Race Weekend Central

ARCA Power Rankings: Greg Van Alst Is the New Points Leader

NASCAR was in town at Phoenix Raceway and so Mother Nature had to be unkind to one of the series events. On Friday (March 8) night, it was the ARCA Menards Series.

Lightning and precipitation forced series officials to end the 150-lap race early at lap 115. In a makeshift victory lane, William Sawalich celebrated his first win of the 2024 season.

See also
William Sawalich Outduels Gio Ruggiero, Wins ARCA Race at Phoenix

Two races are complete for the ARCA regulars. A new points leader and four new drivers are in the Frontstretch ARCA power rankings.

1. Greg Van Alst

For the second-straight year, Greg Van Alst left Phoenix with the series points lead. He did not have the most exciting result, 13th, and he and his teammate Isaac Johnson both spun in the race.

What positive takeaways can Van Alst take away Phoenix beyond the series point lead? He acquired a new sponsor for the race and he left with a clean racecar. Moreover, the next ARCA race is at Talladega Superspeedway. While Van Alst’s most recent trip there, in a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event, ended with an injury, he’s shown speed there in his No. 35 ARCA car. In all three of his starts there, he has started inside the top 20, including a seventh-place start last year.

Van Alst left Phoenix with the points lead, two clean racecars for his organization and confidence for Talladega.

2. William Sawalich

In only 14 career starts, Sawalich has five wins, 12 top fives and 13 top 10s. His lone finish outside the top 10 was a 13th-place showing at Phoenix last year, an event where he won the pole, led a race-high 94 laps and was in contention for the victory before a spin ended his chances.

Sawalich will continue to rack up impressive statistics this season. He’s already 41st in ARCA history with 617 laps led as well as 43rd with five victories.

Yes, Sawalich is driving in top-notch equipment for Joe Gibbs Racing. Let’s consider though that he’s still in high school, he’s taking two college courses and he’s only 17-years old. Sawalich has a very bright future ahead of him.

3. Gio Ruggiero

In his national series debut, Gio Ruggiero piloted the No. 20 Venturini Motorsports Toyota to a runner-up finish, one shy of matching Tyler Reif, who won last year, for drivers earning their first career win at Phoenix in their series debuts, too.

Ruggiero drove an ARCA racecar for only the second time. Sawalich on the other hand has 27 starts across the ARCA series. Ruggiero did not falter, leading 49 laps and cleanly battling Sawalich for the lead.

Ruggiero’s second-place result also earned his VMS team 43 points. Yes, it is only the season’s second race, but VMS won both the owner and driver titles last year. After Jake Finch wound up 11th at Daytona International Speedway, those 43 points will aid Venturini in its repeat bid.

We’ll be seeing Ruggiero quite a bit in ARCA competition in 2024. He will contest the full ARCA Menards Series East schedule, battling Sawalich for that crown too, as well as a few other national and ARCA Menards Series West starts. Ruggiero came up one position short of winning Phoenix, but he’s a good bet to win an ARCA race, if not more, in 2024.

4. Isabella Robusto

In her long-awaited debut, Isabella Robusto displayed her talent. She wheeled her No. 55 Toyota against the best in ARCA, including current NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Grant Enfinger. Her racecar had good long-run speed, so had Mother Nature not ended the race early, Robusto could have improved upon her sixth-place outcome.

According to the schedule on her website, Robusto has seven more starts in the ARCA platform set for 2024. With various racetracks on her schedule, ranging from road courses such as Sonoma Raceway to short tracks such as Elko Speedway to 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway, Robusto will gain valuable experience in an ARCA racecar. Considering she said she has some things to improve upon and still ran inside the top five for much of the race, Robusto will be a force to be reckoned with when she climbs into a VMS Toyota this year.

5. Christian Rose

Christian Rose quietly is second in the points, tied with Andres Perez de Lara and five behind Van Alst. Yes, there have only been two races thus far this season, but Rose has quietly bettered himself at both race tracks. At Daytona, he finished fourth for his third career top five. And then at Phoenix, he finished 16th, his personal best there too.

With a larger crop of full-time drivers, Rose must improve to contend for the championship. Earning personal bests throughout the season will help. At Talladega last year, he gained seven positions from start to finish en route to 17th. Can he likewise improve upon his starting position this season? If so, he will remain firmly in the championship hunt.

See also
Counting CARS: 3 Takeaways From Carson Kvapil's Season-Opening Win

Paint Scheme of the Race

Phoenix is the only combination race featuring the national and West tours. A byproduct of that was a stronger field, which sent three drivers home with DNQs. As such, with a cool paint scheme and a number with the font reminiscent of GMS Racing, Enfinger and his SPS Racing team take home the Paint Scheme of the Race award from Phoenix.

Enfinger told FOX Sports 1 that Phoenix is his only scheduled ARCA race in 2024, and he certainly did not disappoint. He piloted the No. 23 Chevrolet in the top five all race and came home with a podium finish of third. For SPS, it is the organization’s best-ever finish.

ARCA drivers take a month and a half off until they visit Talladega. That race will take place on Saturday, April 20 at 12:30 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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WJW Motorsports

I was impressed with Isabella – she drove a very solid race, didn’t try to overdrive the car/track. Rooting for her this year.

Last edited 1 month ago by WJW Motorsports
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