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Bill McAnally Racing tested its four cars on Wednesday at Irwindale Speedway. (Bill McAnally Racing)

New Faces Readying For West Coast Title Run

While race season is set to heat up next week in Florida, the ARCA Menards Series West isn’t wasting any time getting up to speed.

Bill McAnally Racing and Bob Bruncati’s Sunrise Ford Racing spent Tuesday at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway testing for the season opener on Thursday, Feb. 20. On Wednesday, the scene shifted to California’s Irwindale Speedway, which will host the second race of the season on Saturday, March 28.

While together the two organizations account for nine of the past 12 West champions, and swept the top five spots in last year’s standings, this week represented a different look for the perennial West Coast powers.

For the first time, McAnally will field a four-car team entirely comprised of rookies. With Derek Kraus moving up to the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series and Hailie Deegan move to Ford, McAnally tested about two dozen drivers over the winter. He landed on four talented young drivers to pilot his flagship cars in pursuit of the BMR’s 10th West title – and first under the ARCA banner.

“We have four drivers who all have amazing potential,” said McAnally. “They’re amazing drivers, they communicate well and are quick learners. We’re just going to work really hard to get the results people expect from us. I feel these four can do it.

“We’re optimistically excited about everything.”

Conversely, Bruncati will have a pair of familiar faces in his rides as he chases a fourth championship. Trevor Huddleston will be in the No. 6 and Blaine Perkins in the No. 9. Huddleston won twice and finished fourth in West points in 2019, and the 23-year-old from Agoura Hills, California, will be entering his third season. Perkins made 29 West starts in 2016-17, and five ARCA Menards Series starts. The 19-year-old from Bakersfield, California, won the Late Model division titles last year at both Irwindale and Kern County Raceway Park in Bakersfield, en route to the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series California championship.

“”hey did really well yesterday, they were all happy with their cars and we were fast,” said Bruncati. “We’ve had speed every place we’ve gone with both cars.”

McAnally’s biggest challenge will be getting his drivers transitions over to the heavier stock cars the series runs. All four drivers are in the Toyota Development Driver pipeline, and he said their support has been a big part of getting these drivers in the ideal situations for their career growth.

Eighteen-year-old Gio Scelzi, son of four-time NHRA drag racing champion Gary Scelzi, takes over the No. 16 and was the youngest winner in World of Outlaws in 2018. He has been paired with 2019 championship crew chief John Camilleri. Gracie Trotter, 18, will be in the No. 99 with crew chief Roger Bracken, who helped guide Chris Eggleston to the 2015 West title.

Jesse Love, 15, will drive the No. 19 with crew chief Kyle Wolosek. Wolosek was crew chief last year for Deegan when she won the pole at Sonoma and the West race at Colorado National Speedway. Mike Nacemento will work with Holley Hollan, 18, in the No. 50. Hollan ran several Late Model races with Nacemento, who has also teamed with driver Eric Holmes to a number of big-money Late Model wins.

Holmes, who won three West titles for McAnally, will work closely with the team as a driver coach and spotter. BMR will also have Bond Suss, who has a history of working with development drivers, including helping Christopher Bell at Kyle Busch Motorsports make the transition from a successful dirt career to NASCAR.

Scelzi will also run Late Models for Tim Huddleston, while Trotter will run Late Models for Rev Racing as part of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity driver development program.

“We’re going all we can to get these kids switched over,” said McAnally. “We’ve got really good guys who work well with young drivers. We’ve made sure we have good spotters and driver coaches.

“I’ll be very hands on to make sure we have all the right people in the right positions. That’s a big part of these two days of testing.”

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Eric Holmes talks with BMR rookie driver Gio Scelzi during Wednesday’s test at Irwindale Speedway. (Bill McAnally Racing)