ARCA Menards West: 2023 Las Vegas Bullring Race Preview

By Vincent Delforge, Special to Kickin’ the Tires

This Friday, October 13, will be the 10th race of the 2023 ARCA Menards West Series season, the Star Nursery 150, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Bullring, Las Vegas, NV.

This 0.375 mile oval built in 1985 will host the West Series for the 12th time. The first race in 1994 was won by Ron Hornaday, Jr. driving a Chevrolet entered by the late Wayne Spears. Returned to the West Series calendar During the Covid-19 period in 2020, it has since become an essential stopover at the end of each year.

Last year Taylor Gray gave David Gilliland an uncontested victory as he had dominated the race from pole position, leading 157 of the 158 laps. The last victory for David Gilliland Racing before changing its name to TRICON Garage this year.

23 cars are expected for this race with some newcomers like veteran Greg Potts with Nascimento-Joiner Motorsports or young gun Monty Tipton in a third car from Kennealy Keller Motorsports. Note the returns of Dylan Cappello for the first time since 2015 (Naake-Klauer Motorsports) and Mariah Boudrieau (Performance P-1 Motorsports).

ARCA West at Las Vegas Bullring

The Las Vegas Speedrome, located in Clark County, Las Vegas, Nevada consists of a road course and drag strip, opening in 1972, a 3/8-mile short track opening in 1985 and finally a 1.5-mile superspeedway opening in September 1996.  

Race logo
Photo Courtesy of the ARCA Menards Series via Vincent Delforge.

Las Vegas is the only automobile complex to have been on the West Series calendar in three different configurations since 1994. Indeed, the short track that interests us today was used for the first time between 1994 and 1995 before giving way to a series of 10 races on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway (1.5-mile) between 1996 and 2002. 

The West Series even competed on the two tracks of the Las Vegas complex (the Bullring and the Motor Speedway) between 2001 and 2002 before a final race in 2003 on the short track. In this ‘I love you and then I leave you’ relationship, the West Series will return to the Bullring once again between 2011 and 2012 before another hiatus. 

However, the umpteenth comeback will be next door on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Dirt Track (.500-mile dirt) in 2018 and 2019 for the last two seasons under the NASCAR banner. Eventually the Bullring regained its place on the West calendar under the ARCA banner since 2020. 

In total, the Bullring will have hosted 11 races between 1994 and 2022. 

Only one team can claim to have won on the Speedway, the Bullring, and the Dirt track. Who is it? Bill McAnally Racing of course! Brendan Gaughan won on the Speedway in 2001, Hailie Deegan on the dirt track in 2019. Austin Cameron (2003) and Trotter (2020) on the Bullring.  

Note that another record for female drivers had already been broken last year here in the West Series. Indeed there had been five female racers with Jolynn Wilkinson, Mariah Boudrieau, Amber Balcaen, Bridget Burgess and Amber Slagle. Only the Mariah Boudrieau will be there this year. 

As far as statistics are concerned, of the 11 races already contested in LV Bullring we can highlight:  

-Greg Pursley and Taylor Gray are the most successful drivers with two wins. All the other drivers who each have a victory (Ron Hornaday, Jr., Ernie Cope, Mark Reed, Austin Cameron, Jim Inglebright, Sam Mayer, Gracie Trotter.

-Among the manufacturers, Chevrolet leads the dance with 5 wins ahead of Ford (4), Pontiac (1) and Toyota (1).  

-Among the manufacturers, Chevrolet and Ford are tied with four poles ahead of Pontiac (2) and Toyota (1). 

-The most successful team is almost unsurprisingly Bill McAnally Racing with three wins (2002, 2003 and 2020) Gene Price Motorsports (2011 and 2012) and David Gilliland Racing (2021 and 2022) follows with two wins. All the other teams have only one victory. Note that among the teams present this year only BMR already has a victory.

-Concerning the poles, BMR is again at the top of the ranking with three (2002, 2003 and 2020). Once again Gene Price Motorsports follows with two (2011 and 2012). All the other teams have only one pole.

