Race Weekend Central

What Are Realistic Expectations for the 2024 ARCA Regulars?

In the wee hours on Saturday (Feb. 17) morning, Gus Dean took the checkered flag in the ARCA Menards Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway.

With the chaos of the race in the rearview mirror, how will the points shake out over the 20-race season? The 2024 season has 11 drivers committed to the full season, 12 if Andy Jankowiak adds eight more races to his slate. With double-digit full-time drivers, the most since 2012, what are attainable goals for the 2024 regulars?

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Andres Perez de Lara

Win the championship. Andres Perez de Lara received two and a half — as Luke Wingard said the Rev Racing duo would win the title — votes from the Frontstretch ARCA experts to win the championship. Anything short of a title for Perez de Lara would be a disappointment.

Rev won the 2022 title with Nick Sanchez. It was Sanchez’s second full-time season in the national series. 2024 is Perez de Lara’s second full-time season. He could have won a race last season, especially at Michigan International Speedway before an engine failure ended his day. Excluding Daytona in 2023, Perez de Lara has zero finishes outside the top 20. He’s got the experience, he has a race-winning team supporting him and he left Daytona 12th in the standings, a massive improvement from last year when he started the season in 40th.

Lavar Scott

Win the championship. The FS ARCA panelists were split between Perez de Lara and Lavar Scott. In 15 starts across the ARCA platform, Scott has amassed nine top fives and 12 top 10s. His third-place points finish in the 2023 ARCA Menards Series East standings showed his skill at short tracks, and there are 10 short tracks on the ’24 national circuit.

To win the championship, Scott must lead more laps and go to victory lane. He only led 18 total laps last season and wound up winless. Turn those top fives into victories, lead laps and Scott might follow Jesse Love as back-to-back champions in their first full season in the national series.

Kris Wright

Contend for the championship, if not win it. Kris Wright enters the 2024 season with a unique resume compared to his counterparts. He has 16 NASCAR Xfinity Series starts, 45 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series starts and 21 starts across the ARCA series.

After 17 of those NASCAR series starts were DNFs, Wright dropped down into ARCA to contend for the title. In his NASCAR-sanctioned series career, Wright had zero top 10s in 61 starts across Xfinity and Trucks. In 21 ARCA starts, he has two top fives and 11 top 10s. Neither of those numbers scream championship contender, however.

It’s VMS though. The organization just claimed its 100th trophy. With Wright’s experience and the team’s prowess at most racetracks, anything less than wins and a title would be a disappointment. Wright therefore must cut down on his DNFs. His 38th-place DNF at Daytona was not a good start.

Christian Rose

Lead laps to have a chance at winding up top five in points. Christian Rose said his goal for the season is to win the championship. It’s an ambitious one. To have a shot at the title, he must lead laps. He’s led only six thus far in his career. Winning it all will require victories. Victories require driving up front. Up front involves leading laps. Rose must gain the lead in races. Otherwise, his title odds will be doomed.

To his credit, Rose has 29 ARCA starts, so he knows the racetracks. He’s back with the same team as last year, AM Racing. Those factors all bode well for him. Will Rose take home the ultimate crown? It’s a tall task, but a fourth-place Daytona effort was a large step in the right direction.

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Toni Breidinger

Continue to improve. Two years ago, Breidinger had a lousy full-time season. In 2023 she significantly improved with all-around better statistics. She scored four top fives and seven top 10s in her part-time slate last year. Keep going. Like Amber Balcaen, Breidinger is in top-notch equipment. She should be a lock for top 10s at most racetracks and contend for top fives. Once she is running top five, she’ll fight for a podium spot and try to snag a victory. Breidinger is very marketable right now; making her name prominently known for her on-track successes will further bolster her stock as she tries to climb the ladder into more Truck Series starts.

Caleb Costner

Meet his expectations of running top 10 and hopefully challenge for a victory. Caleb Costner owns 10 starts across the ARCA platform, half of a full season. Excluding his 35th-place showing at Daytona, Costner has raced between 15th to 25th.

A full-time effort ought to yield more top 10s. Furthermore, his Costner Weaver Motorsports team expanded to field DL Wilson full time in the East. Having a teammate to talk to as well as a second car to gather data ought to pay dividends.

