With a 39-car starting field, the ARCA Menards Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway delivered a competitive, albeit messy, 80-lap race.
The 2023 event featured eight cautions, the most at the 2.5-mile superspeedway since 1994. The many yellow flags resulted in 10 different lead changes, most at Daytona since 2018.
Of the full-time competitors, only Van Alst and possibly Mandy Chick – more on her later – were the only two to finish inside the top five. Although the full-time drivers will ascend the points once more races are completed, who stood out at Daytona to make the first 2023 Frontstretch ARCA power rankings?
1. Greg Van Alst
Van Alst became the first owner/driver to win in ARCA since Bret Holmes won the eighth contest of the 2020 season. He also became the first driver to win at Daytona for his own, or at least family-owned, team since John Wes Townley accomplished that feat in 2016.
Van Alst certainly enjoyed a joyous celebration once he climbed victoriously out of his car, exclaiming, “Holy cow, guys like me aren’t supposed to do that!”
His post-race celebration did not stop there.
In his sophomore season as a full-time driver, Van Alst left Daytona happily with the trophy, eternal memories and the series points lead.
2. Connor Mosack
Connor Mosack won the pole for the 2023 season opener and led a race-high 25 laps. Following the restart after the competition caution, Mosack spun through the grass, but his No. 18 didn’t suffer much damage.
As a result, Mosack had to drive back through the field, which was slowed by three more subsequent yellow flags, lessening the amount of green flag racing.
When the white flag flew, Mosack was running in the top five. He drove his No. 18 behind Van Alst, giving him the aero push needed to make the race-winning pass. Mosack ultimately wound up runner-up, earning his career-best ARCA finish.
“Obviously had that spin,” Mosack told Judson’s Racing Network reporter Judson O’Neill post-race. “Bounced through the grass pretty hard and I thought we were in pretty bad shape, thought we were going to be torn up. But it turned out OK. I had a little damage … listened to my spotter Tony and slowly worked our way to the front and just kind of did what he told me to do. Wish we had half a lap there back just to see if we could get another shot at the win there. If we couldn’t win, second’s a good points day and that’s what they wanted with the owners points. So overall I think it was a good day and I think we’ll have a good car for the next one.
“I knew once we got behind the No. 35 [Van Alst] and we were third in line, I knew he was going to make a move on the No. 44 [White], and I was going to have to go with him. I would’ve liked to have timed it better where I had a bigger run coming so when he made his move, I still had the momentum to maybe get to his outside and pull him back … I don’t know if there was anything I could’ve done anyways.”
3. Jason White
Driving for team owner Jeff McClure, White led 14 laps, including laps 78-79. However, once Van Alst passed him for the lead, White slipped back to ninth place. As Van Alst celebrated on the frontstretch, White parked his No. 44 on pit road, wondering what could have been.
“Coming off of [turn] four at Daytona in the lead, coming to the checkered, yeah, it’s definitely a heartbreak,” White told sports reporter Colby Evans. “Heartbreak of my life as far as sports, that’s for sure … I thought I was holding back going down the back straightaway enough. I gave too much of a gap and they got a run on me and they freight-trained me on the outside.”
White has only made five series starts, all at Daytona. That was his second career top 10. He might be back at Talladega Superspeedway, but he came oh so close to stealing a victory at Daytona. The craziest part of White’s story? McClure’s entry is not even full time as he fielded the No. 44 in half of the 2022 season. Daytona truly can be the great equalizer for all teams.
4. Lavar Scott
In his first start in ARCA competition, Lavar Scott impressed me. After starting 11th, the 18-year-old methodically drove his No. 2 into the top 10, then the top five, then to the lead. Scott led 14 laps, tied for the second-most in the race. Ultimately, Scott finished fourth, the best-ever ARCA Daytona finish for Rev Racing.
Scott now hands over the reins of the No. 2 to Andres Perez de Lara for the rest of the main series season. Scott will drive the No. 6 full time for Rev in the ARCA Menards Series East. With four combination races with the main series, Scott will battle the main field again in 2023. As for his East championship hopes, Scott’s Daytona performance displayed his talent and that he’ll be a force to be reckoned with in all East races.
“It’s huge,” Scott told CBS Sports NASCAR writer Steven Taranto about his Daytona race giving him momentum for his upcoming East campaign. “I mean, it sets the standard, good precedent to how the rest of the year will go. Confidence is high, the cars are good, so they should know what’s coming for the rest of the year.”
5. Mandy Chick
Chick kept her No. 74 clean throughout the race, not an easy task for any driver, let alone a driver making her third career start.
Chick started in 25th and gained a remarkable 20 positions to finish fifth. It was both her first top five and top 10.
Although Chick intended to run full time in 2023, her plans have changed.
“Right now we’re locked down for Talladega so that might be our next one,” she told Frontstretch post-race. “And then we’re looking at 10-12 additional races so a total of 12-14 races for this season.”
Chick certainly proved she belongs in ARCA. In each of her three races, she has progressively improved her finishing position, indicative that she is a quick learner. But if three races are not validation, then praise from ARCA broadcaster Jamie Little ought to suffice.
After an exciting season opener, the main series heads to Phoenix Raceway for a combination race with the ARCA Menards Series West. The General Tire 150 will take place on Friday, March 10 at 8 p.m. ET with TV coverage provided by FOX Sports 2.
About the author
Mark Kristl joined Frontstretch at the beginning of the 2019 NASCAR season. He is the site's ARCA Menards Series editor. Kristl is also an Eagle Scout and a proud University of Dayton alum.
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