-The track record is owned by Sam Mayer for GMS Racing at 92.396 mph achieved in 2020.  

-The poleman has won the race seven times.  

-Gracie Trotter won the race in 2020 from ninth position on the starting grid, which is a record for the worst starting position.  

-As far as yellow flags are concerned, the record is 16 in 2001. The 2001 race also holds the record for the number of yellow flag laps with 96. 

-The largest starting field was in 2011 with 28 cars.

-The smallest starting field was in 2020 with 12 cars.

The Race Procedure 

The race will be 150 laps (56.25 miles) and all track activities will be concentrated on the single day of Friday with the single practice from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. PT. The General Tire Pole Qualifying at 4:30 p.m. PT and finally the 150-laps race at 7:10 p.m. PT. 

CREW CHIEF HANDOUT: The starting field for the Star Nursery 150 is limited to 22 starters plus provisionals. This event will be run under the 2023 ARCA Menards Series West rules, procedures, regulations and specifications.

QUALIFYING: Starting position will be set by each car’s fastest recorded lap in timed session qualifying (Impound).

RACE PIT STOP: Pitting during any caution period in this event will be for 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. 

TIRE ALLOTMENT: Per ARCA Rulebook, maximum tire usage for this event (purchased plus from-home tires) is eight (8). Maximum number of tires allowed in pit box for use in race is two (2) for emergency use only as approved by ARCA officials.

The Drivers   

No. 05 Dave Smith (Shockwave Racing)

After a good race in Roseville, David Smith intends to continue his momentum and get closer to the top10 both in terms of position and pace. Last year on the LVMS Bullring he saw his chances of finishing well reduced to nothing from the start by losing around ten laps to repair a radio communication problem. Brandon Carlson will be his crew chief.

Starts              Wins              Top5              Top10              Pole              Best result              At LVMS Bullring
13            0            0              1             0              10th             1 start, best result 19th

No. 1 Robbie Kennealy (Kennealy Keller Motorsports)

After a thunderous debut at Irwindale finishing in the top-five, he was very unlucky at Roseville for his second career race. He will discover the LVMS Bullring in the West Series but he has shown to be very comfortable and fast on this type of short track. We should logically find him in the pack fighting for the top-five. His crew chief will be Charlie Wilson.

Starts         Wins         Top5         Top10         Pole         Best result         At LVMS Bullring

No. 3 Todd Souza (Central Coast Racing)

10th last year after having to fight with a difficult handling car. He had obtained his 60th career top-10. Building on his fifth position acquired in Roseville, Souza will be keen to do everything to achieve this victory which will allow him to retire with the feeling of a job well done. Jason Dickenson, his crew chief who has already obtained a pole here in 2020 with Jesse Love, the very recent ARCA national series champion, will be an important asset for the driver of the No. 3.

Starts               Wins               Top5               Top10          Pole             Best result               At LVMS Bullring
117              1               21               67              0               1st (1x)               4 starts, best result : 5th

No. 4 Eric Nascimento (Nascimento-Joiner Motorsports)

Not satisfied with his seventh position obtained in Roseville, Bubba intends to return to the top-five or better in Las Vegas. He knows the track and obtained an 11th position there in 2021 for his only West Series race contested on this Bullring. Ty Joiner, its crew chief, has already done four races here with two seventh positions as best results in 2020 (Jack Wood) and 2021 (P.J. Pedroncelli, Jr.).

Starts         Wins         Top5         Top10         Pole         Best result         At LVMS Bullring
17        0         4         7        0         2nd (1x)         1 start, best result : 11th

No. 5 Dustin Ash (Jerry Pitts Racing)

The Las Vegas driver had not raced in the West Series since 2020 when he finished eighth at Roseville in a car entered by John Wood. This will be his first race on his home track at Las Vegas. Indeed, his three other races in the West Series were all contested in Tucson, Arizona. And Ash’s stats are impressive with four top-10s in four races including a top-five (3rd in 2015 in Tucson). At the time he was riding for the team co-owned by Jerry Pitts and Jeff Jefferson. This time he will be with Jerry Pitts Racing. Pitts being his crew chief.

