After back-to-back races with less than 20 drivers, 21 will compete in Friday’s ARCA Menards Series race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The 2.258-mile road course hosts the series’ eighth race of the 2023 season.
The last two events, both at short tracks, resulted in Venturini Motorsports drivers vs. Joe Gibbs Racing driver William Sawalich. The VMS No. 20, driven by Jesse Love, is three points ahead of the JGR No. 18 in the owner’s point standings. How will the teams fare in the first ARCA road course race of the season?
In six career ARCA series road course starts, Love has one win, five top fives and five top 10s. His lone win came in the first ARCA Menards Series West event at Utah Motorsports Campus in 2020, where he led 23 of the 31 laps too.
Love leads both the driver point standings as well as the Frontstretch ARCA power rankings. After finishing fifth in the 2022 ARCA Mid-Ohio event, Love will seek to give VMS its first-ever win at Mid-Ohio.
Love’s teammate Sean Hingorani has back-to-back third-place results in the main series. His third place at Elko Speedway was still eventful as he spun Sawalich, possible retribution for Sawalich’s race-winning move at Flat Rock Speedway. Yet Hingorani has struggled in his three road course events, earning a sixth-place result at Sonoma Raceway earlier in 2023. Still, the No. 25 is sixth in owner’s points so every point and position matters.
Sawalich meanwhile has never competed at Mid-Ohio. In fact, his only ARCA road course experience is the two West series events in 2023, where he logged fourth and fifth-place finishes.
Currently second in the point standings, Frankie Muniz’s Elko race came to a hard end when he wrecked, his first DNF of the season. Mid-Ohio is a unique racetrack for him though; he already has experience there.
“I’m very excited for it,” Muniz told Frontstretch at Berlin Raceway. “I was in the simulator yesterday at Ford Performance… we did an hour of Mid-Ohio and I was so excited. I struggled. And I only struggled because the cars that I’m used to driving on a road course, you sail into the corner because it has so much downforce through the tunnels and all that. This car is so heavy and it was hard to get my brain to make sure I didn’t overcharge the entries. So I’m hoping I’ll spend a lot more time in the sim before Mid-Ohio.
“When you’re actually in the car, it makes more sense to me because I was frustrated yesterday preparing for Mid-Ohio. I thought I was going to be fast here and then I was like, ‘Put me back on an oval. Get me out of here.’”
Muniz scored two lead-lap finishes at Mid-Ohio, albeit both outside the top 15, in the 2006 Formula BMW Americas competition. Unfortunately, three years later in 2009, in a Champ Car Atlantic Championship event at Mid-Ohio, Muniz wrecked and sustained a broken back and a damaged left thumb. Therefore, while Muniz is familiar with this racetrack, he also left injured his last time there.
Last year at Mid-Ohio, Rev Racing teammates Rajah Caruth and Nick Sanchez endured a tough race. They both were penalized for improper pitting, and they soldiered onto ninth and 11th-place showings, respectively. Rev now has Andres Perez de Lara and Jack Wood piloting its two Chevrolets and both aim for mistake-free contending performances.
“I am excited about this weekend at Mid-Ohio. I am ready to showcase my skills on road courses and continue to aim for victory lane,” Perez de Lara said in a team release. “This weekend is busy for me, but I have been preparing with the simulator, staying healthy, and learning from the guys at Rev Racing. I am grateful for this opportunity, and I am determined to bring home the win that Rev deserves.”
While this is Perez de Lara’s first ARCA road course race, Wood has experience at Mid-Ohio. Although both of his starts there ended with DNFs, Wood has two top fives and three top 10s in four ARCA series road course starts. Running double duty at Mid-Ohio in the ARCA and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race, Wood will be well equipped to excel.
“Road course racing is something I enjoy doing quite a bit and we had a solid run in Sonoma, so I think we’ll show good results in Mid-Ohio as well,” he added. “It’s going to be a double header weekend for me, so I’ll have plenty of track time. I think we have a good shot at it.”
Wood and Sawalich are two of the six drivers who will do double duty. Truck Series regular Tyler Ankrum will make his second career ARCA start.
Ankrum’s goals for the race weekend are to contend for the ARCA victory and gain valuable experience at the 13-turn road course.
“This weekend is going to be really busy but also really fun,” he said in a team release. “This is the first time I’ve pulled double duty in a couple years. I think getting into the ARCA car is definitely going to help with more track time and helping me pick up my braking points. On the ARCA side of things, we look to run up front and contend for the win. […] The extra track time will be super beneficial when it comes to just getting in the rhythm of road course racing.”
Will Ankrum steal the victory? Will the VMS vs. JGR feud continue? All those questions, and more, will be answered on Friday.
The ARCA field will take the green flag for the 42-lap race at 6 p.m. ET with TV coverage provided by FOX Sports 1 and live streaming available on 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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