|PHOTO: Luis Torres, Motorsports Tribune|
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Armani Williams scored the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR K&N Pro Series West career in Saturday night’s NAPA 175 at Evergreen Speedway when his #34 Race4Autism.com / Patriot Motorsports Group Ford fell out with overheating issues after 64 of 175 laps.
Although Saturday marked Williams’ series debut, the eighteen-year-old already has a handy racing resume. Like many drivers, he started in the go-kart ranks before progressing up to Bandolero cars. Williams later moved to the ARCA SuperTruck Series in 2016, becoming the most successful African American ever to compete in that divison. He drove five Pinty’s Series races last year in the #28 machine as a teammate to current Cup part-timer D.J. Kennington, recording two lead lap finishes on the year. 2018 brought a deal with Calabrese Motorsports to become a part of their driver development program with forthcoming starts in both K&N Pro and ARCA. So far the driver has not started any ARCA races and only one race for Calabrese altogether, at Memphis in K&N East. He teamed up with Patriot Motorsports Group for this weekend’s effort. And all that experience isn’t even taking into account what he’s done off the track – Williams is the first openly autistic driver and can be found making appearances to motivate others to overcome whatever obstacles they have to face.
With three weeks gone since the last race at Iowa Speedway, West teams had an ample amount of time to prepare for the event at Evergreen Speedway outside Seattle. Fifteen cars showed up to race, led by juggernauts Bill McAnally Racing and Bob Bruncati Racing and followed by the usual cast of part-time and rotating rides. Jefferson Pitts Racing’s two cars went to Cole Keatts and Tyler Tanner, respectively. Tanner made his first appearance since the Texas truck race in 2015 and managed to avoid the Bottom Ten, something to write home about when there are only five cars that don’t. Williams took over the #34, and Sonoma winner Will Rodgers returned to the #4 with REF Motorsports.
Practice results were about the norm for a K&N event, with a large disparity between the front and the back. Williams was slowest of the 15 drivers, 1.8 seconds behind the leader. On a 2-mile track like Michigan, that may not be considered too far off the pace, but it was 1.8 seconds off at a 0.65-mile short track. Williams also qualified shotgun on the field, though he shaved a second off his practice lap, drew within 1.1 seconds of the leader and was three-hundredths of a second off the next car in line, Takuma Koga.
Williams’ problems continued the most unfortunate of seasons for Patriot Motorsports Group, which has claimed the LASTCAR Owners’ Championship. The 34 car overheated after 64 laps, handing PMG its sixth last-place finish on the K&N West season. The race stayed quiet after that as a Derek Kraus domination until around Lap 115, when the 16 machine ran out of fuel. Soon after, a multi-car wreck eliminated the contenders of Takuma Koga, Will Rodgers, Todd Souza and Nick Joanides. While a replay of the crash was not available, Koga was presumed to be one of the parties at fault, as on-site reporter Luis Torres captured this NSFW video involving a shouting match between Koga and crew members from other teams.
All cars outside the Bottom Five finished the event.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
15) #34-Armani Williams / 64 laps / overheating
14) #14-Takuma Koga / 118 laps / crash
13) #4-Will Rodgers / 120 laps / crash
12) #13-Todd Souza / 120 laps / crash
11) #77-Nick Joanides / 121 laps / crash
2018 LASTCAR K&N PRO SERIES WEST MANUFACTURERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (6)
2nd) Ford (2)
3rd) Toyota (1)
2018 LASTCAR K&N PRO SERIES WEST OWNERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Patriot Motorsports Group (6)
2nd) Bill McAnally Racing, B&B Motorsports, Flying Dutchman Racing (1)
2018 LASTCAR K&N PRO SERIES WEST DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP
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