On the final race day of the year for the 2020 ARCA Menards Series West, just 100 laps separated championship contenders Blaine Perkins and Jesse Love Jr. for the title. There were multiple championship scenarios in play, but the end goal was simple. Love Jr. had to finish eighth or better than Perkins, no matter what Perkins did.
Love Jr. prevailed as the Bill McAnally Racing driver had already collected the ARCA West title with 30 laps to go.
Perkins, in the No. 9 Ford was, out of the race early due to engine issues that relegated him to a 25th place outing and ultimately giving Love Jr. the title for the first time in his career. The title was a huge accomplishment for the 15-year-old Californian as he replaced Hailie Deegan’s old No. 19 ride coming into the 2020 season.
“I just knew when the race started I had to control everything I could control,” said Love. “Kind of put my pride aside and just try to race the nine car and not put myself in any situations. If I could find a gap, I would drive forward to get to that gap, or I would just back off to get to that gap so I could just be by myself and not have to get in any dog fights or anything like that.
“Had to be smart about it. It was killing me. I wish I could have been more aggressive, been able to race really hard. But one of those deals, but obviously it’s cool. Paid off in a championship.”
Despite there being a championship on the line, a race winner was also to be decided. David Gilliland, the 44-year-old team owner of DGR-Crosley earned his first checkered flag since 2012 at Sonoma in what was then called the 2012 NASCAR K&N Pro Series.
Gilliland qualified on the pole with a time of 27.452 seconds and 131.138 mph to set his No. 4 Ford on the front row.
The race wasn’t all that easy for the former Cup Series driver, as three cautions occurred during the first 12 laps. Gilliland kept himself in contention by staying up front but unfortunate circumstances came at the Lap 54 restart following the halfway break. The Riverside, California native was penalized for a restart violation, changing lanes too soon by diving to the bottom of the track. Gilliland had to serve a pass-through penalty and was mired deep in the 27-car field.
Meanwhile, Ty Gibbs in the No. 18 Monster Energy Toyota, was dominating the race but things began to go south with cautions late in the race. The opportunity for Gilliland came with nine laps to go when race leader Gibbs slid up the track and was slightly into the Turn 1 wall. Gilliland’s car was like a rocket and it didn’t take him long to grab the top spot with his son Todd and competitor Sam Mayer, following in suit. However, Gilliland had to wait one more time due to a caution coming out for Mayer when the GMS driver suffered a left-rear flat after contact with Todd.
The final restart came with three to go, and surprisingly, after the contact a few laps earlier, Ty Gibbs was back on the front row with Gilliland. Fortunately for (David) Gilliland, he was able to keep Gibbs at a distance and win for the fifth time in his West Series career, the first checkered flag for him under the ARCA Series banner.
“It’s always fun racing with Todd, and to be able to race with your son is actually a dream come true for me,” said Gilliland. “[It] tops anything. Tops sitting here in victory lane and winning, winning as an owner or a championship — it tops everything, racing with him.
“And to be able to do that today was very special.”
There were seven cautions for 29 laps, and six lead changes among two different leaders.
The 2020 ARCA West Series champion, Jesse Love Jr., ends the season with three West Series victories, nine top fives and 10 top-10 finishes along with four poles. The other two victories for Love Jr. came at Irwindale and Utah Motorsports Campus.
Official Results following the Arizona Lottery 100 at Phoenix International Raceway.
- David Gilliland
- Ty Gibbs
- Taylor Gray
- Todd Gilliland
- Drew Dollar
- Justin Lofton
- Trevor Huddleston
- Corey Heim
- Gracie Trotter
- Keith Rocco
- Howie DiSavino III
- Joey Iest
- Alex Sedgwick, 1 lap down
- Jesse Love, 2020 ARCA West Series Champion, 1 lap down
- Chris Hacker, 2 laps down
- Devin Dodson, 2 laps down
- Todd Souza, 3 laps down
- Kris Wright, 4 laps down
- Cody Erickson, 5 laps down
- Bobby Hillis Jr, 5 laps down
- Sam Mayer, OUT, Crash
- Bridget Burgess, 9 laps down
- Tauma Koga, 22 laps down
- Jack Wood, OUT, Crash
- Blaine Perkins, OUT, Engine
- Zane Smith, OUT, Crash
- Gio Scelzi, OUT, Crash
Up Next: The 2020 ARCA Menards West Series season is now complete. Next for the series is the end of the year award banquet for the ARCA brand, which is currently slated for Tuesday night on Nov. 17. The event can be seen live on arcaracing.com and the ARCA Racing’s Facebook page.