The ARCA Menards Series kicked off this weekend’s full slate of racing from Michigan International Speedway with the Henry Ford Health 200, which saw Jesse Love claim his sixth victory of the season.
Gus Dean came home runner-up after an eventful day while Connor Mosack finished third. Andy Jankowiak scored a career-best finish of fourth place, and Frankie Muniz overcame early adversity to score his first-career top five with a fifth-place effort.
The race began with young Mexican-born driver Andres Perez de Lara leading the field to green after scoring his first-career pole. At the start, however, it was Dean who exploited the inexperience of Perez de Lara to take the point.
Dean maintained his advantage over the field for the first 15 laps until Love tracked down and overtook Dean on lap 16. Dean and Love swapped the lead between themselves multiple times until Love took firm control of the lead on lap 19. Love didn’t relinquish the lead before the race’s first caution flew on lap 27.
The first incident of the race saw Muniz share contact with Jake Finch. The contact cut down the right front tire on Muniz’s No. 30 Ford, sending him into the wall in turn 3. Although the damage created a major setback, Muniz’s day was far from over.
With the early caution, most frontrunning teams capitalized on the opportunity to pit prior to the first scheduled caution as the two-stop window opened with the lap 27 caution.
By this point in the race, Mosack had overcome having to start from the rear, as he had worked his way all the way up to second place, establishing himself as a contender along with Love and Perez de Lara.
The scheduled caution flew at lap 35, and Perez de Lara seized the opportunity on the ensuing restart to get around Love for the lead. As Perez de Lara and Love battled for the lead, underdog Jankowiak turned heads as he entered the top five for the first time on the day.
A lap 59 spin from Scott Melton allowed the leaders the opportunity to make their final pitstop. A miscommunication between then-leader Perez de Lara and his team proved to be one of the biggest turning points in the race, as Perez de Lara’s Rev Racing team backed itself into a disadvantaged position when it missed the call to come to pit road as Perez de Lara still had to stop later and inevitably fell to the tail end of the lead lap when he did so.
The race resumed with 38 laps remaining and Perez de Lara in the lead in spite of the predicament he and his team found themselves in. Perez de Lara kept himself in the game by maintaining the lead until he received the chance to make his final pit stop under the scheduled break with 30 laps to go. Although he lost the ever-important track position as he was forced to restart eighth, Perez de Lara carried a slight advantage in having fresher tires than those he raced.
Love and Mosack battled fiercely for the top spot on the following restart, allowing Love’s Venturini Motorsports teammate Dean to make a dazzling three-wide move to take the top spot. Mosack cleared Love to take second before tracking down Dean into turn 1.
Mosack got loose under Dean, and the two came together in between turns 1 and 2. Miraculously, both drivers kept their cars pointed in the right direction and avoided a caution.
From all the mayhem, Perez de Lara emerged as the leader and appeared to be on his way to victory. The young Mexican had overcome his misfortune pit strategy to claim the lead, but Mosack had recovered from his run-in with Dean and began to track him back down.
As Perez de Lara’s engine began to sour, Mosack regained the lead before a caution for the No. 2’s expired powerplant caused the caution to fly with only eight laps to go.
With track cleanup necessary, the race was decided by a one-lap shootout, as the field took the green and the white together.
Contact from behind hindered Mosack’s restart and allowed Love to slip past into the lead. Several cars got together towards the back of the field and foiled the first attempt before the race could finish under green.
A second attempt at a one-lap shootout saw Love ace the restart and speed off into the Michigan sunset to score his sixth victory of the season.
It was a familiar face gracing victory lane as the ARCA Henry Ford Health 200 drew to a close. Love scored yet another victory and further increased his ARCA championship points lead.
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