Did You Notice? … Frankie Muniz’s racing career is in an interesting juxtaposition.
Muniz has proven he belongs in the ARCA Menards Series. He has six top 10s in eight starts in his rookie ARCA season. In eight races, Muniz has already matched his predecessor Amber Balcaen’s 2022 total of six top 10s.
The 37-year-old actor-turned-racecar-driver has run well driving Rette Jones Racing’s No. 30 Ford. After all, team co-owner Mark Rette took a big gamble on Muniz, opting not to field two full-time entries in 2023. Muniz’s results have earned him the current runner-up spot in the standings.
Muniz only trails Jesse Love, who has won two ARCA Menards Series West championships and drives for powerhouse Venturini Motorsports. Muniz’s success is also remarkable considering he entered 2023 with just four late model starts as his only stock car racing experience. So including his eight ARCA starts, he only has a dozen stock car starts, far less than many younger ARCA drivers.
Yet RJR has failed to attract major sponsorship for Muniz. In the most recent ARCA race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Muniz’s No. 30 featured Muniz Racing. He did not pay any money for his brand to be on the hood.
“At the beginning of the year, we had a bunch of people approaching us,” Muniz told Out of the Groove. “I had people on my team that were turning down deals, turning down money, thinking that more was going to come in. So it put us in a bad position for this year, because instead of being totally set, we’re funded for about 14 of the 20 races.
“There’s still time. We have a lot of irons in the fire, but it’s also July of 2023 and most companies’ bigger budgets are allocated the year before. So people right now are starting to look for money for 2024, not continuing to look for money for 2023. So it’s put us in a difficult situation.
“Obviously we’re going to show up to every race, because I am still competing for the championship. That’s my goal is to win the championship. I want to finish the season 100%. I’ll do everything in my power to do that.”
Muniz also said he was unsure whether he would compete in the upcoming ARCA race at Iowa Speedway. Although the entry list has not been released yet, the ARCA site’s Pit Box article for Iowa stated Muniz will indeed be there, appearing to quell any worries he won’t participate on Saturday night (July 15).
Mind you, fellow ARCA team owner Alex Clubb offered Muniz a ride for Iowa. However, Muniz has not responded to Clubb’s offer, Clubb confirmed to Frontstretch.
But if RJR cannot attract sponsorship for Muniz, why doesn’t the actor-turned-racecar-driver write the check himself? After all, he reportedly has a net worth of $45 million.
The cost for Muniz’s No. 30 is probably at least $50,000 per race.
So if Muniz spent $250,000 for five races, that’d be about 0.5% of his net worth. He can afford it, but he does not want to do so.
“In that same sense, a lot of people come to me and they go, ‘Well, why don’t you have the money? Why don’t you just pay for it?’” Muniz said. “And I started this journey again as something I wanted to do to show my son, to give him the drive to reach for your goals and fight for it and do all that. So I want this to be the most authentic way possible.
“I’m not here to write a check. I’d rather give my son the money. You know what I mean? I’d rather not spend the money and watch on TV. […} So I know that people are very happy with what we’re doing.
“I think the biggest problem is we’ve always showed up until I kind of said it last week on Twitter. And everyone thinks that we’re good, right. We look like we’re good. We got big brands on the car. We’re showing up, we’re competitive, we’re not cutting corners. So I felt like I just had to make people aware. Because even when we’ve approached people, they go, ‘Oh, we just assumed you were set so we didn’t come to you. We would’ve loved to have done something a few months ago, you know.’ But it’s all part of the learning process too.”
As ARCA season-opening victor Greg Van Alst proved, self-funding one’s own ARCA ride is not wise. Van Alst stopped running full time due to lack of outside sponsorship. So too did owner/driver Tony Cosentino, who is still fifth in the point standings.
Muniz is different though. He brings more stardom to ARCA than any other driver in series history. He has over 338,000 Twitter followers, he is well known for accomplishments outside of racing and he attracts fans at every ARCA event. The amount of people who sought to take a selfie or photo, get an autograph or merely came by him during the event at Berlin Raceway was unbelievable.
