The 2023 ARCA Menards Series season is now three races old, and each race has seen a different driver take the checkered flag.
The most recent race at Talladega Superspeedway was won by Jesse Love, who gave Venturini Motorsports its first victory of the 2023 season on Saturday (April 22). Of the full-time drivers in the field, Love was the only one to finish inside the top five, and one of two who finished inside the top ten, alongside Frankie Muniz. The race itself was much cleaner than the season opener at Daytona International Speedway, with only four cautions flying during the 76-lap event at the 2.66-mile superspeedway in Alabama.
After all three races had at least 30 drivers, the ARCA standings are still very jumbled up, with the full-time drivers mixed throughout. So, who stood out at Talladega to make this week’s edition of the 2023 Frontstretch ARCA power rankings?
1. Jesse Love
Though the 18-year-old Love had a slow start to the season, after his win at Talladega, he sits second in the points standings, only three points back of the leader Muniz.
The Talladega win was a dominating one for Love, starting second, but after polesitter Taylor Gray dropped to the rear of the field ahead of the green flag, he was given control of the start, and the VMS driver never looked back. Love led the first 27 laps of the event, then fell back on a pit cycle, but remained in the top five for nearly the entirety of the event. Love regained the lead on the final restart, with help from Gus Dean, led the final eight laps, and took the checkered flag. All told Love led roughly half of the 76-lap race, leading 35 laps total.
Love will head to Kansas Speedway looking to take over the points lead for the first time all season. It’ll be his first ARCA race at Kansas, or on any 1.5-mile race track for that matter, as he turned the minimum age of 18 over the offseason.
2. Frankie Muniz
Of all drivers in ARCA, Muniz has perhaps had the most impressive start to the season. The actor-turned-racecar driver hasn’t had many growing pains in his first three races in the series, finishing inside the top 10 twice, with a sixth-place finish at Phoenix Raceway and a ninth-place finish at Talladega. He was only one spot away at Daytona from starting his ARCA career with three straight top 10s, finishing 11th at the season opener.
While the superspeedway races often equalize the field, and Phoenix was a bit of a wild card race with a fair amount of incidents in the front of the field, Muniz has consistently run in the front half of the field all season long. He kept his Rette Jones Racing No. 30 in the lead draft for nearly the entirety of both Talladega and Daytona and rebounded from an early spin at Phoenix, climbing up the leaderboard until the checkered flag waved.
He leaves Talladega and heads to Kansas as the series points leader but is challenged with a new task, his first time running on a 1.5-mile oval. However, his Rette Jones team scored a top 10 in all three races on that style of track in 2022 with driver Amber Balcaen.
3. Greg Van Alst
Coming into Talladega, Greg Van Alst was the points leader, after his first career win at Daytona, and another top-10 finish at Phoenix.
However, the weekend at Talladega didn’t go as planned for the 41-year-old. He wrecked out early in the event after contact with Scott Melton on the backstretch.
The wreck, and subsequent 32nd-place finish, dropped Van Alst to third place in the standings, 13 points behind Muniz, and 10 behind second-place Love.
The weekend wasn’t all doom and gloom for the owner/driver, however. It was announced on the FOX Sports 1 broadcast that Van Alst will be making his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut for Alpha Prime Racing in Atlanta in July.
4. Andres Perez De Lara
After missing Daytona due to an age restriction, Andres Perez de Lara has shot up the points standings, currently sitting sixth in his Rev Racing No. 2 Chevrolet.
Although the standings list Perez de Lara as having three starts, he’s only started two of the three races of the season. He entered and withdrew at Daytona to earn points for an attempt, not being able to race due to not yet being 18. That perhaps makes his sixth-place standing in the overall points even more impressive.
Since Daytona, Perez de Lara has followed up with consecutive fourth-place finishes, most impressively doing so at Talladega, his first time on a drafting-style racetrack. He sits only nine points out of the top three and only seven behind fifth-place Tony Cosentino.
Like many of those listed above him, Perez de Lara heads to Kansas prepared to tackle a 1.5-mile race track for the first time. Prior to the most recent race at Talladega, the largest track the 18-year-old had been on in ARCA was Phoenix, a track in which he has now raced twice.
5. Tony Cosentino
For the second straight race, Cosentino rounds out the top five in the power rankings, after finishing a season-high 11th at Talladega. Cosentino currently sits fifth in the ARCA standings after the first three races of the season, tied with Jack Wood, and only 15 points behind Muniz.
After starting off the season at Daytona with an early race spin, Cosentino has kept his No. 45 Tamayo Cosentino Racing entry out of trouble ever since. He finished 15th at both Daytona, rebounding nicely from the spin, and Phoenix.
In a current stock car racing world that is dependent on race wins, Cosentino’s early season success is a testament that consistency can still take a driver somewhere in the racing world. He now heads to Kansas to look for more, a track that he’s only run one previous ARCA race before, back in 2021 with Fast Track Racing, finishing 22nd, and only running 12 of the 100 laps that night.
After two superspeedways and a short track race, the series heads to their first mile-and-a-half track of the season, Kansas. The Dutch Boy 150 is set to take place on Saturday, May 6 at 2 p.m. ET. FOX Sports 1 will provide TV coverage of the race.
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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