Race Weekend Central

ARCA Preview: 2023 Menards 250 at Elko

The ARCA Menards Series returns for its second consecutive week this Saturday (June 24), as the series heads to the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Minnesota, and Elko Speedway, for the Menards 250. 

Eighteen drivers are entered for the event, which is down two from the 2022 running of the event. It’ll be the ninth time the series heads to southern Minnesota, with former winners including established NASCAR regulars Grant Enfinger and Brennan Poole, as well as up-and-coming NASCAR Xfinity Series stars Chandler Smith and Sammy Smith

Venturini Motorsports driver Jesse Love enters the race as the points leader, holding a 20-point lead over second-place Frankie Muniz. Love has run the previous two races at the 3/8-mile short track, finishing runner-up in both of those races and leading 17 laps in the 2022 running of the race. 

“I feel like our cars are really fast. They’re just a little bit faster than everyone else’s right now, and that’s awesome,” team owner Billy Venturini told Frontstretch at Berlin Raceway. “I’m sure they’ll all be gunning for us and making sure we stay on our toes.” 

Joining Love at the four-car VMS stable are Conner Jones, Toni Breidinger and Sean Hingorani. Like last week’s race, the Elko event is a late addition to Breidinger’s 2023 schedule with the team. She enters the week coming off her best career ARCA finish, a fifth-place finish.

Hingorani is in line to make his third career start in the national division of ARCA and does so coming off his own career-best finish of third. As for Jones, he makes his third start for the team and second in the national division of the series. His first came at Phoenix Raceway where he finished inside the top 10. 

See also
ARCA Power Rankings: Jesse Love Points His Way to a Bigger Lead

Last week’s winner at Berlin, William Sawalich heads to this weekend’s race carrying more than the pressure of a recent win, as the upcoming race serves as his home track. Sawalich was born in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, which is 32 miles north of the track. The 16-year-old grew up racing at Elko but heads to the track this weekend for the first time racing in an ARCA race. 

“It means a lot to me to be able to go back to where I started racing,” Sawalich told ARCA Racing. “That’s kind of where I started my love for racing. I started only going there, and then we started to travel. It’s really special to me, and I think it would be special for anybody to go back to where they started.” 

Only trailing current points leader Love by a narrow margin, Muniz enters the Elko race with one short track start under his belt now, after finishing sixth last week at Berlin. He and his Rette Jones Racing team have rattled off five consecutive top-10 finishes, only finishing outside of that mark once this season, with an 11th place in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. 

“I’m taking it one race at a time,” Muniz said. “The schedule has been so spread out so far and now we’re starting to get into it. I’m excited about that so that mentally my brain always stays in it. Not that it wanders; I have confidence leaving the racetrack, but then three weeks go by and when I get back in the racecar, I’m like ‘I don’t even know which one the gas pedal is. Am I sure I know what I’m doing here?’ So I’m excited to get into a rhythm and be with the guys more and get more confidence.” 

Behind Love and Muniz in the point standings leaving Berlin is 18-year-old Andres Perez de Lara, who sits only 39 points out of the lead, even after missing the season-opening race at Daytona. It’ll be his first trip to Elko, but the short track type is not unfamiliar to Perez de Lara, who ran the full NASCAR FedEx Challenge Cup schedule in 2021 in his native Mexico, which saw eight of its 12 races coming on tracks under a mile in length. Perez de Lara put the Rev Racing No. 2 in the top 10 in every race he’s started this season. 

“I am thrilled to participate in the Menards 250 at Elko Speedway,” Perez de Lara said in a team release. “The competition will be challenging, but I am fully prepared to push myself to the limit and give it my all.” 

See also
Frankie Muniz Belongs in ARCA & Wants to Win the Championship

Looking down the remainder of the entry list, two drivers are scheduled to make their 2023 season debuts in Saturday night’s race. Casey Carden will make his first start since Watkins Glen International last season, driving for Alex Clubb in the No. 03. Additionally, Davey Callihan will make his national series debut driving the No. 01 for Andy Hillenburg. Callihan only has one previous ARCA-sanctioned start, which was an ARCA Menards Series East race in 2021, coming at Southern National Motorsports Park, where he finished ninth. 

The green flag for the Menards 250 at Elko is scheduled to fly at 9 p.m. ET on Saturday, June 24. The race will have television coverage live on FOX Sports 2 and can be heard on select MRN affiliates around the country, as well as MRN.com. 

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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