When the checkered flag flew at Toledo Speedway on Oct. 18 to end the 2022 ARCA Menards Series season, Nick Sanchez captured the title, beating Daniel Dye and Rajah Caruth.
On Saturday, Feb. 18, the 2023 ARCA season will begin at Daytona International Speedway. With the top four drivers graduating into the NASCAR national series, ARCA will crown a new champion in 2023.
Ahead of the 20-race season, four ARCA media members, including two from Frontstretch, shared their predictions for both the owners’ and drivers’ championships and other pressing topics.
Who will challenge for the title and who will win it overall?
Josh Calloni: Jesse Love has the inside track for the championship. Of all the full-time drivers, he has the most experience and is in the best equipment of them all. While he wasn’t full-time last year, he still won a race at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, and took home top-10 finishes in all but two of his 14 starts. Bringing that experience, and the best equipment, Love will be the man to beat in 2023. As for his competition, Greg Van Alst has been very competitive for the budget he brings to the race track in recent seasons, and with a thinner full-time field, Van Alst could challenge for the championship as well.
Ben Branscum, TobyChristie.com ARCA writer: When it comes to the 2023 title hunt, this one might be a slam dunk, but with a few surprises. With Joe Gibbs Racing only running full-time in the ARCA Menards Series East with William Sawalich, and Venturini Motorsports running with Love all season in the No. 20, this feels like Love’s championship to lose. However, I wouldn’t necessarily count out Andres Perez De Lara and Rev Racing. While Perez De Lara won’t be running the season opener at Daytona, both he and the team have shown they have what it takes to be competitive race in and race out.
Mark Kristl: Love will win the 2023 championship, but it will be close, albeit not as close as the 2022 title. Love is talented at dirt tracks and short tracks, but how will he fare at the intermediates and superspeedways? Van Alst meanwhile gained valuable experience by running full-time in 2022 and he is good at superspeedways. If he wins at either or both superspeedways, Van Alst will quickly establish his legitimacy as a championship contender.
Brett Winningham, Speedway Digest ARCA + NASCAR writer: Love will win the 2023 championship. Love didn’t have the season he hoped for last year in his 14 events. With him running full-time and seeing the same tracks that he did in 2022, that’s going to be the tipping point of him having a breakout season and running for the title.
In 2022, the owners’ championship was decided in the season finale. Which full-time team wins the owners’ championship?
Branscum: For the owner’s title, we will get to see a similar replay to 2022. A tight and tense battle that goes all the way down to the wire. While Kyle Busch Motorsports has pulled out of ARCA, Joe Gibbs Racing announced that it will rejoin ARCA with Sawalich and Connor Mosack. While they will be stout, their biggest competitor will put up a fight (literally in some ways). After failing to win the owner’s title last year, Venturini is going to be a strong favorite as well. I’m going to say Venturini pulls off the title for 2023, but it could honestly be a coin flip.
Calloni: Venturini’s No. 20 will run away with the owners’ championship. Love being full-time in the car gives them a sense of regularity, and working with the same driver every week, combined with Love being a serious threat for the championship, I don’t see any other entry that could threaten them. If I were to pick another team that may compete for the title, I’d watch out for JGR’s No. 18, with the combination of Mosack and Sawalich behind the wheel.
Kristl: The top-two teams in 2022 will again vie for the title in 2023. Sawalich and Mosack will comprise 19 of the 20 ARCA races for JGR’s No. 18 and both are continually improving drivers in excellent equipment. Meanwhile, Venturini now has Love piloting the No. 20 full-time. Love will win more races than the JGR team, so Venturini will emerge victorious at Toledo with both the owners’ and drivers’ championships.
Winningham: I’d say Venturini. It probably has one of the most talented and diverse lineups of any team in ARCA for 2023. It hasn’t done as well as it expected over the last couple of years so I think this is the year they make a comeback.
The 2023 ARCA schedule features the exact same racetracks from 2022. Was this a good move by the series and which race are you looking forward to the most?
Winningham: ARCA still features the most diverse schedule in stock car racing. While I’d like to see more types of tracks, especially in the East series where they should’ve added a couple more tracks, it’s still much better than what we’ve had in the national series ranks of NASCAR prior to 2022.
Branscum: This is a tough one. There is so much history in this series. I think this is a good move for the series overall. Heck, they are funded by a midwestern business. That being said, it’s time to start thinking somewhat out of the box. I was in person for the Salem Speedway race last October. I stand by my statement, that race was the most fun I’ve had at a racetrack. That being said, Salem needs to step up in some ways. Infrastructure was lacking in reception and some facilities. I know it’s hard for these tracks at times, especially with the current economic world, but things will have to change to keep up to date. Personally, I’m looking forward to those last two races in Salem and Toledo. If you can, go out to these races. It’s the most fun with short tracking in America.
Kristl: Although ARCA has storied histories at tracks such as Salem and both dirt tracks, none of those three tracks have a media center. While ARCA has a better TV deal with FOX, it begs the question of should series officials explore relocating races to racetracks which will give the series better coverage. Of the races on the schedule, Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park ought to be an exciting event as a combination race with the East series. The fans filled that short track in 2022 and it was electric with a doubleheader with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series playoff race afterward. Now the series adds the East series to it. The East has good momentum with several drivers running full time, so its crop of drivers ought to challenge the main series regulars for victory.
Calloni: While new tracks are always a welcomed addition to any racing series, having the same set of tracks in back-to-back years for ARCA is hardly a negative. Until a few years ago, looking at the schedules of the NASCAR Cup Series, there weren’t many new tracks being added, and the schedule was somewhat consistent every season. This helped to shape the series’ identity, as well as give drivers more experience on each race track both of which are important to the overall product of the series.
What is your 2023 bold take?
Kristl: For the first time since 2018, there will be 10-different winners. Love is the favorite to win the championship, but the rest of this year’s crop of full-time drivers have not won before. Van Alst, Christian Rose, Frankie Muniz, Tony Cosentino and Perez de Lara all could win a race this year. Add in the two JGR drivers and there are eight-different contenders. In addition, the East has four combination races with the main series, so East regulars Lavar Scott and Sean Hingorani could win too. That lists 10 drivers all capable of winning a race. Factor in a surprise winner, be it a NASCAR driver competing in an ARCA race or an underdog winning at a superspeedway, and at least 10 different drivers visiting victory lane becomes very plausible.
Calloni: We will see a win out of Muniz this year. While he is relatively new to stock car racing, he isn’t new to racing in general. Taking that experience and applying it to his first ARCA season will certainly give him a bit of an upper hand over some of his competition this year. That win may come on a superspeedway, or perhaps a road course with his open wheel experience, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the actor turned racecar driver in victory lane sometime this season.
Branscum: Bold take? Calling it now, Muniz and Rette Jones Racing pull off a win. It might take a while, and some luck, but I think he will pull off an upset win for the season. Whether it’s surviving the big one at Daytona or Talladega Superspeedway, or a brawl at one of the dirt tracks, he’ll get a win. Same with Perez De Lara. He and Rev will pull off a win or two along the way.
Winningham: Pérez de Lara will win at least one event.
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you forgot Andy Jankowiak and his new team!