Starts         Wins         Top5         Top10         Pole         Best result         At LVMS Bullring
4       01403rdn/a

No. 7 Takuma Koga (Jerry Pitts Racing)

Now that Koga has found his way back to the top-10 in Roseville, he hopes to do the same, and if possible much better in Las Vegas where he has already finished sixth in the past. Last year, for his 100th career start, he suffered electrical problems before ending his race in an accident on the 92nd lap. Denny Moyer will be his crew chief.

Starts               Wins               Top5      Top10         Pole       Best result               At LVMS Bullring
110               0               4              24               0             5th (4x)               5 starts, best result 6th 

No. 13 Tyler Reif (Central Coast Racing)

It was here last year that Tyler made his West Series debut. And he had been impressive. Qualified only 17th, he moved back into the pack to fight for the top-five. Unfortunately he ended his race in the wall being caught in spite of himself in an accident that he was unable to avoid right in front of him. Note that if he obtains pole position, which would be his third in a row, he would become the youngest driver in history to achieve this performance, erasing the 2016-2017 double champion Todd Gilliland from the shelves. Michael Munoz will obviously be his crew chief.

Starts               Wins               Top5               Top10      Pole      Best result               At LVMS Bullring
11   1     3     5     2     1st    1 start, best result 18th 

No. 15 Sean Hingorani (Venturini Motorsports)

Last year for his first race on the LVMS Bullring, Hingorani had to retire after 10 laps following countless problems. But he is on a completely different dynamic this year with Venturini Motorsports. With a 37-point lead in the championship, he can even afford to take additional risks if necessary to win the race. In fact, this advantage can be considered as a sort of ‘joker lap’ that he can use if he encounters problems. And whatever happens, he will leave Las Vegas as the championship leader. But Hingorani intends to win his fifth victory of the season and further establish his domination of the 2023 championship. Kevin Reed, Jr. will be his crew chief.

Starts               Wins               Top5               Top10               Pole               Best result               At LVMS Bullring
14      4       5       6       1       1st (4x)       1 start, best result 25th 

No. 16 Tanner Reif (Bill McAnally Racing) 

After a very convincing race at Roseville where he returned to the front and finished third, Tanner intends to do even better on this other bullring. Last year for his rookie year he finished in sixth position on his home track. With John Camilleri, his crew chief, the only objective will be victory.

Starts               Wins               Top5               Top10               Pole               Best result               At LVMS Bullring
20              2               8               14              2             1st (2x)               1 start, best result 6th 

No. 17 Kaden Honeycutt (McGowan Motorsports with Cook Racing Technologies) 

The Roseville revelation. Honeycutt used all his experience acquired in the national series of NASCAR to make his arrival in the West Series as successful as possible. Just like Roseville, the Las Vegas Bullring is unknown to him. Unlike Roseville, the Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s Bullring is available on iRacing, allowing Honeycutt a place to get familiar. He’s also carrying momentum from the simulation, having won the season-opener for the eNASCAR Contender iRacing Series.

But we saw it in California, it doesn’t seem to pose a problem for him. His adaptation skills are great. Sean Samuels will once again be his crew chief. Never change a winning team! Let’s not forget that the team has a good reference setup on this oval, last year Buddy Shepherd finished fifth.

Starts               Wins               Top5               Top10               Pole               Best result               At LVMS Bullring

No. 21 Greg Potts (Nascimento-Joiner Motorsports)   

Originally from Manteca, CA, Greg Potts is a veteran of the now defunct NASCAR Southwest Series where he drove between 1996 and 2006. He will make his West Series debut behind the wheel of the No. 21 car entered by Nascimento-Joiner Motorsports to replace Ethan Nascimento, still unavailable following the fracture of two fingers on his right hand two weeks ago. It was with Nascimento Motorsports that Potts was racing in the Southwest Series at the time and Mike Nascimento, his crew chief for Las Vegas, was already preparing his car for him! An old friendship of over 20 years.

