Kole Raz denies Trevor Huddleston after epic battle for first West Series victory at Kevin Harvick’s Kern Raceway

BAKERSFIELD, CA. — For most of the second half in Saturday’s MMI Oil Workers 150 at Kevin Harvick’s Kern Raceway, Trevor Huddleston appeared poised to pick up a victory in the first year of his family leasing the facility.

Kole Raz had different plans.

In his third career ARCA Menards Series West start, Raz chased down Huddleston in the closing laps and engaged him in an intense, side-by-side duel. Both drivers refused to pull any punches, but Raz narrowly pulled off the victory after slightly nudging Huddleston out of the groove in Turn 4 coming to the checkered flag.

RELATED: Complete race results from the MMI Oil Workers 150

Raz did everything possible to race Huddleston fiercly but cleanly to close out the MMI Oil Workers 150. He admitted to being a tad bit over-aggressive, but was more than thrilled to tally a West Series victory so early in his career.

“That was a little bit more rubbing than I obviously wanted,” Raz said. “I hope Trevor knows with how we’ve raced in the past, it’s always been clean. I was just trying to get it there and I was trying to put on a show for the fans.”

A standout competitor in Super Late Model racing around the West Coast, Raz’s natural talent behind the wheel earned him the chance to drive for Jerry Pitts Racing last year.

In the two appearances he made behind the wheel of Pitts’ No. 5 Toyota, Raz showcased maturity and composure. He kept the car out of trouble at both Shasta Speedway and Evergreen Speedway to tally two consecutive third-place finishes.

The confidence and experience Raz obtained from 2023 proved to be crucial in his first West Series start on the 2024 season. After qualifying in third, Raz patiently bided his time until he gradually started erasing Huddleston’s lead.

Raz’s car had better drive off in each set of turns, yet Huddleston used the high line to repeatedly edge the young driver back to the start-finish line. The advantage Huddleston possessed ended up being used against him by Raz, who muscled the veteran enough out of the racing line to pull ahead by a race-winning margin of .058 seconds.

Kole Raz
With his victory, Kole Raz joins his brother Gracin as a winner in the ARCA Menards Series West. (Photo: David Dennis/ARCA Racing)

Huddleston was not happy with the way Raz raced him at the end of the MMI Oil Workers 150 and expressed his feelings during the cooldown lap. Instead of calling out Raz in his post-race interview, Huddleston found gratification in seeing the loyal crowd at Kern Raceway be entertained by the thrilling battle for the win.

“I’m pretty pissed off, but as long as everyone in the grandstands is happy, I’m happy,” Huddleston said. “We were the car to beat tonight, but we’ll go get them here in Portland and go win this championship.”

Despite being frustrated over how Saturday’s race got away from him, the performance was still Huddleston’s career-best at Kern Raceway, previously exceeding a third he obtained there in 2023. Huddleston will now look to use the momentum from Kern Raceway to put together a bid for the West Series title.

For Raz, he was simply elated to bring home a victory for a long-standing, successful West Series operation like Jerry Pitts Racing. No matter how many more opportunities he gets with Pitts’ team, Raz intends to make the most of them while simultaneously gaining the necessary experience to one day thrive in NASCAR’s top levels.

“It was just really good, hard racing,” Raz said. “I don’t get opportunities like this very much, but I had to capitalize this for Jerry Pitts and Dustin Ash. They haven’t won a race in such a long time and work hard at the shop to bring good quality cars.”

Polesitter Tyler Reif came home in the third position with Sean Hingorani and Nick Joanides rounding out the Top 5. Eric Nascimento, Kyle Keller, P.J. Pedroncelli, Todd Souza and Eric Johnson Jr. were the rest of the Top 10 finishers.

The ARCA Menards Series West gets a month-long break before tackling the first road course of the season in Portland International Raceway on May 31. FloRacing will carry live coverage of the on-track action.