It was smoking hot Saturday at Sonoma Raceway for the General Tire 200 ARCA Menards Series West Race. That refers to the grass fire started by Tony Toste when he pulled off on fire in Turn One on Lap 35. It refers to the hot, fast and furious race pace of the various packs of cars all vying for position. And it refers to the smoking burnouts performed by race winner Chase Briscoe, first parked at the Pit Wall on the front straight and then the smoking doughnuts performed on the Turn 11 infield. He led all 51 laps of the 50-lap race.
Chase Briscoe was the only Cup driver to enter Saturday’s ARCA race and was the leading driver for all but about two minutes of the Saturday ARCA track time. The only lap he didn’t lead in his No.14 Huffy-Parker Boats Ford was the last one in qualifying when he was pipped by Jake Drew in No.9 Sunrise Ford-Lucas Oil Ford for the pole position. Briscoe started the race third behind Todd Souza in No.13 Central Coast Cabinets Ford.
The Green Flag was delayed three laps for the Sonoma Stripe – a huge swath of oil laid down by Zane Smith’s MadoroM Wine-Best Western Sonoma Chevrolet from Turn Five all the way to Turn Seven. A wide ribbon of grease sweep aka oil dry covered the oil on the track. And then Souza was given a black flag penalty for jumping the start and had to pit. No sooner than the Green Flag was given, then the first of several cautions came out for Rod Kneeland’s Chevrolet which had to be towed after it parked unsafely with mechanical problems.
The field would bunch up for the restart, and Briscoe would take off once given the Go flag.This scenario was repeated and replayed six more time in the 50-lap race. It wasn’t a record for the Series. There was the scheduled half-time pit stop for the field. The drivers were frisky and tested their limits, against the track and with each other. Several had varying degrees of contact. There was some good close and tight racing, especially up in front.
Dylan Lupton in McAnally Toyota finished second, followed by Paul Pedroncelli Jr in his Chevrolet. Fourth was the top Rookie, Cole Moore in another McAnally Toyota, followed by Souza, who overcame his penalty push to the back.
Pole sitter Drew, one of nine Rookies, finished seventh, behind Rookie Dean Thompson’s Huddleston Ford.
Bridget Burgess overcame several setbacks to finish eighth, after starting ninth. She ran as high as fifth before being hit by Jesse Love’s McAnally Toyota and falling to 14th. She worked back through several restarts and got back up to tenth and then eighth. She spun out by herself, fell back and caught up. During the halftime stop, after her crew serviced her car, it went over to help out Bobby Hillis,Jr. who basically had little or no crew. After another caution she pitted while the parents checked front tires and under the hood before sending her back out. Burgess caught up again.
Ninth and tenth were Rookie Ryan Philpot’s Chevrolet and Bobby Hillis Jr’s Chevrolet.
Thirteen of the 22 drivers finished the race and all were on the lead lap. The other nine DNF. The top Rookie was Cole Moore in a McAnally Toyota.
Under NASCAR’s Covid protocols, drivers can’t interact with the media, so everything is done remotely. This means a short televised Victory ‘ceremony’ with the traditional Sonoma Wine Goblet and a brief Zoom post-race interview for the winner. Briscoe said a road course is more challenging. He definitely had more fun than he thought he would, and is looking forward to tomorrow (NASCAR Cup race.) He said Sonoma was a technical track, and he wished he could have had more practice.
In the Historic Trans-Am race with 22 starters, Jim Hague was on pole with his golden yellow 1970 Mustang. And it seems that nearly every time the field came by Start-Finish a different driver was ahead. Taking turns leading were Ken Epsman/No.2 red/white/blue 1972 Javelin; Bill Ockerland in No.6 blue 1969 Camaro, and Richard Goldsmith in No.77 green (slime) 1970 Dodge Challenger.
Goldsmith squeaked by to finish first, followed by Hague, Jefrey O’Neill in No.15 red 1969 Mustang, Patrick Byrne in No.15 white 1967 Mustang, and Ockerlund. Mike Joy finished 18th in No.89 black 1966 Mustang.
Sunday’s schedule calls for Trans-Am warmup, then half-hour race. The Pre Race Ceremonies start at noon, with Cup Driver Introductions at 1pm, followed by the three-stage race. The stages are 20/40/90 laps, for 226.8 miles.
The NASCAR garage is fairly quiet now, as the ARCA haulers move out. The NASCAR contingent comes in at 7:30pm local time.