The ARCA Menards Series takes to the high banks of Bristol Motor Speedway this Thursday (Sept. 14). The race is the final combination race of the 2023 season, as the ARCA Menards Series East wraps up its season that night as well, with a champion being crowned with the end of the race.
For the race, 32 teams are entered into the 200-lap, 106.6-mile event. That’s one more than last year’s race, and the most the series has seen at the track since 2014, when the race was run under the K&N Pro Series East banner.
Like the East series, the national division has a championship battle of its own winding down, though not as close of one. Jesse Love enters the Bristol race with a commanding 128-point lead over Andres Perez de Lara, with three races to decide the title.
Love is coming off his second DNF of the season at Kansas Speedway, finishing 19th after a lap 24 crash. The race ended up in Love’s favor, however, as many of those chasing him in the championship had struggles as well. Perez de Lara spent time on pit road after sustaining damage with contact from the wall, and Frankie Muniz blew a tire, driving his No. 30 straight into the wall and ending his race. Love finished 10th at Bristol last season and seventh in 2021.
“I enjoy Bristol. It fits my driving style and it’s always cool to go to places that are high grip and concrete,” Love said in a team press release. “It hasn’t been our best track in previous years, but I have a good feeling about it this time around.”
Perez de Lara returns to the site of his ARCA debut, which he made one year ago, driving for David Gilliland. He finished seventh in that race. Perez de Lara has two top fives on tracks a half-mile or smaller this year, however, he is coming off a 17th-place finish at Kansas.
For the first time this season, the 18-year-old Perez de Lara will be joined by two Rev Racing teammates, as Scott will pilot the team’s No. 6, and Jack Wood will drive the No. 51, an entry new to the team in 2023. Wood has driven in seven races for the team this season, with a best finish of third at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
“Bristol stands out as one of the most thrilling venues on our calendar,” Wood said in a team press release. “I’m hopeful that we can tap into some extra speed and bring Rev Racing to victory lane,”
Joining Love at Venturini Motorsports this week will be Conner Jones, Toni Breidinger, and Sean Hingorani. It’ll be Hingorani’s first trip to Bristol in his young career, as the race will mark his first start in the main division since the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds, where he finished 14th following an incident with Sean Corr and Muniz.
“I’m really excited to take on a fast, high-banked track like Bristol,” Hingorani said in a team press release. “This extra seat time in the same race car really helps me feel prepared for All-American Speedway and chase the ARCA Menards Series West Championship.”
As for Breidinger and Jones, they each have seen the half-mile coliseum at least once in their career.
Jones ran the race in both 2021 and 2022, finishing 10th for Cook-Finley Racing in 2021. The 17-year-old hasn’t finished outside of the top 10 in seven ARCA starts this season. For Breidinger, it’ll be her second trip to the track in eastern Tennessee, as she finished 16th in last year’s edition of the event. She is coming off her best career finish last week at Kansas, finishing third.
The two drivers competing for the East series title, Fenhaus and Sawalich, both make their first career trips to The Last Great Colosseum. Fenhaus has started three races in the main division of ARCA, each of which combination races, but has finished inside of the top two twice, winning once at Iowa Speedway.
As for Sawalich, he’ll enter his 10th main division race of the season and looks to continue his streak of nine consecutive top fives. The last ARCA-sanctioned race he finished outside of the top five, and only to date, was his first career start at Phoenix Raceway, when he was spun from the lead on a late restart. The 16-year-old is also pulling double duty Thursday evening, running the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race for TRICON Garage, piloting the No. 1 truck.
ARCA Menards Series West regular Landen Lewis is in line to make his second East division start of the season, driving the No. 97 for CR7 Motorsports. His last start came at Dover, driving for McGowan Motorsports, where he finished runner-up to Jake Finch.
Finally, Truck Series part-timer Kaden Honeycutt will make his first ARCA start since 2019, driving the No. 17 for McGowan Motorsports. Honeycutt has five previous starts in the series, with a best finish of seventh, coming at Nashville Fairgrounds in 2019.
Thursday afternoon, the field will get a 45-minute practice session at 2 p.m. ET, with qualifying set to begin an hour later at 3 p.m. ET. Then, later that night, the Bristol race will have the green flag waved at 6 p.m. ET with television coverage being carried by FOX Sports 1.
About the author
Josh joined Frontstretch in 2023 and currently covers the ARCA Menards Series. Born and raised in Missouri, Josh has been watching motorsports since 2005. He currently is studying for a Mass Communication degree at Lindenwood University
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