The 2023 ARCA Menards Series season is halfway complete, as 10 of the 20 races have been contested thus far.
Jesse Love has now won half of those races. Love dominated last weekend’s event at Pocono Raceway en route to victory.
Love’s victory extended his points lead to 69, now over Andres Perez de Lara. The Rev Racing rookie took second in the standings following Frankie Muniz’s long day at Pocono. Christian Rose and Jon Garrett round out the top five in points.
With 10 races down and 10 to go, here’s our latest rundown of the best of the best in ARCA.
1. Jesse Love
Love has extended his points lead on the strength of his series-leading five victories, but it is the amount of bonus points Love has racked up that has helped him pull away from his championship competitors.
Love has five wins, which, at three bonus points per win, equates to 15. Love also has led 714 laps, including leading the most in six races. That has earned him 14 more points. Add in his three poles for three more points and Love has gained 32 bonus points in 2023. Of his 69-point lead, almost half (46.3%) of that has come from bonus points. Of the past two series champions, both earned bonus points from winning races and leading many laps.
Point is, bonus points matter.
Interestingly, with the amount of Toyota prospects in the NASCAR national series, Love is not sure where he will be racing in 2024 — this despite his strong showing so far this year. More trips to victory lane certainly should help.
2. Andres Perez de Lara
Finally, after starting the season in 40th in points due to being underage and therefore ineligible to compete at Daytona International Speedway, Perez de Lara has climbed all the way up to second in the standings.
Perez de Lara might’ve had a chance at beating Love at Pocono, too, if not for some bad luck. On a restart with 15 laps to go, he got him from behind, sending him sideways into Connor Mosack and then Dean Thompson.
Rev pitted Perez de Lara under the next caution and he drove through the field up to third place, his career-best result.
Yes, Perez de Lara finished two spots behind Love and lost six points to him in the championship battle. But Perez de Lara’s drive, his team’s never give up attitude and a fast No. 2 moved the rookie into second both in the points and power rankings.
3. Frankie Muniz
Bad luck struck Muniz at The Tricky Triangle. On the race start, Muniz received a hard shove from the driver behind him. As a result, the No. 30’s battery wires came loose, draining the battery of power. Rette Jones Racing changed batteries in the No. 30, but Muniz wound up 21st, 13 laps down.
Muniz’s championship odds are increasingly dwindling, but every lap of experience benefits the actor-turned-driver. Pocono was his career-worst finish, but Pocono is on all NASCAR national series schedules. If Muniz moves up, he will return to the track, and his experience will aid him in future races there.
4. William Sawalich
William Sawalich did not compete at Pocono, as he is underage. His record thus far this season earns him fourth in this ranking, though. He’s fourth in top fives, tied for the lead in pole awards, second – by a landslide – in laps led and 11th overall in the point standings.
Sawalich will be ineligible to compete in only two more main-series races this season: Michigan International Speedway and Kansas Speedway. Three of the drivers ahead of him in the points – Toni Breidinger, Jack Wood and Tony Cosentino – have not run the full ARCA season. As Sawalich competes in more races and racks up more statistics via superb performances, he should gain more spots in the points.
Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 is also in the thick of the owner’s championship battle. Can Sawalich deliver for the team, one year after the No. 18 won the owner title in a memorable ending at Toledo Speedway?
5. Toni Breidinger
Speaking of Breidinger, what a year she has enjoyed. She has scored her first two top-five finishes, including twice notching her career-best finish of fifth.
Compared to 2022 when she ran full time, Breidinger has enormously improved as a driver. She has two top fives and four top 10s in nine starts in 2023 when she only logged six top 10s in the 20-race 2022 season. To boot, she already has more lead-lap finishes in 2023 than 2022, and her running at the finish is higher percentage-wise, too (88.8% compared to 80%).
Breidinger ran solidly inside the top five at Pocono before Perez de Lara passed her for fifth, leaving her with a sixth-place showing.
The main series drivers have one week off before they head to Brooklyn, Mich., for a 100-lap race at the 2-mile Michigan. The Henry Ford Health Systems 200 will take place on Friday, Aug. 4, at 6 p.m. ET, with coverage provided by FOX Sports 1 and 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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