ARCA Menards Series racing is complete in 2023.
Venturini Motorsports won two drivers titles and one owner’s title. Jesse Love and his No. 20 team won the ARCA Menards Series drivers and owner’s championship. Sean Hingorani captured the ARCA Menards Series West driver’s championship while the No. 17 Cook Racing Technologies team took home the owner’s title. In the ARCA Menards Series East, William Sawalich won 50% of the races en route to winning the driver’s title with his Joe Gibbs Racing team winning the owner’s title.
Frontstretch graded the ARCA drivers at midseason. Now with the season over, the ARCA team of Mark Kristl, Josh Calloni, and Luke Wingard graded the top-five finishers in the national series points as well as the top-two finishers in the East and West series.
Jesse Love: A+
Love won 50% of the ARCA races in 2023 (10 out of 20). He led a whopping 1,477 laps, more than double that of anyone else in the field. His 10 wins this season are five times the total of what he accumulated in his previous 28 main series races. Even with two ARCA West championship rings, Love learned how to win again.
“This last year in ARCA, I’ve learned how to win and that’s going to go a long way as I move up,” he told Frontstretch during the Toledo Speedway race weekend. “I ran second a lot last year and the year before that […] I learned how to win again and I learned how to lose too so I don’t take losing the same as I did last year or the year before that. My approach to winning is a lot different as well. Winning on Friday or Saturday is better than running 22nd on Sunday. Winning is winning and it makes a big difference when you move up.”
Part of Love’s dominance in 2023 came from a change in how he approached races. He changed his focus, he noted, from not wanting to fail to wanting to do his best to succeed. He certainly had a successful 2023, capturing 10 trophies en route to two championships for Venturini Motorsports. – Mark Kristl
Andres Perez de Lara: B+
Though he did not find victory lane in his rookie season, Andres Perez de Lara enjoyed a very consistent 2023 season. After missing Daytona International Speedway and being credited with a 40th-place finish due to an age restriction, the Rev Racing driver clicked off top 10s in 15 of the last 19 races of the season. That included 10 finishes inside the top five, with a pair of runner-up finishes.
However, it was perhaps a 17th-place finish at Michigan International Speedway that marked the 18-year-old’s best race of the season. After qualifying on the pole, Perez de Lara led 43 of the 105 laps, but dealt with an engine issue late in the going, taking him out of contention. Perez de Lara was the best of the rest, finishing runner-up in the standings to Love. – Josh Calloni
Christian Rose: B
Christian Rose massively improved upon his numbers in his first full-time season, including only two DNFs in 2023 compared to six in 2022. He led two laps en route to a 12th-place finish in the season opener at Daytona. He steadily progressed his way up to third in the points. He continually learned this season, accentuated with five straight top 10s to end the season, culminating in back-to-back top fives.
“What I have learned the most is how to run from a seventh to ninth-place car to run the races where we’ve run top five so definitely learned how to take that next step,” he told Frontstretch. “I think the biggest thing is just knowing how to run all the laps and keep the car in one piece. Take care of our stuff and know who we’re racing and how to race them. The race craft is something I’ve been working hard on. We are making good strides.”
Rose wants to be more consistent in 2024, and he will have another shot at it in ARCA as he is returning to AM Racing. – Kristl
Frankie Muniz: B+
Perhaps the most covered story heading into this ARCA season was the full-time racing debut of former Hollywood star Frankie Muniz. For having only sparingly competed in competitive racing entering this season, the Scottsdale, Ariz. driver put on a very nice showing this year.
After an 11th-place finish at Daytona, Muniz strung together five consecutive top 10s. Muniz scored six more top 10s over the course of the season, including his lone top five in a fifth-place effort at Michigan, to end the season with a total of 11.
