Noah Gragson
(Photo: NASCAR)

NOTEBOOK: Noah Gragson, Brandon Jones, Sam Mayer joining West Series field at Sonoma

When it comes to road-course racing, extra laps are never a bad thing.

That’s why it’s common to see at least one full-time competitor in one of NASCAR’s national divisions join the ARCA Menards Series West when it visits Sonoma Raceway, one of NASCAR’s most difficult road courses.

This year, the number of national series competitors joining the West Series field at Sonoma is three. Noah Gragson, Brandon Jones and Sam Mayer are entered in Friday’s General Tire 200 (6:30 p.m. ET on FloRacing).

Gragson is no stranger to the West Series. His early NASCAR career started on the West Coast in 2015, when he ran the full West Series schedule for the first time. In two full seasons with the series in 2015-16, the current Stewart-Haas Racing Cup Series driver won four times and finished second in the championship standings in 2015.

RELATED: Watch the General Tire 200 on FloRacing

Brandon Jones
Brandon Jones (Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

He returned to West Series competition at Sonoma in 2019 and was declared the winner of the race when Ryan Preece was deemed to have jumped the final restart. Gragson, who will be piloting the No. 30 Ford for Rette Jones Racing on Friday, is the only previous Sonoma winner entered in Friday’s race.

By comparison, Jones has very little in the way of West Series experience. The current JR Motorsports Xfinity Series driver has one West Series start at Phoenix Raceway, finishing 17th. He didn’t return to the series again until last week at Portland International Raceway, where he started on the pole and led 26 laps before finishing second to William Sawalich.

He does have eight ARCA Menards Series and two East Series wins to his credit. Jones will again drive the No. 42 Chevrolet for team owner Bruce Cook.

Last, but certainly not least, is Mayer. The driver from Franklin, Wisconsin has four West Series starts heading into Friday. Included among them is a victory during the 2020 season at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Mayer is a two-time East Series champion with nine wins; he’s also a five-time ARCA Menards Series (national) race winner. Mayer, who like Jones drives for JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series, is slated to pilot the No. 23 Chevrolet for Sigma Performance Services at Sonoma on Friday.

If history is any indication, the odds are high that one of these three drivers will end Friday evening in Victory Lane.

William Sawalich

Sawalich hoping to complete sweep of West Series road courses

Only once in the history of the West Series has a driver won every road course race on the schedule when the series had at least two scheduled. Jake Drew swept a pair of races at Portland International Raceway as well the annual visit to Sonoma Raceway during his championship season in 2022.

William Sawalich, fresh off his first ARCA platform road-course victory one week ago at Portland, is hoping to add his name to that exclusive list.

Sawalich has been working hard the last few years to gain experience on a variety of race tracks as he prepares to move up to the NASCAR Xfinity Series with Joe Gibbs Racing. He has experience competing in the Trans Am Series, a stock-car road course series that competes across the United States.

Last year, Sawalich competed at Portland and Sonoma, earning finishes of fourth and fifth in those events. This year he is already off to a fine start following his victory at Portland and will look to keep that momentum going as the series heads to Sonoma on Friday for the General Tire 200.

Marco Andretti, driver of the #17 Group 1001-MMI-Sunwest Coast Chevy, before the General Tire 150 for the ARCA Menards Series and ARCA Menards Series West at Phoenix Raceway in Avondale, Arizona, on March 8, 2024. (Adam Glanzman/NASCAR)
Marco Andretti won his first IndyCar Series race at Sonoma Raceway in 2006. He’ll be among those in the field for Friday’s West Series event. (Photo: Adam Glanzman/NASCAR)

Sonoma a familiar venue for Marco Andretti

Sonoma Raceway is a place Marco Andretti knows all too well.

In his first full season of IndyCar Series competition in 2006 at the age of 19, Andretti scored his first of two series victories thanks to a successful fuel mileage gamble.

The grandson of Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500 winner Mario Andretti, Marco is now 37. He’s no longer a full-time competitor in IndyCar, though he does return to the series every year to compete in the Indianapolis 500.

These days, his focus has shifted to stock-car racing and the ARCA Menards Series, where he is hoping to gain experience and pay his dues as he works towards a potential opportunity in one of NASCAR’s three national divisions.

Andretti said earlier this year that, while ovals will likely be where he has the most to learn, he expects to be among the front-runners at every road course event in which he competes.

A win at Sonoma 18 years after his maiden IndyCar Series victory is not out of the question.


  • Friday’s West Series event marks the 150th road course race in series history. The first race took place at Willow Springs in Rosamond, California, and was won by Chuck Stevenson. It was his only West Series win.
  • For the first time since 2008, Travis McCullough will return to compete in the ARCA Menards Series West on Friday at Sonoma. He’s made two previous starts, both at Sonoma Raceway, with a best finish of 18th.
  • Brent Crews will make his ARCA Menards Series West debut in the No. 15 Venturini Motorsports Toyota on Friday evening. Already a winner in the ARCA Menards Series and CARS Tour, he’ll look to add a win in the West Series to his growing resume.