The ARCA Menards Series returns to Phoenix Raceway next Friday for just the second race at the Avondale, Arizona, track in series history, including last year’s March event.
What’s now the ARCA Menards Series West, though, has a long history on the one-mile tri-oval in the desert. And the series’ recent history at Phoenix is particularly rich.
GENERAL TIRE 150:
This year’s General Tire 150 at Phoenix will run as a combination race with the ARCA Menards Series and the West Series. Including last season’s West Series finale in November, it’s just the third Phoenix race under the ARCA Menards banner.
Below are some recent notable West Series race results from Phoenix, where drivers who have since moved on to the top levels of stock car racing planted their roots.
2007: Joey Logano wins in NASCAR debut
Then just 16, Joey Logano benefitted from a NASCAR rule change that lowered the minimum age restriction from 19 to 16 for drivers in the East and West Series.
In his West Series debut at Phoenix on April 19, he won the Alphatrade.com 150 after starting second driving the No. Joe Gibbs Driven Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing.
His JGR teammate Marc Davis finished second ahead of the eventual 2007 West Series champion, Mike David, in third.
Logano would go on to win his East Series debut a month later at Greenville-Pickens Speedway en route to the series title.
2011: Ryan Blaney wins first NASCAR race
Blaney made only one West Series start in 2011, and he picked up the win at Phoenix driving the No. 11 Accell Construction / Ruston Transport Toyota owned by his father Dave.
It marked the then 18-year-old’s first win in a NASCAR-sanctioned race.
Making Blaney’s accomplishment at Phoenix in the West Series even more impressive is the fact that he beat second-place Alex Bowman by a convicing 2.211-second margin.
Blaney also topped Chase Elliott (third), three-time West champion Eric Holmes (fourth), two-time West champion Derek Thorn (fifth) and Daniel Suarez (sixth) to earn the victory.
2013: Gray Gaulding vs. Cole Custer
The 2013 fall West Series race at Phoenix was a short, 50-lap affair. Which is why Cole Custer left the track that day furious that he led only 49 laps.
Coming to the checkered, Custer got turned by second-place Gray Gaulding in Turn 4. Gaulding won the race by 3.794 seconds over Jesse Little, and Custer fell to a sixth-place finish.
Gaulding at the time was the youngest winner in West Series history at 15 years, 8 months, 30 days.
Custer would get his redemption the following year in the series’ return to Phoenix on Feb. 27, when he won the Talking Stick Resort 75 after starting on the pole — the only West Series victory on his resume.
As for Gaulding, he finished last after experiencing an engine issue on the first lap of the race.
2015: Todd Gilliland vs. William Byron
The one and only Phoenix race of the 2015 West Series season — and that year’s series finale — was Justin Haley’s to lose. He led the first 94 laps of the 100-lap affair before cutting a tire.
Haley’s misfortune allowed Todd Gilliland and William Byron to battle for the race win, a back-and-fourth that included three official lead changes over the last seven laps.
Gilliland made the winning move on a green-white-checkered restart to end the race.
At 15, Gilliland became the youngest winner in the track’s history and joined his father David on the list of Phoenix winners in the West Series. He would go on to win the series championship the following season.
2019: West Series returns to Phoenix
The series didn’t race at Phoenix for three years after Gilliland’s win, but it returned in 2019, the last season before the NASCAR K&N Series West became the ARCA Menards Series West.
Then just 16, Ty Gibbs made his only West Series start that season at Phoenix, and he held off Sam Mayer, Derek Kraus and Hailie Deegan for the win on a three-lap dash to the checkers.
It was also the only NASCAR race then 16-year-old Corey Heim ran that year. He finished third in the running order at the end of the race. But because he was running a non-NASCAR approved engine as part of a testing process ahead of the impending NASCAR/ARCA merger, he was credited with a 25th-place (last) finish.