Tuesday, June 13, 2023

ARCA WEST: Recurring mechanical problems lead to early DNF for Huddleston

ALL PHOTOS: Ben Schneider, @bcschneider53

by Ben Schneider
LASTCAR.info Staff Writer

Trevor Huddleston finished last for the 2nd time in his ARCA Menards Series West career in Friday’s General Tire 200 at Sonoma Raceway when his No. 50 High Point Racing/Racecar Factory Ford fell out with mechanical issues after completing 12 of 64 laps.

The finish came in Huddleston’s 58th career West Series start.

A longtime veteran of the West Series, Huddleston’s racing career began in Bandeleros and late models. He primarily raced at Irwindale Speedway, winning a track championship and making his debut in the then-NASCAR K&N Pro Series West in 2016 at Irwindale while driving the No. 22 car for Sunrise Ford Racing. In 2018, Huddleston joined the Sunrise Ford team full-time, finishing sixth in the championship and narrowly missing out on Rookie of the Year to Hailie Deegan.

The 2019 campaign served as a breakthrough season for Huddleston as he moved to the team’s No. 9 Ford and scored his first career West Series win at Irwindale, edging out Tanner Gray in a thrilling photo finish. Huddleston then scored a second win at Evergreen Speedway and improved to fourth in the final championship standings. Despite not making it back to Victory Lane in 2020, Huddleston, now in the team’s flagship No. 6 Ford, again placed fourth in the championship with seven top-five finishes. It was also this season when Huddleston picked up his first West Series last-place finish, suffering a suspension failure after 48 laps at the Las Vegas Bullring race that was notable for its winner, Gracie Trotter.

In 2021, Huddleston dropped back to sixth in the standings and inadvertently cost his Sunrise Ford teammate Jake Drew the series championship. On the final lap of the final race, Huddleston slowed down and allowed Jesse Love to pass him for 14th place, just enough for Love to beat Drew for the championship by one point. Replaced in the No. 6 by Drew, and with Tanner Reif taking over Drew’s No. 9 ride, Huddleston would spend the opening race of 2022 on the sidelines. He returned to the West Series at his home track of Irwindale for the second race of the year, scoring a sixth-place finish while driving the No. 50 Ford for his father Tim Huddleston’s High Point Racing team. Huddleston ran three races for High Point in '22, finishing seventh at Kern County Raceway Park and a season-best third in the series’ return to Irwindale later in the season.

High Point Racing took Huddleston’s No. 50 team full-time this season. While his best finish to date this season is a third-place run at Kern County, his strongest overall outing came at Irwindale, where he sat on the pole and led the first 72 laps before fading to a fourth-place finish. On Friday, however, mechanical issues would deny Huddleston the opportunity to build on those strong runs. 

Huddleston first encountered trouble on Lap 16, stalling his car on pit road and forcing the second caution of the race. The first had been for Reif, now driving for Bill McAnally Racing this season, who had shredded a tire after suffering a suspension issue in Turn 7. Reif, however, was able to rejoin the race after spending several laps in the garage, as was Sebastian Arias, who suffered mechanical issues of his own early on in the race. Both drivers completed a total of 55 laps and ended up 20th and 21st respectively.

With Reif and Arias back on track, Huddleston was suddenly in danger of falling to last place. His car stalled again shortly after the restart, forcing another caution on Lap 19. After taking the car behind the wall, Huddleston briefly rejoined the race on Lap 26, though by the time the race reached the halfway break, he was back in the garage and officially listed as OUT after completing a total of just 12 laps.

In all, 30 cars appeared on the initial entry list. Of the 29 entries that arrived at the track, only 28 took the green flag in the race. Rumors began swirling of a return for Bobby Hillis Jr.’s No. 27 car, though a revised copy of the entry list did not include the team, and Racing-Reference indicates the entry was a withdrawal. The No. 46 Lowden-Jackson Motorsports Ford, meanwhile, was originally believed to be entered for Kyle Sieg, who would pull double duty this weekend just as he did last week at Portland. Once Alex Labbe was announced as the driver for RSS Racing’s No. 29 XFINITY entry, however, Sieg elected to step away for the entire weekend, allowing Stefan Rzesnowiecky an opportunity to step into No. 46 entry. Unfortunately for Rzesnowiecky, he would not take the green flag either as a crew member reported that the car “spun a bearing” and was therefore unable to start the race.

Rzesnowiecky's car on jack stands in the garage before the race.

Following Huddleston up the running order was Eric Johnson Jr., who made his debut in last week’s West Series race at Portland. Johnson’s car came to a stop when his transmission failed in Turn 1 on Lap 32, leaving him with a disappointing 27th-place finish following last weekend’s top-ten. Ryan Philpott and XFINITY last-place finisher Parker Retzlaff were the next to join the garage, falling out with axle and electrical issues respectively after completing 36 and 37 laps. Both cars were pushed behind the wall at the same time. Takuma Koga rounded out the Bottom Five with axle issues of his own, edging out Philpott and Retzlaff by completing 39 laps.

At the front of the field, NASCAR Cup Series regular Ryan Preece took a dominating win driving a No. 9 entry fielded by his Cup team, Stewart-Haas Racing. The win serves as redemption for Preece, who nearly won this race four years ago but was relegated to a 20th-place finish after a late-race penalty for a restart violation. XFINITY Series regulars Sammy Smith and Riley Herbst followed in 2nd and 3rd, while Jack Wood and William Sawalich rounded out the Top Five. The highest-finishing West Series regular was Sean Hingorani, who placed 6th, allowing him to close the points gap to championship leader Landen Lewis, who finished 19th after sustaining crash damage.

29) #46-Stefan Rzesnowiecky

28) #50-Trevor Huddleston / 12 laps / mechanical
27) #19-Eric Johnson Jr. / 31 laps / transmission
26) #52-Ryan Philpott / 36 laps / axle
25) #02-Parker Retzlaff / 37 laps / electrical
24) #7-Takuma Koga / 39 laps / axle

1st) Ford (4)
2nd) Toyota (1)

1st) Fast Track Racing, Performance P-1 Motorsports, Lowden-Jackson Motorsports, Central Coast Racing, High Point Racing (1)


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