Although Costner will gain points simply by running the full season, his performance in the first four races – Daytona, Phoenix Raceway, Talladega Superspeedway and Dover Motor Speedway – will be a good sign of CWM’s progress. Will Costner win the title? No. But driving wisely will allow him to gain points when his competition falters.

Amber Balcaen

Run well by finishing on the lead lap. Balcaen had a dismal 2022 rookie season, especially compared to her Rette Jones Racing successor Frankie Muniz. Overall, in 24 career starts, she has eight top 10s but only four lead lap finishes. In 2024, she must improve dramatically; VMS equipment is top notch. The organization won the national series and ARCA Menards Series West drivers titles in 2023.

Balcaen persevered at Daytona by piloting a damaged racecar and still received two free passes en route to a lead lap ninth-place finish. It’s a good start. Races like that, with perseverance, will show whether the almost 32-year-old can make it in NASCAR.

Alex Clubb

Finish races. Clubb has finished about half of the races in his ARCA career [24 of 47]. Understandably he’s an underfunded underdog so mechanical woes have cost him more than top-tier drivers.

Clubb has more knowledge about the ARCA racetracks than many of his counterparts. He’s served as a crew chief, owner and driver. He’s built a solid notebook on these racetracks. If he evades mechanical gremlins or other challenges facing underfunded teams, he will not overdrive his racecar. As an owner/driver, he knows if he wrecks it, he’s got to fix it himself and he’s paying for it.

What then are realistic expectations? Finishing all the races pointing himself to a top-10 spot. As he showed at Daytona, logging all the laps gained him valuable positions, all the way to eighth, his fourth top 10.

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Michael Maples

Match Jon Garrett’s 2023 performance. Michael Maples bought two racecars from Garrett. Garrett notched five top 10s en route to fifth in the points. With more full-time competitors, Maples’ goal of a top 10 points run could be a good storyline to follow.

Maples will learn ARCA short tracks quicker by running the three East standalone races. He bought two short track racecars that were previously driven by Bridget Burgess. She scored nine top 10s in her 31-race West tenure. If Maples can replicate her 29.0% top-10 percentage on the short tracks and match Garrett’s 15.0 average finish on intermediates, Maples will be firmly in the top-10 points chase.

Brad Smith

Run clean throughout the season. Brad Smith will not be competing for victories. His speed and equipment are typically far off the pace. Making it to the racetrack every week is an accomplishment. He has the benefit of the Golden A plan. His owner points locked him into Daytona and very likely may do so at Phoenix and Talladega. Smith will hope to capitalize on attrition and run clean throughout the season. He has 426 career ARCA starts. Running clean, completing as many laps as possible and hoping his competitors struggle might land him his ninth straight top-10 points finish.

Greg Van Alst

Rub some rabbit’s feet for good luck. After a popular upset in 2023 at Daytona, Greg Van Alst endured continuous bad luck. Van Alst was running well at Charlotte Motor Speedway before Connor Mosack sent him hard into the wall. A lack of outside funding compounded with the loss of his father and the frustrations of the season made him opt for a part-time campaign. Except his luck when he participated in Xfinity and Truck races did not improve.

Hit a reset in 2024. Van Alst drove like a man hungry for a repeat win at Daytona and came up two spots shy. Van Alst intends on running for the crown again and he’s shown he has the talent and the motivation. Add in some luck and he will take Van Alst Motorsports back to victory lane. If he nabs a trophy or two, I wouldn’t count Van Alst out as a dark horse in the championship fight.

Andy Jankowiak

First, run the full season. Jankowiak is committed to 12 races this season, including the first seven. So being successful in those races as well as securing the funding to make it the full season is the first step.

Then, show his talent. Jankowiak already showed his hunger for success with a memorable quote at Daytona. Of the next six venues on the schedule, he has run decently at Talladega and Kansas Speedway and well at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but he zero starts at the other three.

If Jankowiak can run and finish strong in the next three races, his odds of contending for victories and good points positions long-term seem higher. If not? He and his KLAS Motorsports will have to go back to the drawing board while indulging in pizza.

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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