Race Weekend Central

ARCA Experts Make Their 2024 Predictions

For the 18th straight season, the ARCA Menards Series will crown a new champion.

Jesse Love won the 2023 title en route to landing a full-time NASCAR Xfinity Series ride with Richard Childress Racing, so he will not be able to defend the ARCA crown.

The 20-race ARCA season begins at Daytona International Speedway and wraps up at Toledo Speedway. The only schedule change from last year is Dover Motor Speedway will host the national series for the first time.

See also
The Winners & Losers of the Offseason Sponsor Sweepstakes

Ahead of the Feb. 17 season opener, four ARCA experts — including three from Frontstretch — made their predictions on the champion, their bold takes and more.

Who will win the driver’s championship? Will Venturini Motorsports continue to dominate?

Mark Kristl: This championship will come down to the two Rev Racing drivers with Lavar Scott winning the title. In the six short track races in the 2023 ARCA Menards Series East season, Scott accrued four top fives and five top 10s. In his six national series starts, he also had four top fives and five top 10s, including an impressive fourth-place showing at Daytona.

Other than Jake Finch and Gus Dean, no other announced VMS driver has shown regular contention. Kris Wright might win a race simply due to superior equipment, but VMS will not be winning as often. Neither Toni Breidinger nor Amber Balcaen have been in contention for a win before, and I don’t foresee that happening this year either.

Ben Branscum, TobyChristie.com ARCA writer: This year, it is more up in the air than years prior. Yes, VMS is still the powerhouse that everyone knows it to be, with a solid group. However, there are some feelings of questions around the team.

Wright is looking for a renaissance after a tough stint in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, and the same goes for Balcaen after a tough 2022 season and only running three races in 2023. Breidinger brings the most veteran experience of the drivers, having 45 starts in ARCA and coming off a strong end to her 2023 season.

While I think VMS is going to put up a good fight, I have a feeling that Rev is going to seize the moment with Andres Perez de Lara. While having three DNFs in his first full season in the series, he managed to score 10 top fives with an average finish of 8.5 and came home second in points. I truly think this could be his breakout year.

Josh Calloni: Perez de Lara will be crowned champion at Toledo at the season’s end. The soon-to-be 19-year-old kept pace with Love to the best of his ability during the 2023 champion’s historic season. With Love moving on, the path for Perez de Lara is clear. As for Venturini, it will find success in 2024, but it will be less of a purely dominating situation, leaving ARCA just about as wide open as it could be heading into the new season.

Luke Wingard: While 2023’s ARCA drivers championship never seemed in question, I expect that to be far from the case in 2024. With Joe Gibbs Racing splitting its No. 18 entry between two drivers and Venturini Motorsports featuring a lineup of relatively unproven drivers, I expect Rev Racing’s full-time pair of Perez de Lara and Scott to emerge as title favorites.

Although neither driver found victory lane last season, I see no reason why both of them can’t win multiple races this year. Take your pick between them as far as who should be the championship favorite, as each of them were equally impressive last season.

Who will be the next first-time winner?

Branscum: The list of possible first-time winners has grown a lot this year. Perez de Lara will be the first though. He’s got a lot of momentum going for him.

Don’t count out any of the VMS drivers, as that team comes out swinging at Daytona every year. Also, keep an eye on Christian Rose. As 2023 started to wrap up, it felt like he and the AM Racing team were starting to figure some things out and click off solid runs.

Kristl: The first two races of the 2023 season saw first-time winners. Will that happen again in 2024? Between Finch, Scott, Wright, Andy Jankowiak and Perez de Lara, one of those may go to victory lane at Daytona. Talladega Superspeedway hosts the third race of the season, so if there isn’t a first-time winner at Daytona, there could be one of those winning at Talladega.

Who will it be? I was thoroughly impressed with Scott’s performance in the 2023 Daytona race. He is now full time in the national series, has experience in ARCA racecars and Venturini’s Daytona lineup is not as stout. Scott will begin his championship run off strong with a Daytona win.

