ARCA racing is in full force. On Saturday (April 22), both the ARCA Menards Series and ARCA Menards Series West held events at Talladega Superspeedway and Kern County Raceway Park, respectively. Both series have completed three races apiece. On Friday (April 28), the ARCA Menards Series East will contest the second event of its season.
Beginning on April 22, at least one of the three series will have a race every weekend through Sept. 14. That’s 22 straight weekends of ARCA racing, ranging from road courses to dirt tracks to intermediates.
While only seven of the 40 total ARCA events have been run thus far in 2023, there have only been two drivers with more than one victories on the ARCA circuit: Sean Hingorani and Tyler Reif, who won the combination race at Phoenix Raceway featuring the main and West series, thereby gaining a win in both series.
Nevertheless, as ARCA racing kicks into high gear, what statistics have stood out thus far?
Venturini Motorsports accomplished a historic first in ARCA history: it won two ARCA events on the same day at two different racetracks on Saturday. The approximate distance between the two: 2,100 miles.
To begin the day, Jesse Love won for the first time in 2023 as he led a race-high 35 laps to win at Talladega. That night, Hingorani fully recovered from a race-opening pass-through penalty which put him one lap down as he wound up winning at Kern County, giving him back-to-back West series wins.
This week, Hingorani is the only driver chasing two ARCA-sanctioned championships as it was confirmed that Reif will not contest for the East title.
Hingorani is part of a massive undertaking by VMS. It is seeking to win both the owners’ and drivers’ championships in all three ARCA series. Currently none of its teams nor drivers lead any of those standings, but as the VMS brigade showed on Saturday, the distance between racetracks is irrelevant. The organization is up to the task.
Despite Hingorani’s two West wins, Landen Lewis is the series points leader. Incredibly, Lewis has three straight runner-up finishes, by a combined 4.994 seconds.
In a collaboration between Bruce Cook and Steve McGowan, Lewis leads the series in top fives, laps led and unsurprisingly, average finish. Hingorani by the way trails Lewis by nine points.
Admittedly, it feels a bit premature to truly analyze the points in any ARCA series. Still, without a playoff format, every race, and therefore position and point, matters.
Lewis undoubtedly should be pleased with his performance. But could the lack of a victory eventually cost Lewis the championship? Consider this: just two years ago in 2021, seven drivers entered the West season finale with a chance to win the championship. In fact, there was a tie atop the points. What’s the tiebreaker? Wins.
It shouldn’t be a question of whether Lewis will win but rather when. However, those three spots, plus the three-point bonus for winning the race, already total 12 points. With more than 10 full-time West participants, if Lewis endures a bad race, he could look back, wondering what he could have done differently.
Due to turning 18 on April 2, Andres Perez de Lara was ineligible to compete in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. To retain his eligibility for the first 50-point bonus, he logged one lap in practice on the apron. He earned three points for participation, immediately trailing leader Greg Van Alst by 44.
Over the course of the next two races, Perez de Lara narrowed his championship gap to only 22 points, cutting his deficit in half.
Perez de Lara scored a fourth-place finish at Phoenix, but the result does not tell the full tale. On a mid-race restart, he was penalized for dropping below the line before crossing the start/finish line. He had to serve a pass-through penalty, falling one lap down.
Under the lap 84 caution, he was the beneficiary of the lucky dog to return to the lead lap. His day was far from done with adventures. On lap 140, Perez de Lara made a rookie mistake and spun his No. 2. So to wind up fourth after all that? Impressive.
But after racing at a short track, 2.66-mile Talladega loomed for the rookie. He was unfazed by it as he led 28 laps en route to his second straight fourth place.
Can Perez de Lara continue his quick learning curve and decrease his championship deficit? The odds are in his favor. His Rev Racing team won the ARCA championship last year and it’s fielded fast Chevrolets in 2023.
