From arcaracing.com / Brandon White
Even with one of the largest fields in recent ARCA Menards Series West history on hand at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Friday, nobody could touch Taylor Gray.
From the opening green flag, Gray faced little resistance from his competition and claimed a wire-to-wire victory in the penultimate event on the 2022 ARCA West calendar, which was his fifth in the series and eighth across all three ARCA divisions.
The only obstacles Gray faced came during the numerous restarts in Friday’s Star Nursery 150, but he knew the car prepared by David Gilliland Racing would be strong enough to maintain control of the top spot.
“Landen [Lewis] gave me a little bit of a hard time on those restarts,” Gray said. “All props to my guys who work so hard at the shop. They work their butts off every week so we can come out and do things like this. It was a good race car and a good day.”
Gray’s victory on Friday extended his win streak to two races at the Las Vegas Bullring after he led 123 of the 150 laps from the outside pole last year.
This time around, Gray set the pace during the blistering afternoon by being the only car to crack the 14-second bracket during the combined practice and qualifying session. That speed carried over into the race as Gray easily pulled away during long green flag runs.
Capping off the stellar evening for David Gilliland Racing was a second place performance for Mexico City native Andres Perez de Lara in his ARCA West debut.
A three-time winner in the NASCAR Mexico Challenge Series this year, Perez de Lara entered Friday’s Star Nursery 150 determined to gain as much experience as possible but was thrilled that ended up finishing right where he started.
“For my second start in ARCA and my first in [ARCA] West, I’m really happy with second place,” Perez de Lara said. “It was a really tough race, as I fell back to fifth before finally getting to second again, so I’m really thankful for the team.”
Perez de Lara found himself lined up alongside Gray for a one-lap shootout to the finish. He ultimately did not get the launch he needed going into Turn 1 but managed to do enough defensive driving to keep David Gilliland Racing’s 1-2 finish intact.
With two solid finishes now under his belt, which includes a seventh in his ARCA debut at Bristol Motor Speedway, Perez de Lara is finding a comfort zone with racing in the U.S. and plans to take away many lessons from these first starts as his development continues.
“It was only a one lap [shootout], so I had to push [Gray] on the inside,” Perez de Lara said. “The guys [on the second row] were also trying to pass us, so it was a very interesting restart. I feel really welcomed racing here and I’m very happy right now.”
Gray knows Perez de Lara has plenty to be excited about with the speed the David Gilliland Racing cars possess every week.
Despite this, Gray said responsibility falls upon him to ensure he is getting the most out of his equipment. He was thrilled everything turned out perfectly for him on Friday and that he got to celebrate another victory with his crew before the end of the 2022 season.
“There’s always a chance something could go wrong, but you have to have confidence in yourself and what you’re doing,” Gray said. “I was hoping that would be the case [on Friday] and I’m glad it was.”
Landen Lewis ended up settling for third while Kyle Keller and Buddy Shepherd completed the Top 5.
Rounding out the Top 10 in the Star Nursery 150 were Tanner Reif, Bradley Erickson, ARCA West points leader Jake Drew, Jacob Smith, and Todd Souza.
A replay of Friday’s Star Nursery 150 at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will air on the USA Network on Friday, Oct. 21 starting at 5 p.m. ET.
The final race of the 2022 ARCA Menards Series West season will take place at Phoenix Raceway on Friday, Nov. 4 at 2:30 p.m. ET. The race will be streamed live on FloRacing.
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Photo: ARCA / Miranda Alam