Calloni: Breidinger showed impressive gains from 2022 to 2023, and with a full-time season on the docket in 2024, she’ll find victory lane at least once. After scoring four top fives last season, getting regular reps and racing in every race should only help improve that performance. That recipe is one that will find her in victory lane.

Outside of Breidinger, it’s more than conceivable to see both Wright and Rose in victory lane this season as well.

Wingard: Although I foresee several drivers scoring their maiden victory this upcoming ARCA season, I am most confident in Scott breaking through. In his greatest opportunity to date, as he goes full time for Rev, Scott will break through and score his first win in 2024.

Having led laps in several events last year, including his debut in Daytona, Scott figures to continue to run toward the front this year, and I believe he’ll even navigate his way to victory lane at least once. In his maiden campaign, he finished in the top five in four of just six starts. Although ARCA may see several new faces grace victory lane this year, Scott is among those whom I am most confident will find themselves there.

What is one race are you looking forward to this season?

Branscum: When it comes to just one race, it’s hard to pick. I’m most excited to see the series head back to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course once again. I’m really happy ARCA found a way to head back after the Truck Series decided not to return.

Last year’s race was a really fun one between all the drama and beating and banging. Plus the repave is going to make it incredibly faster, so drivers will have to adapt on the fly.

Calloni: It’s hard to not say the season opener at Daytona at this point. With the entry list as large as it’s expected to be, with more competitive cars than past years to boot, there’s no doubt Daytona will be a must-watch, especially with the added excitement of the new season beginning.

Wingard: With the entry list having grown to 50+ cars, it is hard not to list the season-opening Daytona race as the most anticipated race on the calendar. Besides being the kickoff event for the ARCA season, Daytona also boasts an entertaining product and has recently featured surprise winners.

Interesting entrants like Shane van Gisbergen, Marco Andretti and Justin Bonsignore only add to the intrigue of this year’s ARCA Daytona opener. Although it may be the most popular and convenient answer, I would be lying if I said I was looking forward to any ARCA event this year more than the curtain-jerker at the World Center of Racing.

Kristl: With the Daytona entry list, how can you not be excited about the season opener? Others have already listed the reasons why to be excited about that race, so another race that I’m looking forward to is the second race of the season at Phoenix Raceway.

Last year, the ARCA Menards Series West field was competitive in that race. Although the 2024 West field lineup has not really been set yet, the West drivers will be fast. Add in William Sawalich making his first start of the season in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 as well as Isabella Robusto slated to make her series debut with Venturini and the second race of 2024 ought to be exciting too.

See also
Up to Speed: NASCAR’s Southern California Conundrum

What is your one bold take for this season?

Calloni: In 2023, six of the 20 races saw car counts under 20. This season, that won’t be the case. With an increased number of full-time entries and more part-time entries than the series has seen in the better part of a decade, there’s no way any of the races will have under 20 participants. In years past, the smaller, standalone events at Elko Speedway, Berlin Raceway, Salem Speedway and the dirt events have seen standardly lower entry numbers, but that won’t be the case in 2024.

Kristl: There will be at least five first-time winners this season. While Sawalich and Greg Van Alst both have a national series win on their resumes, the drivers I listed in question No. 2 could become first-time winners. Add in Rose in his second full-time season, the intrigue of Caleb Costner and a surprise winner on the road courses or dirt tracks and five additions to the ARCA wins list will occur in 2024.

Branscum: I don’t necessarily know if this is a bold take, however, I say keep an eye out for Scott. I think he pulls off a win or two this season. I think he’s grown a lot since his time last season in the East. Also, I know this counts as another bold take but also look to the West and Tyler Reif. I think he’s going to be a threat this year.

Wingard: Following Love having one of the most dominant seasons in ARCA history, I believe that this year, on the contrary, no full-time driver will score more than three wins. Now, I establish the caveat that this applies only for full-time drivers, as I do foresee returning part-timers like Sawalich stacking several wins this season.

Calling for more parity in the series may not seem like a bold prediction, but with the way the likes of Venturini and Gibbs have held the series ransom over recent seasons, it would definitely be a departure from the norm for several organizations to win multiple races in 2024.

About the author

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.

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

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

Share via