The upcoming race at Kansas Speedway will be a good way to gauge Perez de Lara’s progress. Nick Sanchez won there both in 2021 and 2022 and the 1.5-mile racetrack is a good indicator of true ARCA championship contenders. For the last five years, a winner at Kansas – the racetrack is the only one to host ARCA twice in 2023 – has become the series champion in the same season.
So whoever wins at Kansas on May 6 ought to be considered a favorite for the championship. Perez de Lara has company though as 12 drivers have run all three races in 2023.
In 2021, the main series car count was very low, with a low number of 14 entered at Toledo Speedway. Worse, only two drivers – Ty Gibbs and Corey Heim – ran all 20 races. Moreover, the West series only had 10 drivers participate in all nine races.
Two years later, there’s been a 116.667% increase in full-time entrants with 12 in the main and 14 in the West.
That number will drop as both Toni Breidinger and Jack Wood are running part-time main slates. Nonetheless, 10 full timers, plus a bevy of strong part timers such as William Sawalich, Connor Mosack and the East regulars in the combination races have strengthened the ARCA field.
In the West, while 14 drivers have competed in all three events, it is encouraging to denote eight drivers have scored a top five already this season. Even though Hingorani has won back-to-back races, it is a dogfight for every position out west.
This is great news, right?
It is a double-edged sword. Yes, it is a welcome sign that more drivers are participating in ARCA regularly. It makes for better storylines and is quite a relief after the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic affected the season, forcing the realignment of races and teams and drivers to alter their plans.
Though even with better car counts, the race purses, for the most part, still suck. So while series officials are to be commended for making changes to lower the barrier to entry and competitiveness, such as the five-minute competition cautions, work is still necessary to continue to boost ARCA car counts.
Speaking of purses and low car counts, the East race at Flat Rock Speedway will feature both. Entry lists for every ARCA series event can be found on the competitor portion of the ARCA website. Flat Rock Speedway hosts ARCA East in 2023, the first ARCA event at the quarter-mile short track since 2000. As early as Aug. 2022, series officials talked with team owners about adding Flat Rock to the 2023 East schedule.
Yet evidently the returning racetrack isn’t worth an enormous purse as the base purse pays first place $5,000. What’s more, the field size is capped at 28. Granted, the first two East events have 15 drivers competing, but after 30-plus drivers competed in the first three main events, less than 30 drivers can compete at Flat Rock.
It is two-fold troublesome. Admittedly, a 30-car field at a quarter-mile racetrack would be very tight, with the leader essentially close to the tail end of the field from the drop of the green flag. But this race is like a late model feature; no pit stops, no competition cautions, just 150 laps, potentially all under green flag conditions. For the record, 30 drivers started the 1995 ARCA race at Flat Rock.
It’s inexplicable how less than 30 cars are allowed to start at Flat Rock, yet 30 are allowed to start at Dover Motor Speedway, also an East points event. In a full field, last place at Flat Rock would receive 16 points, last place at Dover would receive 14. With every point mattering, inconsistency for field sizes in the same series is problematic.
The purse is troubling, especially when comparatively, the 0.375-mile short track Grundy County Speedway recently announced a 30-lap, $10,000-to-win feature for its top 10 in points.
If ARCA wants its car counts to be steadily sufficient, it ought to pay $10,000 to first place for every event. There is not an easy answer on how to improve that, but NASCAR has a massive TV deal. As a NASCAR-owned series, ARCA could reap money from that TV contract. All main events are on either FOX Sports 1 or FOX Sports 2 in 2023.
The next East event is at Dover Motor Speedway on Friday (April 28) at 5:30 p.m. ET with coverage provided by FloRacing. The main series heads to Kansas for the Dawn 150. That race will take place on Saturday, May 6 at 2 p.m. ET with TV coverage provided by FS1. The West has a larger break in its schedule as its next event will be Friday, June 2 at 8:30 p.m. ET with coverage provided by FloRacing.
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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