There is now just one race left in the 2023 ARCA Menards Series season after Jesse Love dominated the penultimate race at Salem Speedway on Saturday, Sept. 30.
Love led all 200 laps en route to his 10th victory of the season, tying the number Ty Gibbs set in his impressive 2021 season. By the end of the race, Love lapped all but three cars in the 19-car field. He also clinched the 2023 season title simply by starting the race, bringing the ARCA championship back to Venturini Motorsports for the first time since 2019.
After 19 races, who sits atop the Frontstretch ARCA power rankings?
1. Jesse Love
Now crowned a champion, Love is the clear man to beat in ARCA and has been for most, if not all, of the 2023 season. With one race left in the season, at Toledo Speedway, Love has the opportunity to win 11 races this season, one above Gibbs’ 2021 season total. The 18-year-old has only finished outside of the top five three times this season, two of which from incidents largely out of his own doing at Phoenix Raceway and Kansas Speedway. For the full season, Love has 16 top fives, 17 top 10s and an average finish of 4.2, easily the mark of a champion.
Love now heads to Toledo with no pressure, only looking to capture one more checkered flag before the 2023 season wraps up.
2. William Sawalich
Sixteen-year-old William Sawalich has shown his worth in his rookie season, despite only starting 12 of the 19 races run thus far. He’s found victory lane three times, finishing inside of the top five 10 times and within the top 10 in 11 races.
Saturday’s race at Salem broke an impressive streak for Sawalich, marking the first race since his debut at Phoenix in which he did not record a top-five finish. The occurrence was largely out of the rookie’s doing, as contact with Love while battling for the lead forced the No. 18 to pit road for repairs. Despite that, the 2023 ARCA Menards Series East champion was able to rally for a sixth-place finish.
Sawalich’s 2023 season is now set to wind down, as he’s completed his schedule with TRICON Garage in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, is only set to start the season finale at Toledo next week and the ARCA Menards Series West season finale at Phoenix in November.
3. Andres Perez de Lara
If someone were to look up the dictionary definition of consistency, there would be a picture of Andres Perez de Lara next to the word. The 18-year-old Rev Racing driver has taken his rookie season by the reigns, currently sitting second in the season standings, with little threat from any of his competitors behind to surpass him.
Perez de Lara has been able to click off top 10s, nine of which came as top fives as well, in all but four events since missing the season opener at Daytona International Speedway due to age restriction. While he has yet to record his first win, he came close on numerous occasions and even dominated the race at Michigan International Speedway before mechanical issues late in the going. He was able to tie his career-best finish of second at Salem, and he heads to Toledo finishing inside the top five in three of the last four events.
4. Christian Rose
After a bit of a slow start to the season, Christian Rose and AM Racing have turned up the heat in the latter half of the season. After failing to record a top 10 in each of the first three races of the season, Rose has done so in 12 of the 16 races since. He’s also excelled at keeping his No. 32 car clean and competitive. Rose leads the series in laps run this year, completing 2,351 of the 2,424 laps run this season, good for a 97% completion rate. He’s only DNF’d twice, once at Phoenix due to an incident, and again at the Illinois State Fairgrounds due to overheating issues.
In Salem, Rose notched his first career top five, a third-place result, finishing as the last car on the lead lap. Rose now heads to Toledo, a track he has never competed at before, looking to end his season on a high note.
5. Toni Breidinger
Like Sawalich, Toni Breidinger has not run full-time in 2023 but has been competitive enough to round out the top five. In 13 races, Breidinger has finished inside the top 10 seven times this season with four of those finishes being top fives. It’s a night-and-day comparison to her full-time 2022 season, when she only earned six top 10s and no top fives in 20 races.
Breidinger is coming off a Salem race in which she finished fourth despite being two laps down at the checkered flag. It was her second top five in the last three races and gives her a run of seven top 10s in her last eight races in ARCA this season.
It’s unclear if the 24-year-old Breidinger will be at Toledo to compete in the season finale. The race was not on her originally announced schedule with VMS, but the team has added races for Breidinger throughout the season.
Tune into the Shore Lunch 200 next Saturday, Oct. 7, at 4 p.m. ET as the ARCA field wraps up its 2023 season. Television coverage will be provided by FOX Sports 2 and FloRacing will air it live too.
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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