Jesse Love takes the checkered flag to win the ARCA Menards Series West race at Irwindale Speedway recently. (Steve Himelstein Photo)
Jesse Love takes the checkered flag to win the ARCA Menards Series West race at Irwindale Speedway in 2021. (Steve Himelstein Photo)

KENNEDY: ARCA West At Irwindale

IRWINDALE, Calif. — ARCA Menards Series West drivers made the first of two appearances this season at the banked half-mile Irwindale Speedway for the April 1 West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame 150. 

More than 6,000 fans attended.

They also watched support racing divisions on the third-mile plus a fireworks show during the three-hour event. 

Sixteen ARCA drivers started with the fastest qualifiers in front. The hour and five-minute race featured impressive performances by rising teenage stars. Three drivers exchanged the lead four times during the non-stop event that had three caution flags after crashes. 

Teenagers finished in the top three positions and two other teens raced in the top five as well before being involved in crashes.

Sean Hingorani, 16, from Newport Beach, started third and won his first ARCA race in only his third ARCA start. He drove the Bill Venturini No. 15 Mobil 1 Toyota Camry. Landon Lewis, 17, from Florida, drove Steve McGowan’s California-based Toyota from fourth-starting to second, 3.870 seconds behind the winner. 

Nevadan Tyler Reif, 15, came from seventh to third, 5.956 seconds behind the winner. He drove the No. 41 ex-David Gilliland Ford that he drove to victory March 10 with a final lap pass at Phoenix Raceway in his first race on a mile. The top three finishers are ARCA rookies and race in both ARCA West and ARCA East Series. 

Fast-qualifier Trevor Huddleston, 26, is a three-time NASCAR late model track champion at Irwindale and a two-time ARCA race winner. He earned pole position during qualifying with a lap of 99.299 mph in his No. 50 High Point Racing Ford. 

The 2022 ARCA West championship car, driven by Jake Drew last season as No. 6 for IS co-promoter Bob Bruncati, is now owned by his father Tim Huddleston, Irwindale co-promoter. 

Hingorani and Lewis captivated the crowd by exchanging second several times. Lewis took second from Hingorani on lap 68 and executed an inside pass from turn four to the starting line on lap 72 to take the lead from Huddleston as the early leader began experiencing brake problems. Hingorani dropped Huddleston to third on lap 74 and passed Lewis for the lead on lap 78. 

Three cars racing in midpack crashed together on the front straight during lap 80. Drivers escaped injury but wreckers towed the cars to the pits. Hingorani opened a 20-yard advantage by lap 110, as 16-year-old Bradley Erickson, from Phoenix, and first-time ARCA starter Jake Bollman, 15, from Huntington Beach, passed Huddleston for fourth and fifth, respectively. That made the top five drivers all teenagers with limited ARCA experience. 

On lap 111, Bollman’s fifth-place No. 55 HPR Ford spun into the second turn crash-wall after contact by the sixth-place car. Erickson was a close third on lap 125 when contact sent his No. 88 Mike Naake Ford into the third-turn wall. He lost four laps but finished eighth with 10 cars on track at the finish.

The final pass of the race — the most competitive in memory at Irwindale for the former NASCAR K&N West Series — came on the lap-132 restart with a two-by-two lineup.

Hingorani started inside leader Lewis and executed a stunning inside pass from the fourth turn to the starting line to lead lap 134. He quickly opened a 20-yard advantage by lap 140. Tyler Reif passed Huddleston for third inside at turn two and chased the two leaders during the final nine laps. 

Hingorani, a Legend Car, NASCAR pro late model, and Spears Southwest Tour super late model veteran, won by half a straightaway — 3.870 seconds. He celebrated by climbing the fence and doing four pull-ups to salute fans. Reif trailed runner-up Lewis by 2.086 seconds. Huddleston placed fourth, 9.517 off the lead. Tanner Reif, 17, started and finished fifth. 

Irwindale’s 2018 Junior Late Model track champion Kyle Keller, 18, was the final driver with 150 laps in Steve Bohannon’s No. 70 Star Nursery Toyota. Seventh through 10th finishers were Takuma Koga, from Japan, B. Erickson, Bobby Hillis, and rookie David Smith, from Canada. 

The next ARCA Menards West race will be Saturday, April 22 at the Kern County Raceway Park in Bakersfield.

The schedule has races at eight speedways in five states — Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.