Tuesday, March 16, 2021

ARCA: First-lap pileup leaves Toni Breidinger the odd one out in Phoenix

PHOTO: @ToniBreidinger

by William Soquet
LASTCAR.info Guest Contributor

Toni Breidinger finished last for the first time in her ARCA Menards Series career when her #02 Young’s Motorsports Chevrolet crashed without completing any of the 150 laps in the General Tire 150 at Phoenix Raceway.

The finish came in her fifth series start.

Tenured followers of the ARCA Menards Series will remember the name Toni Breidinger. The California native started climbing the racing ranks with her twin sister, Annie, and both moved up to the USAC ranks. There, Toni eventually earned the title of “Winningest Female in USAC”. Her first ride in ARCA was a three-race slate with Venturini Motorsports in 2018, a partnership that yielded a top-ten in her debut race at Madison. After an unsuccessful bid to become a W Series participant in late 2018 and early 2019, she ran a season of late model races with GMS Racing as part of the Drivers Edge Development program in 2019 and ran for David Pletcher’s DLP Motorsports in the Carolina Pro Late Model Series in 2020. For the 2021 season, Breidinger aligned with Young’s Motorsports for a limited schedule in the ARCA Menards Series and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

Since the General Tire 150 was a combination race with the ARCA Menards Series West, a stout 30-car entry list arrived at the track on Saturday. A strong West contingent showed up, including a three-car Bill McAnally Racing stable, two Sunrise Ford Racing entries, longtime independents like Todd Souza, Bridget Burgess and Bobby Hillis, established pairings such as Zane Smith and Steve McGowan, and a host of new driver-team pairings. Takuma Koga moved from Performance P-1 Motorsports to Pitts Racing, and Tony Toste took over the 77 machine. Dean Thompson and High Point Racing made their series debut, and Paul Pedroncelli, Jr. entered his first West race since 2019. The national ARCA contingent made a strong showing as well. Jack Wood increased his slate with GMS Racing from just the Sioux Chief Showdown to the entire schedule. Tim Richmond, Drew Dollar and Thad Moffitt continued part-time schedules in their cars. Fast Track Racing fielded two series debuts: USAC and dirt midget racer Mark Lowrey drove the #10 machine, and 17-year-old North Dakota sprint car racer Bryce Haugeberg drove the #12 car.

Noticeably absent was Wayne Peterson Racing, which didn't field a car in an ARCA race for the first time since Daytona in 2014. Plans for the team are still unknown going forward this season.

In the only practice session of the day, Bobby Hillis Jr. was the slowest, only getting one lap in at a time of about 51 seconds. The broadcast mentioned that Hillis had encountered issues in practice and brought out a caution flag, perhaps explaining the lack of laps. Of those that got to speed, Brad Smith was slowest, clocking in at just over 33 seconds. Qualifying was cancelled due to rare desert moisture, and Hillis claimed the 30th and final starting spot.

The start of the race was also delayed a while due to intermittent showers. When the race did commence, it was an even start, with no notable stragglers at the tail end of the field. The field made it about fifteen seconds before the last-place battle was settled for the race. Gracie Trotter, continuing a part-time schedule for Venturini Motorsports in the Mobil 1 machine, washed up a little bit in turn one and Zane Smith held his line, sending both cars spinning in the middle of the turn. Wood, who started the race right behind Smith in eighth, was collected almost immediately. After a handful of cars dived low and high to avoid the incident, Breidinger stayed in the middle of the track and plowed in to Trotter in a hood-to-hood collision that terminally damaged both cars, smoke spewing from the hood of the 02. Wood and Smith both retired as a result of the incident as well, wiping out a handful of formidable contenders. Brad Smith rounded out the Bottom Five, scoring his third-straight DNF (dating back to the 2020 season). The team cited the differential gear as the reason for the early exit, which occurred after 15 laps.

Attrition continued even after the bottom five filled up. An indecisive Drew Dollar punted Haugeberg as the latter was running the preferred racing line through turns three and four, ending the North Dakotan’s night after 32 laps. Hillis and Koga both found the wall with the rear ends of their respective race cars. In the closing stages of the race, the MAVTV cameras panned late to a destroyed Nick Sanchez machine in turn one. Motorsport.com’s Jim Utter reported that Mark Lowrey made contact with Sanchez to spark the incident. Sanchez claimed he was clipped by the 10, and that may well have happened, although without a replay it is impossible to place blame on either driver.

30) #02-Toni Breidinger / 0 laps / crash
29) #21-Jack Wood / 0 laps / crash
28) #17W-Zane Smith / 0 laps / crash
27) #25-Gracie Trotter / 0 laps / crash
26) #48-Brad Smith / 15 laps / differential

1st) Rette Jones Racing, Young’s Motorsports (1)

1st) Chevrolet, Ford (1)


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