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Trevor Huddleston’s winning crew climbs the fence before a sold-out crowd at Irwindale Speedway. (Steve Himelstein photo)

KENNEDY: Irwindale Sells Out For ARCA West

LOS ANGELES — Irwindale Speedway’s annual Independence Day celebration and fireworks show on July 1 was the event’s fifth consecutive sellout. 

Management brought in a temporary metal grandstand for additional seating. With all 6,500 grandstand tickets sold prior to the event, staff sold $40 pit passes so attendance topped 7,000. The ARCA Menards West traveling series ran its second Irwindale race and sixth event of a 12-race season.

The NAPA Auto Parts Blue Def 150-lap feature on the banked half-mile was presented by the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame. 

Fifteen ARCA starters used a straight-up start with the fastest qualifiers in front. ARCA rookie Sean Hingorani, 16, from Newport Beach, won pole position in the Venturini Racing No. 15 Mobil Toyota Camry. Bradley Erickson, 17, from Phoenix, was alongside him in Mike Naake’s No. 88 Ford. Row two had Landen Lewis, 17, from North Carolina, and Trevor Huddleston, 27, the three-time NASCAR pro late model IS and California State champion in 2015-’17. 

Hingorani, who won Irwindale’s ARCA 150 on April 1 in only his third ARCA start, led the first lap over Lewis, Huddleston and Erickson. Lewis led laps 2-52 as the teenage duo waged a captivating battle. Lewis ran the outside and Hingorani chose the inside. They were nose-to-tail and side-by-side every lap and raced without contact. They opened a 50-yard lead over third place Huddleston by lap 15. 

As the two leaders battled Huddleston gradually cut into their lead and trailed by 30-yards at lap 50. Tanner Reif, 17, and Eric Nascimento, 22, occupied fourth and fifth at the one-third mark. On lap 44, fifth-running Erickson retired to the infield pits with an overheating engine. 

On lap 53, Hingorani edged past Lewis on the inside and led two laps. Lewis, a protege of NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Ron Hornaday Jr., regained the lead on lap 55 with an outside pass exiting turn four. The two leaders continued to entertain fans with neither driver able to shake his rival. 

On lap 71, Hingorani retook the lead and Huddleston dropped Lewis to third. Hingorani opened a 40-yard advantage by lap 80 as Huddleston and Lewis battled for second spot. On lap 87, leader Hingorani’s right front hit the third-turn wall and left tire marks. He pitted and his crew replaced the flat RF tire. He lost several laps and returned to the track but soon dropped out with RF damage. 

Racing resumed on lap 95 and Lewis passed leader Huddleston. ARCA officials penalized him for jumping the green flag and radioed a drive through penalty. 

Lewis pulled his No. 17 MMI Chevy off the backstretch and complied. He dropped to ninth with 11 cars still racing. Huddleston was in front from lap 98 to the lap 150 checkers aboard the Racecar Factory-built High Point Racing No. 50 owned by his father Tim, the Irwindale Speedway co-promoter. 

Huddleston held a 60-yard advantage at the white flag on lap 149 and won by 3.354 over the Chevy of Eric Nascimento Jr., the older of two brothers in the race. It was his best ARCA result. His prior best was a fifth place in 2019 at Colorado National Speedway. 

The winning race time was 52:21.268 (with one yellow flag for eight laps). The winning speed was 85.953 mph. Hingorani’s pole winning speed was 97.917 mph. Lewis logged the fastest race lap at 18.715 (96.180 mph). 

Huddleston scored his Irwindale best 82nd feature victory. It was his third ARCA triumph. He won a pair of 2019 features when the series was called the NASCAR K & N West Series. His first victory was on March 30 in the Irwindale 150 and his second was on August 17 at the Evergreen Speedway 175-lap race in Monroe, Wash. He drove the No.9 Sunrise Ford, owned by Irwindale co-promoter Bob Bruncati, to both victories. 

The last 25 laps saw the remarkable climb by 17-year-old, first-time ARCA driver Robbie Kennealy. A pro late model driver at the third-mile Madera Speedway, only had one hour of practice Saturday before he qualified on the largest track he has raced. He was 13th fastest of 15 qualifiers. 

Kennealy’s confidence grew during the race and he was in eighth when he began his move forward. The ARCA newcomer passed three experienced drivers to finish fifth in his ARCA debut.