Race Weekend Central

ARCA Power Rankings: Venturini Powers Jesse Love to Points Lead

Venturini Motorsports is on fire right now. The organization has won back-to-back ARCA Menards Series West races as well as the most recent ARCA Menards Series East event. In the ARCA Menards Series, talented teenager Jesse Love has piloted the No. 20 VMS Toyota to back-to-back victories.

Love didn’t just win in the Dawn 150 at Kansas Speedway last weekend. He dominated, leading 96 of the 100 laps. In fact, his leading all but four laps matched his VMS teammate Corey Heim, who led all but four laps in the second ARCA Kansas event in 2022. Heim also drove the No. 20, so that racecar is fast at Kansas.

The Dawn 150 also shook up the ARCA point standings; nine of the top-10 positions changed.

As such, who stood out at the first 1.5-mile racetrack of the 2023 ARCA season to make the Frontstretch ARCA power rankings?

See also
Jesse Love Scores Dominant ARCA Victory at Kansas

1. Jesse Love

Love has now led a series-high 169 of the 416 laps this season (40.6%). Furthermore, he has led 169 of the 339 laps (49.8%) that he’s been on track this season, as he wrecked at Phoenix Raceway.

Crew chief Shannon Rursch guided Heim to a runner-up finish in 2021, then the No. 20 team to a second-place result in the owners’ standings in 2022. Might 2023 finally be the season he is a championship-winning crew chief?

Though Love won at Talladega Superspeedway, I was a little skeptical for two reasons. First, VMS is always fast at superspeedways. Second, ARCA docked Love eight points for a post-race tech violation. So I was curious to see how Love fared in his first intermediate race.

Love thoroughly squashed my concerns on Saturday (May 6). In addition to winning, he reaffirmed his talent level when he jokingly questioned his place on FOX Sports NASCAR reporter Bob Pockrass’ 2023 preseason prospect rankings.

If Love keeps winning, he will ascend Pockrass’ list.

2. Frankie Muniz

In 2022, Rette Jones Racing scored six top 10s with rookie driver Amber Balcaen. Four races into the 2023 campaign, RJR rookie Frankie Muniz already has half of that (three).

Yes, the team upgraded its equipment over the offseason, but the actor-turned-racer is turning heads with yet another solid performance. Muniz has completed all the laps of the 2023 season and his worst finish was 11th in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway.

At Kansas, Muniz overcame a pit road miscue when a crew member handed him a water bottle, but it inadvertently hit the kill switch, turning off the engine and costing Muniz a lap. He received the lucky dog on the lap 65 caution flag period and rallied to finish eighth.

That wasn’t the most impressive part of Muniz’s day, though. He masterfully avoided a crash, which earned him the Reese’s Sweet Move of the Race award.

3. Greg Van Alst

Daytona winner Greg Van Alst drove his No. 35 to a 10th-place finish after starting 13th. He now is fourth in points, 17 behind Love. Van Alst improved during the race weekend, as he was 15th and 16th in the two practice sessions. In his five trips to Kansas, Van Alst has three top 10s.

The Dawn 150 was an emotional race for Van Alst. It was his first since his father Bruce passed away from cancer on April 28. Van Alst had his father’s name on his racecar on the name rail as well as honored him on the hood. It was a befitting tribute to his father, whose last race in attendance ended with Van Alst’s first career ARCA victory.

See also
Billy Venturini Running ARCA East Race at Flat Rock

4. Andres Perez de Lara

Like VMS, Rev Racing has succeeded at Kansas, with Nick Sanchez winning twice at the 1.5-mile racetrack. Like his VMS counterpart Love, Andres Perez de Lara quickly learned how to drive at an intermediate. Though Love won, Perez de Lara gained five spots from start to finish in the 100-lap race, from 11th to sixth. His outing earned him the K&N Filters Hard Charger award. As a result, his gap to the new points leader Love stayed the same, 22.

5. Jack Wood

Rev had a solid Dawn 150, as in addition to Perez de Lara’s prowess, Jack Wood notched his second career ARCA top five, both coming at Kansas.

Although Wood has two top fives at Kansas, his racing resume prior to 2023 was a letdown. Between his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and ARCA races, most with top-tier team GMS Racing, Wood had three top fives and 14 top 10s. In his 2023 year overall, Wood already has one top five and five top 10s. It has been quite a turnaround for Wood.

In ARCA, Wood has steadily progressed from eighth in points after Daytona to now third. Additionally, his results could have been better if he had not been collected in a wreck at Phoenix, one in which he had a fast No. 6 Chevrolet.

Wood is only slated for a part-time ARCA schedule in 2023. If that is still the case, it is a shame for the series overall as Wood has proven he can contend for the championship. However, his Rev teammate Lavar Scott will drive the No. 6 in the combination races with the East Series.

Still, Rev ought to consider fielding Wood full time in 2023. He’s earned it. Unfortunately, the team did not respond to Frontstretch’s recent inquiry as to whether the team is contemplating adding more ARCA races to Wood’s 2023 schedule. Nevertheless, Wood’s performance in the first four ARCA races earns him the final spot in the Frontstretch power rankings.

The ARCA field gets a brief break before the drivers head to the next racetrack, Charlotte Motor Speedway. That event will take place in conjunction with the NASCAR national series as part of the Memorial Day race weekend. The General Tire 150 will take place on Friday, May 26 at 6 p.m. ET with TV coverage provided by FOX Sports 1.

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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