Race Weekend Central

2023 Frontstretch ARCA Awards

All four preseason Frontstretch panelists correctly predicted the 2023 ARCA Menards Series champion, Jesse Love. The Venturini Motorsports driver dominated, winning 10 of the 20 races en route to capturing his third ARCA-sanctioned crown to accompany his two ARCA Menards Series West titles.

Love won the title by a whopping 142 points over Rev Racing rookie Andres Perez de Lara, with Christian Rose rounding out the podium in third. Actor-turned-racecar driver Frankie Muniz finished fourth after leading the points early in the season. Jon Garrett finished fifth in his rookie campaign.

Love’s title margin was the largest since 2018, when the series used a different points system. His ARCA brilliance was not the only storyline to come out of the 2023 season, though. Here’s who and what else stood out.

Read all of Frontstretch‘s content looking back on 2023 here

Top Storyline: Jesse Love’s Dominance

Love’s longest winless streak this season was two races. He won 10 times while only one driver won at least twice (William Sawalich).

Love took the points lead after the fourth race of the season and he never relinquished it. His points lead was so enormous that he clinched it at the penultimate race at Salem Speedway.

Oh, yeah, he won that race too.

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He did not have to show up to the season finale at Toledo Speedway to capture the driver championship, but he did, and he delivered Venturini Motorsports the owner championship too.

Love led ARCA with wins, top fives, top 10s, poles, laps led and most lead-lap finishes. And to any naysayers who’d argue Love did not race against tough competitors, it’s where Love won this season that makes his championship even more impressive.

He won at Talladega Superspeedway, 1.5-mile intermediates Kansas and Charlotte Motor Speedway, Pocono Raceway, road course Watkins Glen International, fast 2-miler Michigan International Speedway and short track Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park.

In addition, Love won at dirt track DuQuoin State Fairgrounds, 0.375-mile short track Elko Speedway and Salem.

Love’s successes within ARCA – he also has two West titles on his resume – led to a promotion. He’ll take over the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2024.

Best Race: Season Opener at Daytona

Daytona had the most entrants of any ARCA race in 2023. The 40-car full field also only had nine DNFs, one fewer than the weather-shortened NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race the previous night, and fewer than both the Xfinity and NASCAR Cup series. The ARCA race was arguably the cleanest of the season-opening race weekend at Daytona.

The 10 lead changes were the most in an ARCA Daytona race since 2018, and the last time there were more than 10 was in 1985. The race had many comers and goers as four drivers led at least 10 laps, and race winner Greg Van Alst was not even one of them.

The Big One never materialized, saving most team owners money on repair costs, although both Tim Richmond and Scott Melton wound up with their cars on the wrecker.

Within the last 10 laps there were four lead changes among three drivers. Jason White took the white flag as the leader, while Van Alst concluded as the winner. The finish and post-race interview on the frontstretch were two for the ages.

The celebration for Van Alst and his team continued. While the owner/driver suffered bad luck on track as well as off track in 2023 afterward, his Daytona win will always be special. His line of “Guys like me aren’t supposed to do that” capped off the best race of the season.

Breakout Driver: Andres Perez de Lara

In 2022, Nick Sanchez piloted the No. 2 Chevy for Rev to the championship. After he graduated to the Truck Series, Perez de Lara succeeded him. While he did not visit victory lane in his first ARCA season – he only made one start before 2023 – Perez de Lara’s rise up the points as well as his penchant for keeping his car clean were admirable.

Consider this: Perez de Lara logged the second-most laps this season, more than Love, despite not running a single lap at Daytona due to being underage. While he was credited with a last-place finish (40th), Perez de Lara went on a roll with back-to-back fourth-place finishes and no other finishes outside the top 20. He only wound up with two more DNFs and only one due to an on-track incident. He very well could have won at Michigan, only for a blown engine to relegate him to a 17th-place DNF.

Perez de Lara started the season 40th in points. He entered the top 10 after the third race of the season, the top five after the fourth race and he secured the runner-up spot for good with six races left in the season.

Head-to-head, Love bests Perez de Lara in all categories, but the latter has 10 top fives and 16 top 10s in that 21-race comparison. Moreover, Love already had a bevy of ARCA experience before Perez de Lara began his tenure. Perez de Lara will return to ARCA with Rev in 2024 and he’ll look to give Rev two championships in three years.

Disappointment of the Year: Connor Mosack

Connor Mosack indeed won for the first time in his ARCA career in 2023, but he made multiple drivers unhappy along the way. To boot, his inability to match Love compared to Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Sawalich resulted in the No. 18 team finishing second in the owner’s championship, unable to repeat its 2022 title.

After finishing second to Van Alst at Daytona, the next time those two raced against each other at Charlotte, Van Alst did not leave celebrating or thanking Mosack.

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On a restart, Mosack made contact with Van Alst, shooting Van Alst’s No. 35 hard into the wall.

Van Alst left angry at Mosack. After bringing home a wrecked racecar, Van Alst ultimately chose to run part time for the rest of the ARCA season. Mosack was not done with pissing drivers off, though. He also raced hard against Gus Dean. The two made contact, and Dean said post-race that Mosack didn’t race him clean at all.

Fast forward to Michigan. Dean and Mosack got into it again. Dean shared his thoughts on Mosack as a driver: “No talent.”

Mosack eventually won the fall Kansas race, but most of his headlines came from leaving other drivers unhappy.

Against Love, Mosack only earned one win while Love amassed four. That’s a nine-point differential, 90% of the difference in the owner points in 2023.

Comparatively, Sawalich bested Love seven of the 13 times. Sawalich scored four wins in those matchups and Love won five times. No, the difference in the owner’s point battle cannot be solely blamed on Mosack. But his driving style coupled with his inability to bring home trophies for the No. 18 JGR team, a Cup-level organization, earns Mosack this dubious honor.

About the author

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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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