MARNE, Mich. – Jesse Love dominated the ARCA Menards Series race at Berlin Raceway… until he didn’t. Love lapped all but the top three drivers on Saturday (June 17) night, and he still did not win the Berlin ARCA 200.
Nope. With two laps to go, William Sawalich used a bump and run to pass Love and unbelievably claim his first career main ARCA series victory and in his second career start to boot.
Still, Love’s performance increased his points lead over Frankie Muniz to 20. Andres Perez de Lara, Christian Rose and Tony Cosentino round out the top five in points, though all three trail by at least a full race worth of points.
After the first race of the 10-race summer stretch, where do the top drivers fare in the ARCA power rankings?
1. Jesse Love
Love was understandably upset both that he did not win and with Sawalich’s move.
From my vantage point in the infield by the start/finish line, I did not see Sawalich’s move on Love in real time. Later Saturday night, I watched the move on social media. Frankly, I do not think it is dirty racing. It was a short track classic bump-and-run move. Sawalich also deployed the same maneuver on Venturini Motorsports driver Sean Hingorani in the ARCA Menards Series East race at Flat Rock Speedway.
When Love drove his No. 20 into the pits for post-race tech inspection, flames came out of his racecar. Per a team member, Love unnecessarily used his tires during the last green flag stint of the race, so the fire came from excessive rubber buildup compounded with hot rotors from him using the brakes more in the end.
Still, Love nearly maximized his points at Berlin, coming up four short of the maximum amount. His third straight top-five result at Berlin increased his points lead going into Elko Speedway, a racetrack where he has back-to-back runner-up finishes.
2. Andres Perez de Lara
Rev Racing teammates Rajah Caruth and Nick Sanchez struggled at Berlin in 2022, though they finished fifth and sixth. In the Berlin 2023 event, Perez de Lara started sixth but took over fourth place right before the first competition caution.
He received the lucky dog at that caution to return to the lead lap. While he managed to stay on the lead lap during the next green flag run, he ultimately finished fourth, one lap down.
“It was definitely a tough race for us,” Perez de Lara told Frontstretch post-race. “We finished fourth, but I think we still need to work on finding more speed here. The track is really tricky, and I think we just need to get better for Elko.
“This is my first short track [race] of the year and first short track [race] with Rev, and it just took a while for me to understand how it’s going to work and to work on the car as well. So, [Elko] is obviously different from Berlin, but we’re going with the same mindset and with the things we learned today. Hopefully, it’s going to help for the next one, and we’ll have a better result there.”
3. Frankie Muniz
Muniz finished sixth and two laps down at Berlin and stayed second in points yet fell one spot in the power rankings. Why?
Perez de Lara has three top fives and the same number of top 10s as Muniz. Yes, Muniz is ahead of Perez de Lara in points. However, Perez de Lara was underage and therefore ineligible to compete in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. Muniz finished 11th. If the Daytona results are subtracted, Perez de Lara has outgained Muniz by 11 points.
Although Muniz scored his fifth top 10 of the season, his finish marked the first time he did not finish on the lead lap all season.
Muniz has back-to-back sixth-place results, but his sixth place at Berlin did not excite him like his sixth place at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
To get back to runner-up status in these power rankings, Muniz must earn his first career top five. He is constantly learning, so the fact that he was not thrilled with his Berlin race proves a top five is well within reach for him.
4. Christian Rose
Driving with a new snazzy paint scheme on his No. 32 Ford, Rose tied his career-best finish with his seventh-place finish at Berlin. For a good number of laps, he raced Muniz and Cosentino for sixth through eighth place. The trio ran close, though clean, with Rose ultimately sandwiched in the middle in seventh, two laps down.
Rose climbed to a career-high fourth in points, albeit 48 points behind Love. While the championship is far from being decided, Love has led the most laps with 433 whereas Rose has only led 6. Rose has not changed his mindset for his rookie season.
“Our goal is to do what we set out to do, and that’s run our race and do what we’re supposed to do and finish races,” Rose told Frontstretch at Berlin. “You can look, and Jesse’s obviously on a run right now, but stuff happens in racing. If they get in a spot where they have four or five bad races in a row, it could happen. There is a chance that does happen. You never give up hope, and keep battling. So, you put yourself in a position if you run well and do what you’re supposed to do. Then if the cards fall your way, you have a shot at it.”
5. Tony Cosentino
With a new No. 45 Ford, Cosentino was eager to wheel it on Saturday night. Unfortunately, his Tamayo Cosentino Racing team encountered issues en route to the racetrack. The team finally brought the racecar to the track shortly before practice began, and Cosentino both practiced and qualified firmly inside the top 10.
When the checkered flag flew, Cosentino finished eighth, an impressive feat given all the circumstances.
I knew Cosentino earned his first top 10 of the season. What I learned afterward was not only did he earn his first top 10 of the season and third of his career, but it was also his career-best finish.
If Cosentino and his team can successfully make it to Elko without any hiccups, he very well could best that performance.
After racing at Berlin, these five competitors and the rest of the field will compete at Elko in the season’s longest race in terms of lap count, 250. The Menards 250 will take place on Saturday, June 24 at 9 p.m. ET with TV coverage provided by FOX Sports 2, streaming coverage provided by FloRacing and audio available on ARCARacing.com.
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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