Race Weekend Central

ARCA Preview: ARCA Daytona 200 at Daytona

The 2024 ARCA Daytona 200 has a good amount of hype surrounding it and for good reasons too.

There are 50 drivers entered for the 80-lap season opener at Daytona International Speedway, meaning 10 drivers will fail to qualify for the race. Eleven of them are full time, with the number possibly raised to 12 if Andy Jankowiak indeed contests all 20 races of the 2024 season.

With so much buzz surrounding the 2024 ARCA season opener, who should we keep an eye on? Three drivers stand out with two others eager to win for the first time en route to hopefully a championship run.

See also
Entry List: 2024 Daytona ARCA 200

Shane van Gisbergen astounded race fans when he won the inaugural NASCAR Cup Series race at the Chicago street course. Now the international sensation will race full time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series as well as compete in the ARCA race too. SVG will pilot the No. 28 Pinnacle Racing Group Chevrolet in his series debut as well as his first-ever race at Daytona.

Will he win? It’s possible. He is driving good equipment for a team that won two ARCA Menards Series East races in 2023, and the team started with some of the remnants of GMS Racing’s ARCA program.

For van Gisbergen to succeed, he must rely on his knowledgeable crew chief Shane Huffman. Huffman served as crew chief for Bret Holmes’ 2020 ARCA title season and Huffman knows how to set up a racecar to run well at superspeedways. In seven superspeedway races, consisting of Daytona and Talladega Superspeedway, Huffman’s drivers have accrued four top fives and five top 10s. Van Gisbergen won in his Cup debut; he could take Huffman to victory lane in his ARCA debut too.

SVG is not the only big name in the ARCA field. Marco Andretti is running part time in ARCA in 2024 for team owner Bruce Cook. Andretti is sporting a snazzy paint scheme on his No. 17 for Daytona, which will also be his series debut.

“I expect good things,” Cook told Frontstretch about his expectations for Andretti. “I expect to win. That’s what we are going for. I don’t just want to ride around and finish. We had a good test. Pretty sure we will have a good car for the race, but anything can happen down there. You could be running 10th and end up winning or you could be running first on the last lap and finish 15th. But expectations are nothing but a win.”

Both van Gisbergen and Andretti participated in the series preseason test at Daytona. Andretti posted the eighth-fastest time and van Gisbergen was 12th. Cook said the test was beneficial.

“We got him as much drafting as we could during the test because he’s never had to draft a stock car,” Cook continued. “He’s used to IndyCar stuff obviously. But IndyCars make holes, stock cars make big holes. There was a lot of him trying to lay back, manipulate the hole and draft, learn how to draft up on somebody and pass them. Just a lot of mechanical stuff when it came to drafting a stock car so that’ll translate back to the race.”

With 50 entries, there might be a surprise DNQ from qualifying. Cook’s No. 17 is 39th of the 50 in terms of a provisional, something worth keeping in mind.

“We’re concerned because anything can happen at Daytona,” Cook said. “I’m not too concerned about how fast the car will be or how fast Marco will be, but anything can happen during group qualifying. One wrong move or turn can send someone home but I think we’ll be OK. Owner points-wise, I don’t look at that part of it. If we don’t make the race then we obviously don’t deserve to race. We’ll be fine.”

The 36-year-old Andretti has plenty of racing experience with two NTT IndyCar Series wins and the 2022 SRX championship on his resume. What he lacks in stock car experience he has more than made up for in terms of impressing Cook.

“Just how fast he picks up on stuff,” Cook continued. “His first laps in the test around the oval, being able to put it on the yellow line and not waver back and forth. His best lap was, I think, about a tenth of a lap off anybody that I’ve ever brought down there and he’d never made a lap there before. During practice, he was in and out of cars, in and out of the draft with a lot of car control so he’s a racecar driver. That’s why his last name is what it is. He’s just getting back into the stock car world a bit so I expect good things for him.”

With Andretti’s inexperience in NASCAR series, his spotter Rick Carelli will be helpful to his performance. Carelli, a former NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver himself, will spot for Andretti in his Truck and ARCA starts in 2024. On Sundays, Carelli spots for Cup driver Erik Jones.

Even though Cook Racing Technologies is not running full time, a Daytona win would be an enormous boost for the organization, which won the ARCA Menards Series West owners title in 2023.

“It always gives us momentum,” Cook added. “We’re not going to run anything for points. Obviously, if you can win it gives you big momentum going into Phoenix. It’s the biggest race of the year for a reason. It pays the most for a reason and it attracts the most cars of the year for a reason. Obviously, if you win, it gives you momentum for the rest of the year.”

See also
Breaking Down the Eccentricity of ARCA Daytona Qualifying

Last year’s winner Greg Van Alst certainly was on cloud nine following his Daytona victory. The owner/driver is back full time in 2024, and like last year, he has a new paint scheme on his No. 35.

The new paint scheme is on the same race-winning car from last year. Van Alst’s confidence as well as his knack for starting inside the top 10 have him poised to win back-to-back at Daytona.

Not if Rev Racing duo Andres Perez de Lara and Lavar Scott have anything to say about it, though. The two drivers, both of whom were picked by the Frontstretch ARCA panelists to win the 2024 title, ran well at superspeedways in 2023. Perez de Lara led 28 laps at Talladega en route to a fourth-place finish and Scott led 14 laps to a fourth-place showing too at Daytona. The duo will be contenders in the season-opening race.

What about longtime team Venturini Motorsports? Its driver lineup does not look as strong. But, as Willie Mullins told Frontstretch, no matter the size of the name brand recognition, “I put my pants on the same way those guys do so we’re there to race them. They’re there to get some experience, we’re there to prove ourselves, put some eyes on Mullins Racing and try to be at the front at the end of the race.” In short, the equalizer of the draft offers all starters a chance to go to victory lane.

The ARCA Daytona 200 will take place on Saturday, Feb. 17 at 1:30 p.m. ET with TV coverage provided by FOX Sports 1.

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.

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