Race Weekend Central

ARCA Preview: Atlas 200 at Salem

The ARCA Menards Series rolls into Salem Speedway in Salem, Indiana for the penultimate race on the 2023 schedule, as 19 cars are entered for the event. 

In last year’s running, Sammy Smith led all 200 laps en route to victory, winning his fifth race of the 2022 season. 

It’ll be the 109th time ARCA visits the track, with other former winners including Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chris Buescher, and Zane Smith. ARCA legend Frank Kimmel won at the track nine times in his career.

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Entry List: 2023 Atlas 200

Championship leader Jesse Love can officially wrap up the 2023 title this weekend, coming at a track that he and Venturini Motorsports have extensive history at. VMS has won at the track 10 times in their history, and Love himself earned his first series win at the track back in 2021. That win also marks the last time VMS has found victory lane at Salem. 

Love’s point lead entering Salem sits at 131 points over second place Andres Perez de Lara, giving Love the championship as long as he starts Saturday night’s event. In two starts at the track, Love has an average finish of 1.5, winning in his first start in 2021, and finishing runner-up to Smith in 2022. 

ARCA’s most recent winner, William Sawalich, enters this weekend’s race fresh off of the 2023 East division title. The Minnesota-born rookie has yet to run an ARCA-sanctioned race at the historic Salem Speedway but has enjoyed success on similarly sized tracks this season, winning on the short tracks of the series twice, and finishing runner-up once. 

“Bristol was really fun, but I’m looking ahead to this week at Salem,” Sawalich said in a press release. “We’ve had some great runs at short tracks recently so I know the guys will bring a good car and we’ll go out and battle to try to end the night in victory lane,”  

Although a championship is seemingly out of reach, Perez de Lara heads to Salem with two more chances to add a win to his impressive rookie season record. The 18-year-old has earned eight top fives this season and has only finished outside of the top 10 in four events. Like Sawalich, Saturday’s race will mark Perez de Lara’s first race at Salem in an ARCA-sanctioned event.

AM Racing driver Christian Rose now sits third in the points standings, having surpassed Frankie Muniz at Bristol Motor Speedway. Rose heads to Salem looking to extend a streak of three straight top-10 finishes. In his first full-time season, the former college pitcher has yet to score a top five but has notched 11 top 10s, with a best finish of sixth coming at Kansas Speedway earlier this month. 

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Daniel Dye Joining MHR for 2024

Joining Love this week at VMS’ everchanging driver lineup will be Brent Crews and Toni Breidinger.

The 15-year-old Crews will be making his fourth start of the season, doing so with a tall order to back up. In his three previous starts, he hasn’t finished worse than third and has already earned his first career win, coming at the Springfield Fairgrounds back in August. As for Breidinger, she comes off a 12th-place finish at Bristol, snapping a six-race top-10 streak, which included a career-best third-place effort at Kansas two races ago. 

After starting the season rolling off top-10 finishes at an impressive rate, the latter half of Frankie Muniz’s rookie season has not gone quite according to plan. He has also failed to record a top 10 since Springfield, where he finished seventh. Muniz has wrecked out of the last three races, finishing no better than 12th in that time. The Rette Jones Racing driver has fallen to fourth in points over the stretch. He now heads to Salem for the first time in his career, looking to get back on the right track. 

A handful of Hoosier-state drivers are also slated to make a start at the famed Indiana track on Saturday evening. All in all, five drivers entered call Indiana home, Brayton Laster, Zachary Tinkle, Mike Basham, Will Kimmel, and Conner Popplewell. For the 19-year-old Popplewell, it’ll be his first career ARCA Menards Series start. 

The field will receive a 45-minute practice session on Saturday at 3:45 p.m. ET, with qualifying set to follow at 5:15 p.m. ET. The green flag for the Atlas 200 is set to wave at 7:30 p.m. ET that evening, with television coverage being carried by FOX Sports 2.

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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