Starts           Wins           Top5           Top10           Pole           Best result           At LV Bullring  

No. 23 Bradley Erickson (Sigma Performance Services)

The debut in Roseville with his new team did not go as hoped. Lack of pace and two racing incidents ruined the No. 23’s race. Last year Erickson only had two races in the West Series when he arrived in Las Vegas. He had been fighting for the top-five until a few laps from the finish when he lost a few positions following contact with Cole Moore. But the seventh position obtained was at the time his best career result. Since then he has greatly improved this statistic. This time Chris Bray will be his crew chief.

Starts             Wins             Top5             Top10             Pole             Best result             At LVMS Bullring
130       2       9       0       3rd        1 start, best result 7th 

No. 27 Bobby Hillis, Jr. (Fierce Creature Racing) 

Return to competition for Bobby Hillis, Jr. whose last race was on April 22 in Bakersfield where he finished 12th following suspension problems. Problem which should be resolved thanks to the technical help provided by Mike Naake and NKM. Indeed Naake has supplied new front shock absorbers and the tests carried out by Hillis recently show a clear improvement in the car’s behavior in corners where the front of it remains stuck to the ground. This improves down force and therefore speed in turns. Note that Hillis knows the Las Vegas track well where he has already obtained an eighth position in 2020. Tony Huffman will be his crew chief as at Bakersfield.

Starts      Wins      Top5      Top10      Pole      Best result      At Bakersfield  
94     0      0      8      0      8th (1x)      5 starts, best result : 8th 

No. 31 Tim Goulet (Rise Motorsports)

41-year-old driver from Milwaukee, WI, Tim Goulet will make his West Series debut. He made three races this season in the ARCA Menards National Series with his best finish being 12th at Berlin Raceway. Rita (Thomason) Goulet, his wife, will be his crew chief.

Starts              Wins              Top5              Top10              Pole              Best result              At LVMS Bullring

No. 38 RJ Smotherman (Wood Motorsports) 

After a big boost in confidence thanks to his eighth position obtained in Roseville, Smotherman hopes to continue this positive dynamic. Especially since he knows the Las Vegas Bullring by heart, it’s his home track. Mike Holleran will be his crew chief. Last year he had to give up following an oil leak after heavy contact with another car.

Starts              Wins              Top5              Top10              Pole              Best result              At LVMS Bullring
8      0           0           2           0           7th      1 start, best result 22nd  

No. 41 Jacob Smith (Lowden-Jackson Motorsports)  

This is where Jacob Smith made his West Series debut last year and finished 9th in a Jerry Pitts Racing car. This will be his second race for LJM this year after Evergreen where he finished eighth. Tony Jackson will be his crew chief.

Starts           Wins           Top5           Top10           Pole           Best result           At LV Bullring  
2          0       0          2          0           8th 1 start, best result 9th 

No. 49 Monty Tipton (Kennealy Keller Motorsports)

Monty tipton kkm layout
Photo Courtesy of Kennealy Keller Motorsports via Vincent Delforge.

Originally from Mill Valley, CA, Monty Tipton will make his West Series debut behind the wheel of a third car entered by KKM. However, he is not a stranger to the team members since he has been riding with KKR, Kyle Keller’s team in Junior Pro Late and Pro Late Models for two seasons and knows the LVMS Bullring perfectly as well as the Madera track, CA, by example. Note that he began his racing career with karting. He will drive the No. 49 Chevrolet and Tommy Stefani Hurst will be his crew chief.

Starts           Wins           Top5           Top10           Pole           Best result           At LVMS Bullring 
– n/a

No. 50 Trevor Huddleston (High Point Racing)

Big disappointment for Huddleston in Roseville where he lost a lot of points against Hingorani in the championship. But he could regain his health in Las Vegas on a track that he knows well and where he has already obtained two top-fives in three races. Not present last year, he finished in third position in 2021. His crew chief Jeff Schrader has a lot of experience here with for example the pole in 2021 with Jake Drew, who finished second in the race.

