an edge but in 2021, just one driver will be doing so. NASCAR Cup Series rookie Chase Briscoe will be competing in the race with Chad Bryant Racing. Briscoe and crew chief Johnny Klausmeier will use the ARCA race as a practice session. Briscoe denoted on Reddit that he is running the race merely because he has never raced at the track before. Briscoe earned his first career Xfinity Series victory on the road course at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 2018 and also won the inaugural Indianapolis Grand Prix Xfinity Series race last season.
The General Tire 200 at Sonoma Raceway will go live on NBC Sports Gold – Track Pass at 5 p.m. ET. There will be a tape-delayed version of the race shown on NBCSN at 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday, June 9th, 2021. Tickets for the General Tire 200 at Sonoma are available by clicking here or by calling 800-870-7223.