Like he did in the ARCA Menards Series East, 2021 ARCA Menards Series national champion Ty Gibbs entered multiple ARCA Menards Series West races this season. And the 19-year-old racing phenom earned some special awards to show for it.
Unlike in the East Series, though, Gibbs did not sweep the season-long special awards in the West Series.
After a season defined by parity in the West Series, it’s fitting that the General Tire Victory Bonus, for example, is split between three drivers.
Below are the special award winners for the ARCA Menards Series West in 2021.
Valvoline Lap Leader: Ty Gibbs
Gibbs made only two appearances in the ARCA Menards Series West all year, both at Phoenix Raceway, but his dominance was the only sure thing in a wide-open 2021 West Series season.
By leading 124 of 150 laps in the AMS-West combination race in March and all 100 laps in the West Series finale in November, Gibbs pulled off an unprecedented feat. He won the season-long Valvoline Lap Leader awards in the ARCA Menards Series, the ARCA Menards Series East and the ARCA Menards Series West in 2021.
Gibbs’ claim of the Valvoline Lap Leader award in West Series competition was actually a testament to the parity in the series. Six different drivers led 100 or more laps across the nine-race schedule. The 224 laps led by Gibbs marked the smallest number to pace the series since 1983, when champion Jim Robinson led 190 laps over a 10-race schedule that featured five road course events.
Jesse Love carried the banner for West Series regulars by finishing second to Gibbs in the laps led category with 183. Now a two-time defending champion in the series, Love led at least one lap in six of the nine races, the most individual races led by any driver. Taylor Gray, the winner at Portland International Raceway and the Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, entered five events and slotted in third with 156 laps led.
Dean Thompson (144 laps led), Cole Moore (114 laps led) and Jake Drew (104 laps led) were the other drivers to break into the triple-digits in the laps led column this season, though all three went winless.
Fourteen different drivers led at least one lap in 2021, an increase from 10 a season ago in the West Series.
General Tire Victory Bonus: Ty Gibbs, Jesse Love, Taylor Gray
A trio of drivers recorded two wins each in the ARCA Menards Series West in 2021: Gibbs, Love and Gray.
Gibbs bookended the 2021 West Series season by winning both races at Phoenix. Love, who became a repeat West Series champion at just 16, pulled off a season sweep of his own by winning both West Series races at Irwindale Speedway.
Gray won back-to-back races in September in different manners. In the first West Series race at Portland since 2012, Gray crossed the finish line third but was awarded the victory after series officials penalized the top two finishers (Jake Drew and Eric Nascimento) for cutting the first-corner chicane on the final lap. There would be no doubt or controversy about Gray’s next win, though, as he was the class of the field at the Las Vegas Bullring, leading 123 circuits and lapping up to sixth place in a convincing win.
Three more drivers won a single race in 2021, the first West Series win for each. Chase Briscoe, the 2016 ARCA Menards Series champion and current NASCAR Cup Series regular, led every lap at Sonoma Raceway in June. Joey Iest took his maiden West Series win on a dreary day at Colorado National Speedway in July.
And in one of the best stories of the year, 31-year-old P.J. Pedroncelli became the oldest winner of the 2021 season across the ARCA Menards platform when he made a dramatic, final-corner pass of Iest at All American Speedway in Roseville, California, in October.
General Tire Pole Award: Jake Drew
Karting convert Jake Drew did not win an ARCA Menards Series West race in 2021 despite several close calls. But he did lead the series in General Tire Pole Awards this year by qualifying at the top of the charts three times in nine starts.
Using his experience as a road racer, Drew qualified first for both road course races on the calendar, at Sonoma and Portland. Drew never managed to lead a lap at Sonoma, only his second career start, as Todd Souza and eventual race winner Briscoe got by him on the opening lap. Drew was originally flagged the winner at Portland before being assessed a post-race penalty and dropping to 10th in the final rundown.
Fired up, Drew proved his prowess extended to the short tracks, too, when he won the pole the next time out at the Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway en route to tying his career-best finish of second.
Gibbs was the polesitter in both West Series appearances he made this season, starting first at Phoenix in March and in November. Rookie Dean Thompson also claimed a pair of General Tire Pole Awards with his qualifying runs at Irwindale in June and at All American in October.
Leading the series point standings after three races paid off for Souza, as he was able to roll off first at Colorado in July when inclement weather canceled General Tire Pole Qualifying. It was a sorely needed perk for Souza and his team, who struggled just to make it to the track that weekend, and he parlayed the break into a seventh-place finish after leading the opening six laps.
Pedroncelli took his first career pole start at Irwindale in August and used it to propel himself to a third-place finish, which tied his career-best result at the time. Pedroncelli broke into Victory Lane at All American two months later.