Race Weekend Central

Grading ARCA Drivers’ 2023 First Half

If the ARCA Menards Series championship chase were a race, the field would have just taken the cross flags signifying halfway after last week’s event at Pocono Raceway.

After the halfway point in the national series season, Frontstretch now assesses the season so far of several ARCA drivers.

Note: Drivers featured in this article will be the top-five drivers in the ARCA national series points standings and five other drivers at-large.

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ARCA Power Rankings: Dominant Jesse Love Reigns Again

Jesse Love: A+

Anyone who has paid any attention to ARCA in 2023 should have no doubt what grade Jesse Love’s season so far should receive. The current points leader has won a series-leading five races this year and shows no signs of slowing down.

Love has finished in the top 10 in all but one of his starts this year, and he has led 714 laps which is nearly triple the next closest total (William Sawalich with 268 laps led). The 2023 season for Love has been an impressive one so far, and he carries tons of momentum into the second half.

Andres Perez de Lara: A

Andres Perez de Lara entered this ARCA season as one of the field’s least experienced drivers.

Over the course of the season, de Lara and his Rev Racing team have shown steady improvement and have even challenged for a couple of wins. Leading laps at both Talladega Superspeedway and Pocono, de Lara has knocked on the door of scoring his first career victory multiple times already this year. His team, which won the drivers championship in 2022 with Nick Sanchez, also appears to only be getting stronger as the season goes on as evidenced by his advance up to second in points right now.

The Mexican driver has scored eight top 10s, only one less than Love this season. de Lara and his Rev team will look to continue their ascent in the second half and try to take the next step in breaking into victory lane.

Frankie Muniz: B+

Much was made about famed child actor Frankie Muniz competing in ARCA this year, and many (perhaps justifiably so) doubted how well he would perform given his lack of experience.

So far this season, Muniz has proven that he is a legitimate driving talent and he does belong in ARCA. Although he has yet to score a top five, Muniz has finished a career-high sixth place in four races this season. Following a rock-solid first half, Muniz will look to continue his consistency in the second half and hopefully show enough pace to nab his first top-five finish.

Christian Rose: B

Competing for AM Racing’s newly-created ARCA team this season, Christian Rose has done nearly everything the upstart team could ask of him. Rose has been smart enough to keep the car out of trouble most of the time and has completed more laps than anyone else in ARCA at 1,204. With six top 10s on the season, Rose has been consistent enough to garner a solid grade in our assessment.

Jon Garrett: B-

Competing for Veer Motorsports through a deal with Fast Track Racing, series newcomer Jon Garrett has run every race this year and been as competitive as can be expected for a team the size of his. Garrett has twice scored top 10s this year with two 10th-place runs at Berlin Raceway and Iowa Speedway. Although Garrett hasn’t shown much speed this year, he must be commended for helping his small team punch above its weight class and compete with the giants of ARCA.

Greg Van Alst: A

It has often been said that a win at Daytona International Speedway can define your career and change your life.

Although cliche, these adages certainly apply to Greg Van Alst.

In scoring an emotional Daytona victory in February, Van Alst proved to all hard-working short track drivers across the country that success at the national level is possible through hard work. Besides his stirring Daytona win, Van Alst scored two more top-10 finishes before having to roll back to a part-time schedule based on monetary limitations. Despite the move to becoming a part-time competitor, Van Alst’s season has still been a resounding success with his ever-important Daytona triumph.

Toni Breidinger: B+

Competing in nine of 10 events so far this season, Toni Breidinger has scored two top-five finishes and four top-10 finishes. Of all drivers returning from previous years, Breidinger may be the most improved, as she has shown an overall incline in both speed and consistency. Although she has not met the Venturini Motorsports standard of regularly competing for wins this season, Breidinger’s improvement should be celebrated, and she hopes to continue getting better in the second half.

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William Sawalich: A+

In only five starts this season, Sawalich has made a lasting impression in ARCA as he has scored four top fives in that span that includes a win at Berlin.

The young Minnesota driver has proven to be the only ARCA contender with anywhere near the level of speed of Love this season. In addition to making waves with his results this season, Sawalich has also made waves for some of his on-track actions, as his win at Berlin came via a somewhat controversial bump-and-run move. If Sawalich can avoid any unwanted on-track run-ins, he is poised to continue to impress in the second half.

Conner Jones: B+

Running on a part-time basis for Venturini, Conner Jones has been a model of consistency in his limited starts so far this season. Jones has scored a top 10 in every one of his five starts, as well as a pair of top fives in a fourth-place effort at Elko Speedway and a fifth-place effort at Pocono. While consistency is great, Venturini’s success over the last few years dictates that any driver in its equipment should probably contend for wins on a somewhat regular basis. Much like Venturini teammate Breidinger, Jones must find more pace to improve upon his solid first half. 

Connor Mosack: A

Driving the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 car that has dominated ARCA for the last few years, Connor Mosack certainly entered this season with sky-high expectations. In only four starts this year, Mosack has converted all into top-10 results while scoring three top fives along the way (highlighted by runner-up efforts at Daytona and Pocono).

While it may be unfair to stack his results up against the results his team has brought in recently, it is nonetheless impossible to avoid expecting a little more from Mosack given the equipment he is in. Although all four starts he has made have been of good quality, it is expected that he should find victory lane sometime during the second half. 

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