P.J. Pedroncelli is not a full-time race car driver. If that were the case, the Sonoma, California, native would not be able to spend 78 hours a week operating his pair of mobile wine bottling companies.
Pedroncelli does not race for a fully funded ARCA Menards Series West team. If that were the case, the 31-year-old would not transport the hauler carrying his car to each event himself and have to mobilize his group of friends to piece together a pit crew.
But Pedroncelli also does not treat his involvement in the West Series as some insignificant hobby. If that were the case, he would not have left Saturday’s General Tire 200 at Sonoma Raceway ranked second in the championship standings after finishing a career-high third.
Yes, Pedroncelli’s afternoon was special because he earned his first top-five finish in his 15th West Series race dating back to 2008 — at his home track, of all places. But the jubilation he felt was compounded by the fact that his father Paul, a firefighter in Sonoma, was able to run his first West Series race Saturday and finish on the lead lap in 13th.
“We had a good time; it was cool being able to run with my dad out there,” said P.J. Pedroncelli. “We had a good finish, (but) it’s time to move on to Irwindale.”
Pedroncelli’s on-to-the-next-race attitude is surprising on the heels of his accomplishing what many racers would consider a dream scenario — earning a career-best finish with a parent in the field to watch it happen. But this is how he is wired.
And his story is a perfect example of what makes the ARCA Menards Series West special.
Pedroncelli grew up in Sonoma watching his dad race. He took interest to motorsports himself early in his teenage years, and after some success, his parents purchased a couple stock cars so he could race part-time in the West Series. From 2008-2011, he competed in 12 West Series events with his best finish being a 12th-place run at Douglas County Speedway in Roseburg, Oregon, in 2009.
After 2011, Pedroncelli’s competing in the West Series became financially unsustainable, but he kept racing locally in lower divisions. Then he stopped racing altogether in 2014, when he started Pedroncelli Mobile Bottling.
Pedroncelli’s mobile wine bottling company flourished to the point where he was able to purchase a competitor, Select Mobile Bottlers. Even while bearing the load of running two businesses, his racing itch returned.
Pedroncelli bought an ARCA Menards car in 2019 and raced it at Sonoma that year; he finished 13th after starting 19th. He planned to run the 2020 West Series race at Sonoma, too, before that event was canceled amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
When the 2021 season arrived, Pedroncelli’s racing ambitions suddenly changed.
“I just decided, ‘You know what? It’s only a nine-race series. Let’s go buy a circle track car (too) and go have fun and see what we can do,'” Pedroncelli explained. “It happened quickly. I initially was just like, ‘Oh, let’s go have fun and see what we can do ourselves.’ And then I got Ty (Joiner) to join as crew chief, and from there it just became, ‘Alright, we’re going to run the whole series and see how good we can be.’
“Now I’m pretty heavily back involved in it.”
Pedroncelli has three cars: the road course car he raced at Sonoma, a second car he runs at oval tracks, and a third (backup) car. The third is the car Paul Pedroncelli drove at Sonoma.
As great as it felt to have his dad running in the same race, P.J. Pedroncelli said he doubts the father-son duo will start another West race together in 2021. The amount of work required to prepare two cars for one race ate into his already busy schedule in a way that would not be sustainable long-term.
So Paul Pedroncelli will continue to support the family’s racing endeavors elsewhere. For example, he will need to transport the car to Colorado National Speedway for the West Series race on July 31. This is the one race in which P.J. is not sure whether he will be able to compete, as his third child is due the same weekend.
If P.J. Pedroncelli is able, he will fly to Colorado to join his dad, complete the race and immediately fly back to Sonoma.
Only at this level of stock car racing can an operator of two mobile wine bottling services take a break from his “day jobs” to race in a NASCAR touring division — let alone to do so with success. This is what the ARCA Menards Series West is all about.
Pedroncelli finished 11th in this season’s West Series opener at Phoenix Raceway due in part to a miscommunication on pit road and a tire issue, but he estimates he had a top-five car. That estimation was validated at Sonoma.
“I knew the car was good,” he said. “I was really mainly just hanging out, just trying to save everything and not be a part of all the craziness going on. On a couple of those (late) restarts, when I was more up toward sixth or eighth, I was like, ‘Alright, let’s get going here, see where we can end up.’
“We kind of struggled with the initial speed in the car, but the car was very stable, and I knew it could last a long time as long as I saved everything and let everyone else wear their stuff out.”
It worked. And had fellow West Series regular Todd Souza finished worse than fifth, Pedroncelli would have left Sonoma with the championship points lead. As they stand, Souza has a one-point advantage.
Pedroncelli is not as worried about his points standing as much as he is motivated to improve upon his new career-best finish. After all, racing is only half of his life in terms of his day-to-day priorities.
When he thinks back on his epic race day at his home track, his thoughts go a place one would expect from a racer who is so deeply embedded in the wine business.
“I keep looking back, and I’m like, ‘Man, one day I want to drink the wine out of that trophy.’ Obviously my goal is to do that.”