Race Weekend Central

ARCA Preview: ARCA Season Finale at Toledo

For the second-straight year, the ARCA Menards Series ends its season at Toledo Speedway with the Shore Lunch 200.

Unlike 2022, the driver’s championship has already been decided as Jesse Love claimed it at Salem Speedway, adding a second trophy on that night as he led every lap at the Indiana short track.

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Love’s No. 20 Venturini Motorsports team leads the owner’s point standings, again looking to capture that crown at the 0.5-mile short track. Last year, the team lost the championship to the No. 18 in a memorable finish that ended with Love expressing his displeasure toward Sammy Smith and Love’s team owner Billy Venturini and Smith’s father getting into a post-race altercation.

This year, the No. 20 has a 14-point lead over the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 team. If Love finishes ninth or better in the Shore Lunch 200, he’ll bring that trophy back to VMS too.

Love won the ASA STARS National Tour super late model Glass City 200 at Toledo in September; he looks to join local legend Joy Fair as the only drivers to win the Glass City 200 and an ARCA at Toledo and to become the first driver to do it in the same year.

In his two ARCA starts at Toledo, Love has a runner up and fourth-place result, one pole and 192 laps led. He’s undoubtedly the favorite to win the race, a feat he has already accomplished 10 times this ARCA season.

2023 ARCA Menards Series East champion William Sawalich is piloting the No. 18 Toyota at Toledo, and both he and his No. 18 team have success there.

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The No. 18 team has won the two most recent ARCA races there. And Sawalich? He won a 200-lap late model race there in 2022. He might not be able to deliver the No. 18 team the owner’s title without a little bad luck from Love, but Sawalich very well could go to victory lane for the fourth time this season in ARCA.

Meanwhile, second in points Andres Perez de Lara has wheeled the No. 2 Rev Racing Chevrolet to nine top fives and 14 top 10s. Although it’s his first time competing at the racetrack, he visited Toledo for a series event.

“It was cold,” Perez de Lara said in a Toledo Speedway press release. “That’s the first thing I come to mind. Hopefully it’s not as cold when we go back. The track is really good. I remember just walking the track. I haven’t been on-track, but I was there. The place is cool. Feels like a good environment and it just feels like a cool place to go. I was there at the beginning of the year, and hopefully when we go back for racing, it’s not as cold and we get good results there.”

Perez de Lara already boasts a pair of second-place finishes.

“Toledo at the end of the year, we just want to finish on a high,” he said. “That’s definitely what we’re looking for. I think that’s very important. It can help our negotiations both for next year and not only that, but just me mentally.”

Malcolm in the Middle spanned seven seasons and lasted 151 episodes. Frankie Muniz, the actor who played the eponymous character, is about to wrap up his 20-race rookie season. He should finish fourth in points, his current points position.

The actor-turned-driver has run a solid season, accruing one top five and 10 top 10s. However, the second half of the season has not been kind to him. Due to wrecks, mechanical failures and bad luck, Muniz has only scored one top five and three top 10s in that nine-race stretch, suffering five DNFs and eight races not finishing on the lead lap.

It is his first time racing at Toledo though.

“Like I said, every place is new,” Muniz stated in a Toledo release. “I’m always excited to go to new places, but I hear a lot about Toledo being a fun place to race, and with it being the series finale, I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

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VMS also brings two drivers who have never competed at Toledo before, but both will be ones to watch as well. Sean Hingorani leads the ARCA Menards Series West points on the strength of four victories. VMS has four wins at Toledo, most recently in 2019 with current NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Chandler Smith. Hingorani will be up for the challenge of competing for the win.

The most recent addition to the VMS driver lineup is Dylan “Mamba” Smith. Smith made his ARCA debut in 2022 with Young’s Motorsports at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park en route to a ninth-place finish. He will join Young’s at Phoenix Raceway for the West season finale. At Toledo though, he jumps into the No. 15 Toyota.

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Of the 11 VMS ARCA wins in 2023, Love has 10 with Brent Crews grabbing the other at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. Crews victoriously drove the No. 25 that day; Dylan Smith is seeking to deliver the first win for the No. 15 since Chandler Smith won at IRP in that 2022 IRP race.

Prior to the race, there will be a 45-minute practice session before qualifying. Then, the 200-lap race will have two competition cautions at laps 75 and 125. If there is one certainty for Saturday’s Shore Lunch 200, it is that all 18 drivers want to finish out their 2023 strong.

The Shore Lunch 200 will take place at 4 p.m. ET with TV coverage provided by FOX Sports 2 as well as live coverage provided by FloRacing.

About the author

Frontstretch.com
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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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