Race Weekend Central

Parity Among Front Runners Defines Start of 2023 ARCA Season

Through the first five ARCA Menards Series sanctioned races this season, one of the most notable difference from years past has been the added parity among the front runners.

Beginning with the main division of the series, through the first two races of the season, 19 different drivers have recorded top 10s and 11 different drivers have led laps. While Daytona International Speedway is typically a different beast and Phoenix Raceway was a bit of a wreckfest in its own right, there is something to be said for the amount of different faces at the front of the field.

At this point in the 2022 season, 16 different drivers had recorded top 10s and only six had led laps, which was largely influenced by Corey Heim leading 74 of the 80 laps at the season opening Daytona race that year. Much of the same can be said about the 2021 season, as only 15 drivers had recorded a top 10 through the first two races and 11 drivers led laps, though only five of those had led over 10 laps. 

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Further, at this point in the season, it appears as if no clear favorite has emerged for the title. While it is usually unfair to analyze the point standings after only two races, it’s the first time since 2017 that a Venturini Motorsports car was not in the top three in the owners points standings after two races.

Currently, that top three is taken by Daytona winner Greg Van Alst, rookie Frankie Muniz and Tony Cosentino. It’s also the first start since the 2017 season that a Venturini car hasn’t reached victory lane within the first two races. That year, Chad Finley, driving for his family’s team, and Austin Theriault, driving for Ken Schrader, took victory lane in the first two races of the season.

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Looking at the regional series, parity has also been part of the story. However, it’s difficult to gauge just how relevant it’s been, as the ARCA Menards Series East has only run one race and the ARCA Menards Series West has only had one standalone event. 

While it’s hard to predict how many different drivers will be in victory lane in those series, it’s easier to gauge the potential for new winners, specifically in the East division. Among the 15 drivers who started the season opening race at Five Flags Speedway, only three had started over 10 ARCA sanctioned races, and, prior to the green flag that evening, only one of them had reached victory lane.

That driver was 15-year-old Tyler Reif, who had won the ARCA West season opener at Phoenix a few weeks prior. William Sawalich took the checkered flag in that race, the first of his career, and the odds seem to be in favor of multiple other first-time winners joining him throughout the eight-race schedule. 

Much of the same is occurring in the West division. As previously mentioned, the younger Reif brother won his first career race at Phoenix, but in the series’ second race of the year at Irwindale Speedway, another first-time winner reached victory lane.

That driver was Sean Hingorani, who led much of the second half of the event in his Venturini entry. Other drivers who are searching for their first wins, notably Bradley Erickson and Jake Bollman have both ran well through the first two races of the season but haven’t reached victory lane yet. Though that becomes possible as well over the West division’s next 10 races. 

While the ARCA seasons are still relatively young, it’s refreshing to see a new batch of winners and competitive cars. After a few seasons of domination by drivers such as Heim, Sammy Smith and Ty Gibbs, the start of the 2023 season is proof that the series can be competitive, which not only keeps the series entertaining for fans, but ensures that it is indeed alive and well for the drivers and teams competing in it. 

About the author

Josh joined Frontstretch in 2023 and currently covers the ARCA Menards Series. Born and raised in Missouri, Josh has been watching motorsports since 2005. He currently is studying for a Mass Communication degree at Lindenwood University

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