He also told Frontstretch that five drivers have told him that they’ve acquired sponsorship for ARCA races because of him. Ironically, those drivers can market they are racing against Muniz on either FOX Sports 1 or 2 while RJR is lacking sponsorship.
While I understand not wanting to fund a full season, for his own racing development, he ought to consider it a worthwhile investment. Seven of the last 10 ARCA champions race in NASCAR, so running full time in the series has proven benefits.
Simultaneously, Muniz also has offers to run full time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Craftsman Truck Series and ARCA in 2024, he confirmed to Frontstretch. Ideally, he would remain with Ford. He has not signed a contract yet though.
“I definitely plan on moving up, and the plan is to move up to Xfinity or the Truck Series next year,” Muniz told The Daily Downforce. “As of right now, it’s contingent on how the rest of this season goes. I don’t want to move up too fast. I don’t want to be a 30th-place guy. I want to show up and feel we have a chance.
“It has to do with sponsorship too. You need to be six months ahead. We’re trying to figure everything out. I’m fortunate to have an amazing relationship with Ford, and they want me to be in a Ford next year.”
Does Muniz deserve a promotion though? It’s debatable. He is winless, lacks a top five and has not led any laps. That doesn’t scream promotion. Yet Muniz is already 37 years old, more than double the minimum age to run full time in NASCAR, and he would be more marketable for an Xfinity or Truck ride, especially for a team that has sponsorship.
If Muniz indeed moves up, where are his likely landing spots?
Ford currently backs Stewart-Haas Racing, RSS Racing and AM Racing in the Xfinity Series. Not only has Muniz not shown he’s ready to move up that high yet, but other than SHR, the other two teams are not top-five organizations.
In the Truck Series, there are three Ford-backed teams: AM, ThorSport Racing and Front Row Motorsports.
AM has rotated drivers in its No. 22, but the team isn’t contending for victories and also has its own ARCA driver Christian Rose in house.
A ThorSport representative told Frontstretch, “We’ve had zero conversations about 2024. We’re focused on the playoffs. 2024 is not even on our radar right now.”
FRM is the most interesting possibility for Muniz. Current FRM Truck driver Zane Smith won the 2022 Truck title and is rumored to move up to the NASCAR Cup Series. The truck has some longtime team sponsors such as Love’s Travel Stops, FR8 Auctions and Long John Silver’s. Moreover, the team did not deny it has talked to Muniz.
“I don’t see why the Truck Series ride would not be a part of that [the team’s 2024 plans],” an FRM team representative told Frontstretch. “We’re still working through all our 2024 plans. We’re still in the process of working through everything.
“We’re proud to have the two Cup cars and the Truck team. It’s definitely that time of the year when you’re working toward 2024 and all the plans for that. Nothing’s solidified as of yet.”
FRM would be a tremendous opportunity for Muniz. Still, with his stock car inexperience, even after 2023, it would behoove him to run some more ARCA races to log laps at racetracks, learn more insight and gain the confidence to run up front.
Did You Notice? … Quick hits before taking off. …
- After scoring the third-most points at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Brad Keselowski sits 12th in points, 100 points above the playoff cut line. Keselowski now readies himself to also run full time in the Camping World SRX Series. With his improved 2023 season thus far, Keselowski should be a contender for Thursday night’s (July 13) season opener at Stafford Motor Speedway.
- Van Alst wrecked out of his Xfinity debut at Atlanta Motor Speedway, another disappointment to his year. He’ll have another chance to shine in Xfinity this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, again with Alpha Prime Racing.
- Anheuser-Busch is leaving SHR to sponsor Ross Chastain. It’s a huge gain for Trackhouse Racing and a huge loss for SHR, who now needs sponsorship for new driver Josh Berry. Should Aric Almirola and Smithfield leave following this season as well, then SHR will be stuck with two major holes to fill.
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.
A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.