Starts           Wins           Top5           Top10           Pole           Best result           At LVMS Bullring
62        3           23        51           2           1st (3x)         3 starts, best result : 3rd

No. 66 Eric Rhead (66 Rhead Racing) 

It’s been a year since we last saw Eric Rhead and his wife and chief Roxi Gabbard in the West Series. After so many disappointments for their debut in 2022 they finished 13th in Las Vegas which at the time was welcomed as a victory for the small family team from Utah. This year the objective will be to finish the race without damaging the car, to have as much fun as possible and who knows maybe consider other races between now and the end of the season including Phoenix where they have a work to finish. This time Roxi will not be the crew chief for her husband, it will be Will Harris.

Starts           Wins           Top5           Top10           Pole           Best result           At LVMS Bullring 
0           0           0           0           13th 1 start, best result 13th 

No. 70  Kyle Keller (Kennealy Keller Motorsports)

What better way to forget a bad result than to ride on your home track where you have had so much success in the past and even recently in other categories. Keller has already achieved two fourth positions on this track in the West Series as his best result. And his worst result? A fifth position! Suffice to say that he will be one of the favorites for the top-five or even better! Brian Kizer will obviously be his crew chief.

Starts              Wins              Top5              Top10              Pole              Best result            At LVMS Bullring
19     0        6        11        0        4th (3x)        3 starts, best result 4th (2x) 

No. 71 Nick Joanides (Jan’s Towing Racing) Start: 15th – Fin: 11th

15th last year in Las Vegas for Joanides. He was piloting No. 77 of PP1M. This year he will be present at the wheel of the same car as that used in Roseville with his new team created by Jan Qualkenbush. Note that last year it was the No. 71 which won the race with Taylor Gray and David Gilliland Racing. Will this be a good omen for Joanides? Dave Jackson will once again be his crew chief. The objective is to enter the top10.

Starts              Wins              Top5              Top10              Pole              Best result              At LVMS Bullring
25   0        1        8        0        4th       1 start, best result 15th 

No. 77 Mariah Boudrieau (Performance P-1 Motorsports)

It’s the return of Mariah Boudrieau to the West Series. She already has three starts, all with PP1M in 2021. Among these three races, there was the one in Las Vegas where she unfortunately retired following an accident with Bobby Hillis, Jr. on the 112th lap. Note that the best PP1M result at the Las Vegas Bullring was achieved by Steve Portenga, fourth in 2003. Last year with Nick Joanides, the team obtained a 15th position. Joe Nava will be her crew chief.

Starts              Wins              Top5              Top10              Pole              Best result              At LVMS Bullring
3000013th (2x)1 start, best result 18th

No. 88 Dylan Cappello (Naake-Klauer Motorsports)

Dylan Cappello is best known for being Zane Smith’s race engineer at Front Row Motorsports in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series this year. And this career as a racing engineer is crowned with success since, for example, they won two races together this year. But Cappello also has a past as a pilot and the desire to get back behind the wheel was stronger. Taking advantage of a weekend off in the Truck Series, he joined Naake-Klauer Motorsports for a one shot.

He will be the third driver after Bradley Erickson and Joey Iest to take the wheel of the No. 88. His experience in the West Series dates back to 2015 when he raced with the team led at the time by Bill Hall at the wheel of the Ford usually used by Johnny Borneman, III. He started the Roseville race in 10th position but finished a distant 21st following an accident at the start of the race which caused him to lose a lot of time. Mike Naake will be his crew chief.

Starts             Wins             Top5             Top10             Pole             Best result             At LVMS Bullring

Final notes

-High Point Racing’s No. 55 car is not present in Las Vegas but will return to Madera with Jake Bollman behind the wheel.

-Jalen Mack had announced that he would be present with his own team whose cars are maintained by BMR but the No. 83 will not be there in Las Vegas. 

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