Race Weekend Central

ARCA Preview: 2023 Watkins Glen, Springfield

Eight hundred and thirteen miles separate the two racetracks that the ARCA Menards Series will visit this weekend.

On Friday (Aug. 18), the drivers will make left and right-hand turns at the 2.45-mile road course Watkins Glen International. Two days later, drivers will get down and dirty at the 1-mile Illinois State Fairgrounds.

The Glen is the final road course of the ARCA season whereas The Springfield Mile is the first of the two dirt track events.

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Jesse Love has won three straight races to give him seven total for the season. The Venturini Motorsports driver very well could make it five-straight victories. If Love is successful, he would join Harold Smith, Jack Bowsher, Bruce Gould and Tim Steele for the all-time winningest streak.

Of the two races, Love is less likely to win at WGI than The Springfield Mile. In his seven ARCA series road course starts, Love has one win, six top fives and six top 10s.

His lone victory came in the first ARCA Menards Series West event at Utah Motorsports Campus in 2020. At WGI in 2022, Love finished third after starting fifth.

Love has newcomer Brent Crews as his teammate for both events. Crews will make his series debut at The Glen, then follow it up at The Springfield Mile. Monon Rahman, a rising talent within VMS who will crew chief Crews, speaks highly of the youngster’s debut.

“We’ve all had Brent’s debut with VMS circled on our calendar,” Rahman said in a press release. “He’s already been a huge help with our road course program this year on the sim side, and I can’t wait to see how it translates with him at the track.”

Crews will drive the No. 15, an entry that has been in ARCA victory lane four times, but none in the national division.

Love won the pole and led every lap en route to victory at The Springfield Mile in 2022. While he’s the favorite, VMS added Taylor Reimer to its Springfield driver lineup.

She boasts a bevy of dirt racing experience and she seeks to become the third driver to win their national series debut in 2023.

Fans will be able to easily spot her No. 25 as Reimer will debut a new paint scheme on the VMS No. 25.

Brandon Jones won the 2022 ARCA WGI for Joe Gibbs Racing and now William Sawalich’s goal is to make it back-to-back wins there for the organization. On the flip side, JGR has never won at Springfield before. Sawalich is a good bet to win both; he certainly has top-notch equipment.

“I’m looking forward to this weekend as we race on two completely different tracks,” Sawalich said in a press release. “Learning road courses can be a challenge, but I’m excited to get on the track at Watkins Glen and start learning. On Sunday, we head to Illinois for a dirt race. I’ve done some micro sprint racing on dirt so I have a little bit of experience, but the practice session will be a great chance to feel out my Toyota Camry.”

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The biggest name on The Glen entry list is Corey LaJoie.

The NASCAR Cup Series driver has three ARCA wins. He could use the added experience in advance of his Cup race at the road course. In his four Cup starts there, he has a disappointing average finish of 29.5. LaJoie will pilot the No. 63 for Paris Wixon.

Wixon will field the No. 63 for the first time in team history, and the team has never won an ARCA race before. LaJoie wants to change that.

Raise hell, praise Dale… Quarterley, who will compete in both races this weekend. Quarterley has ample experience at road courses. In his 13 ARCA series starts at The Glen, he has three top fives, seven top 10s, two poles and has led 93 laps. He finished third there twice. Add in his two East wins at Lime Rock Park and Quarterley should have a fast No. 4 on Friday evening. Two days later, he’s driving a race-winning No. 4. That racecar was driven by Ryan Unzicker to two ARCA dirt wins, including at Springfield in 2020.

If you’re looking for a road course ringer and dirt track specialist to sweep the race weekend, look no further than Connor Zilisch and Kelly Kovski.

Zilisch is making his series debut in the No. 28 Pinnacle Racing Group Chevrolet. The team already has two East wins and one national series win with its full-time East driver Luke Fenhaus. Crew chief Shane Huffman, who guided Bret Holmes to win the 2020 ARCA championship, is optimistic about Zilisch’s debut.

“Connor is thriving this season in every racing division he is competing in, and we expect him to be a contender at Watkins Glen on Friday afternoon,” Huffman said in a team release. “The ARCA Menards Series will be a new challenge for him, but his prior Watkins Glen experience should pay dividends and combat his learning curve in the heavier race car.

“Our goal on Friday is to improve from practice to qualify and then let the race play out and hope when the checkered flag nears, we’re in contention to bring home another trophy for our Pinnacle Racing Group team.”

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As for Kovski, he is making his 34th-career start on Sunday in his family-owned No. 16 Chevrolet. The Springfield, Ill. native has made 16 starts at Springfield, earning a best finish of third in 2015 as the highlight of his three top fives and six top 10s.

Don’t forget Ken Schrader, either. The 68-year-old returns to Andy Hillenburg’s No. 10 and while he has not fared well in the 2023 Camping World SRX Series season, he certainly knows his way around Springfield. He has one win, in 1998, to accompany his three top fives and seven top 10s in nine starts there.

To top it off, Schrader displayed his dirt track prowess this past week, winning a NASCAR Pinty’s Series race in Canada.

Will Love sweep the race weekend? Or will his winning streak come to a halt? Other drivers such as Brayton Laster, who team owner Tim Goulet told Frontstretch “is going to be badass on Sunday,” hope to spoil the party.

The national division doubleheader begins Friday at 6 p.m. ET with TV coverage provided by FOX Sports 1. Then on Sunday, the drivers take to the Springfield dirt at 2 p.m. ET with coverage provided by FS1 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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