Race Weekend Central

ARCA Power Rankings: Gus Dean’s Win Marks No. 100 for Venturini

The ARCA Daytona 200 was indeed completed after its race date was moved up from Saturday to Friday (Feb. 16). However, it was a messy season opener.

Unofficially, the nine-caution ARCA Menards Series 2024 season opener tied the 1989 race at Daytona International Speedway for the most cautions in a race there. Only 10 drivers finished on the lead lap, the final one which resulted in a large multi-car crash.

After all the melee, Frontstretch ARCA editor Mark Kristl presents the series’ first power rankings of the 2024 season.

See also
Gus Dean Wins ARCA Season Opener at Daytona

1. Gus Dean

Gus Dean won at Daytona for the first time in his career. He has now won at both Daytona and Talladega Superspeedway, both known for drafting-style racing and The Big One.

Dean’s victory was not marked without incident, however. While he only led the final two laps, the way he gained the lead came with criticism.

On the final restart, which was a one-lap overtime finish, Dean chose the bottom lane. His Venturini Motorsports teammate Jake Finch chose the top on the promise that Dean would allow Finch to drop down in front of him, thereby allowing the VMS duo to work together to ensure a team victory whilst battling it out for the 1-2 finish. Dean’s lie cost Finch a shot at the win, but Dean still took VMS to victory lane.

The win was a significant milestone for VMS. The Toyota powerhouse, which won both the owner and drivers’ championships last season with Jesse Love, scored its 100th series win. It is a heck of an accomplishment for the team. Dean angered some people, including Finch’s spotter Tyler Monn, with his lie, but he was still proud to give VMS its 100th win.

2. Jake Finch

Finch unofficially led 65 laps. He had the best car throughout the 84-lap race, surviving all the carnage until the last lap. He worked well with Dean. Finch cannot be faulted for Dean’s decision. Quite the contrary. Had Dean said he would race for the win before the restart, Finch probably would have selected the bottom lane for the restart.

Before the ARCA Daytona 200, Finch’s only other experience at the 2.5-mile superspeedway was the 2024 preseason test. He posted the fastest lap at the test. Crew chief Shannon Rursch guided Love to 10 victories in 2023. Although Finch is only running part time, his Daytona performance proved he’ll be a force to be reckoned with when he pilots a VMS Toyota this season.

3. Thomas Annunziata

In his series debut, Thomas Annunziata finished second, at Daytona to boot. He was aggressive pushing people, but he kept the car clean en route to lead a lap, something only five series regulars managed.

What a turnaround for Annunziata. On Thursday, he was slow in practice, on the verge of potentially missing the race. He started 18th and methodically drove his way to the front. His team owner Jeff McClure wants that first win for his team, and Annunziata nearly delivered. Quite an impressive showing for the 18-year-old.

4. Greg Van Alst

It was clear that defending Daytona winner Greg Van Alst wanted a repeat victory. He was maneuvering his No. 35 trying to get to the front. He unofficially led three laps, but he was never able to stay up front for long.

“Definitely had a winning car with Greg Van Alst, just no drafting help in the end,” Van Alst Motorsports team member Brandon Grant posted on his Facebook page. “We will take a 3rd place finish and a car in one piece.”

Van Alst’s third-place result was tops among all series regulars. Heading into the next race at Phoenix Raceway, Van Alst could very well end up with the points lead after that race. He wound up 10th there last year with a top-five racecar.

5. Andy Jankowiak

Andy Jankowiak had a top-five racecar at Daytona. He was in position for a career-best run, if not contending for victory. During the final caution flag period, Jankowiak shared his mindset for overtime with a memorable quote.

Unfortunately, he saw neither. Instead, Jankowiak wound up with a wrecked racecar from the last-lap carnage, though he remarkably wheeled to a 10th-place outcome.

How does Jankowiak earn the fifth spot in these power rankings instead of some other underdogs who brought home top-running racecars? Because Jankowiak’s team KLAS Motorsports brilliantly capitalized on his quote.

Paint Scheme of the Race

New to these power rankings is the paint scheme of the race. Shoutout to all the teams, sponsors, graphic designers, etc. who create these snazzy-looking racecars.

Annunziata shined in his ARCA debut. Best of all, he did so while driving a Days of Thunder-inspired paint scheme on his No. 44. A clean racecar with an iconic paint scheme earns Annunziata’s McClure Motorsports team the award for best ARCA paint scheme at Daytona.

The ARCA field gets a little break, for many an opportunity to repair their damaged racecars before they head to Phoenix. The race, a combination race with the ARCA Menards Series West, will take place on Friday, March 8 at 8 p.m. ET, with live 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.

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