After sitting in the runner-up position in the points battle early in the season, Muniz faded to fourth after finding misfortune in a string of four consecutive races between DuQuoin State Fairgrounds and Salem Speedway that saw him either get caught in a crash or encounter a mechanical problem in each race. Despite his slight drop in the standings at the end of the year, the inaugural ARCA campaign for Muniz was a rock-solid one that has even garnered him some interest from other teams within the sport. – Luke Wingard
Jon Garrett: C+
For a 53-year-old rookie in underfunded equipment, Jon Garrett did just about as much as you could ask from a driver in 2023. Garrett excelled at keeping his No. 66 clean and out of trouble, finishing 11 of the first 12 races, and only DNF-ing due to incident twice.
The second half of the season was riddled with mechanical gremlins for Garrett, but he still recorded his career-best finish in the penultimate race of the season at Salem, a seventh place. In all, Garrett recorded five top 10s in 20 races this season and even led a lap at Pocono Raceway in July. At the end of the season, he ended up fifth in the standings. – Calloni
William Sawalich: A
Despite only being full-time in the East, 17-year-old Sawalich had one of the most impressive rookie seasons in recent ARCA history. After a disappointing 13th-place finish in his series debut at Phoenix Raceway in March, Sawalich rattled off 18 consecutive finishes inside the top five.
The Minnesota-born driver had an average finish of 3.6 in his national division starts, and 2.0 during his championship run in the East. In all, Sawalich found victory lane six times this season, finishing inside the top 10 in all but one of his starts, and inside the top five in all but two. Despite missing seven races, Sawalich was eighth in the national division standings to accompany his East title. – Calloni
Luke Fenhaus: A-
After making his name dominating Slinger Speedway over the last few years, Luke Fenhaus made his full-time ARCA debut this year running for the East series title and also making a few national series starts. In the eight East races this season, Fenhaus scored top 10s in all but one of them and top fives in six of them. His campaign, which also included two wins at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway and the combination race at Iowa Speedway, was good enough to place him second in the standings only behind Sawalich.
Fenhaus’ Iowa win was an especially impressive one, as he aced the final restart to top a field filled with full-time ARCA competitors, many of whom had more experience and arguably better equipment than Fenhaus. Fenhaus also ranked second in the East with a total of 1,218 laps led. This consistent display of race-winning pace made Fenhaus’ maiden full-time season a very impressive one. – Wingard
Sean Hingorani: A-
Hingorani boasted stellar results in his 2023 ARCA season which led him to the West championship. With top-10 finishes in eight of the 12 West races, including four wins, Hingorani won the title going away.
His laps led total of 1,508 also far exceeded the total accumulated by any of his competitors. Hingorani also scored five top 10s (all of which were also top fives) in his nine starts in the national series. While his on-track performance was superb, Hingorani developed a less-than-desirable reputation for himself with his overaggression.
The discussion of Hingorani’s overaggression reached a fever pitch after an incident in the national series race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course that saw Hingorani retaliate against VMS teammate Dean Thompson and eliminate himself and both drivers coming to the checkered. As Thompson was second and Hingorani a lap down at the time, Hingorani was handed a one-race suspension from ARCA, which ended his hopes at an East title.
While Hingorani had an excellent 2023 season on track, the reputation he earned may hurt him in years to come. – Wingard
Tyler Reif: B+
Tyler Reif finished runner up in West points, but his season seemed to have three different stages. The first began with him pulling off the restart of his career en route to winning the season opener at Phoenix. He led the points for the first two races and logged three straight top 10s.
Then he dealt with some struggles. Back-to-back DNFs at the road courses before he logged a sixth place at Irwindale Speedway. Fourth in the points at the time, he switched teams, joining Todd Souza’s Central Coast Racing, though he came home 14th in his first race with the team.
The third part of his season was when he displayed that terrific speed again, rounding out the season with fourth, 11th and fifth-place finishes. Furthermore, his 11th-place result at Madera Speedway would’ve been higher, probably around fourth, if he hadn’t aggressively spun Trevor Huddleston on turn 4 of the last lap. As a result of his rough driving, he was penalized with a finishing result of 11th, last driver on the lead lap.
Still, at season’s end, Reif achieved one win, five top fives, eight top 10s and tied for the season high in poles with two. Indeed, he is a fast racecar driver. – Kristl
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