Race Weekend Central

ARCA Power Rankings: East Series Trio Enters the Top 5

Dover Motor Speedway held its first combination race featuring the ARCA Menards Series and ARCA Menards Series East and it sure was eventful.

About one-third of the race was contested under caution [52 of the 150 laps] and it featured eight cautions, the most for an East event there since 2012.

When the checkered flag flew, Connor Zilisch parked his No. 28 Pinnacle Racing Group Chevrolet in victory lane, his first ARCA series victory. For Pinnacle, it is its third East win and second main series win.

See also
Connor Zilisch Earns 1st ARCA Win at Dover

Eight of the top 10 in the national division points changed positions.

How did The Monster Mile affect the Frontstretch power rankings?

1. Andres Perez de Lara

On the strength of a series-high three top 10s, Andres Perez de Lara became the new points leader. Among series regulars, he has the best average finish, 8.3, and his worst finish was a 12th-place DNF at Daytona International Speedway.

Perez de Lara made his 25th career ARCA start at Dover.

Overall, he has 11 top fives, 19 top 10s and only one finish outside the top 20 – 40th in the 2023 Daytona race. He was underage for that event so he only drove one lap during practice.

Perez de Lara’s runner-up points finish in 2023 and his lead in 2024 are due to his ability to finish races. He only has four DNFs in his 25 starts. Two at Daytona, an engine failure at Michigan International Speedway – where he led the most laps in that race – and a crash in the second race at Kansas Speedway last year.

Perez de Lara has proven he is a clean racer, and his lead lap fifth-place showing at Dover is the type of consistent run that will keep him in the championship fight, if not winning it overall.

2. Greg Van Alst

Greg Van Alst had an up-and-down day at “The Monster Mile.” He was 15th in both practice and qualifying and he ground his way throughout the race. He fell one lap down three times, only to receive the lucky dog on three subsequent cautions to return to the lead lap. He finished as the last driver on the lead lap in eighth place.

His methodical approach kept him both second in points and one lap behind the leader.

“We started off the weekend in the Holzerman General Contracting Ford terrible,” Van Alst told Rubbins’ Racing News post-race. “We unloaded bad and just kept working on it all day long. There at the end, I felt like we finally had something to race with. And I think we had a right-front inner liner or equalizer or something but all in all, good points day, brought it home in one piece and go off to Kansas.”

3. Gio Ruggiero

Gio Ruggiero led 41 laps at Dover and came oh-so-close to scoring his first career national triumph, but that barely scratches the surface of his day.

He started third and overtook William Sawalich for the lead, using lapped traffic to his advantage, on lap 17.

The pass earned him the Reese’s Sweet Move of the Race award.

For 41 laps he wheeled his No. 20 Venturini Motorsports Toyota up front, laying down fast lap times en route to lapping more than half of the field. Yet after the first competition caution, Ruggiero beat Sawalich to the restart line, incurring a penalty from series officials.

Fortunately, before Ruggiero served his pass-through penalty, a caution occurred. The saving grace sent him to the tail end of the longest line, though he stayed in the top 10.

Ruggiero piloted his racecar back to the front but never regained the lead. He wound up 0.986 seconds behind winner Zilisch, though his No. 20 had race-winning speed.

Ruggiero left Dover 13th in the national series standings, though his VMS team stayed first in the owner points, 16 ahead of the No. 55 VMS entry. More importantly, Ruggiero remained the East points leader, stretching his lead from two to three points.

Next up for Ruggiero: Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway with the East series. He made his ARCA series debut there in 2023, starting second and finishing fourth. He’ll look to better that to extend his East points lead.

See also
Short Track Weekly: Connor Zilisch Discusses 2024 Success, Racing In Europe And Wanting A Diverse Skillset

4. Connor Zilisch

Only 17 years old, Zilisch has an impressive resume. Capturing the trophy at Dover added to his accomplishments.

He led the final 42 laps en route to adding his name to the list of ARCA winners.

Yes, he made a mistake by sending then-leader Sawalich hard into the wall, but no driver is perfect.

Consider Zilisch’s young stat line in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and ARCA platforms combined: five starts, two wins – Dover was a combo race – five top fives, five top 10s, one pole award and 108 laps led.

Furthermore, Zilisch is only starting his promising NASCAR career. Spire Motorsports added three races to his Truck slate and he has more ARCA starts ahead. This rising phenom’s performance at Dover, coupled with his stardom, lands him No. 4 on these power rankings.

5. William Sawalich

Had Sawalich not pounded the wall, thereby resulting in his first ARCA DNF, he would have landed higher in these rankings.

He was the best in the field at Dover. He posted the fastest time in both practice and qualifying, earning his eighth career pole, and he went toe-to-toe with Ruggiero and Zilisch. Despite his 17th-place result, Sawalich led a race-high 67 circuits. His No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team has given him fast Toyotas.

Unfortunately, his team is not leading the owner’s points in either the national or East standings. Sawalich nabbed four trophies in the main series and four in the East in ’23. He might need to win that many or more for his team to claim another owner’s title.

Paint Scheme of the Race

Back for her second full-time season with VMS, Toni Breidinger has become the face of Raising Cane’s as evidenced by her header photo of her No. 25 Raising Cane’s Toyota.

Breidinger has steadily improved throughout her ARCA career. She had a pair of top 10s entering Dover and she was in position to make it three in a row before she tried clearing herself ahead of teammate Kris Wright. The outcome from her mistake cost her a good finishing spot – she ended up 15th – although she gained two spots in the points up to seventh.

Nevertheless, Breidinger’s No. 25 Raising Cane’s Toyota wins the Dover Paint Scheme of the Race award, albeit the version before she wrecked out of the race.

ARCA competitors next head to Kansas for the Tide 150. It will take place on Saturday, May 4 at 2 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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