Race Weekend Central

When Will a Full-Time ARCA Driver Reach Victory Lane?

As the 2024 ARCA Menards Series season hits the quarter mark of its season, a full-time driver has yet to reach victory lane. In fact, of the 10 full-time drivers this season, only one has led laps. That’s Greg Van Alst, who led three laps at the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. However, it’s not necessarily a bad thing for the series. In fact, it’s just the opposite.

This is something very unlike the upper levels of NASCAR, especially with the modern-day playoff format each of the top three series partake in. However, ARCA isn’t those series, and the lack of winning among championship contenders thus far has set up a very intriguing championship battle to start the season. It seems as if season-long consistency will crown a champion at Toledo Speedway come October, which really gives the series an old-fashioned feel to it.

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However, the point still stands that none of these drivers have competed for victories this far. Two full-time drivers, Michael Maples and Alex Clubb, work on much smaller budgets than their fellow full-time competitors. However, both have had their own successes to start 2024. Clubb scored his career-best finish at Daytona, and Maples, a rookie to ARCA, has kept pace with his Fast Track Racing teammates most every weekend thus far.

As for the remainder of the eight full-time drivers, just because there is a lack of winning throughout the group, it doesn’t take away from the quality of the group overall. The trio of Venturini Motorsports drivers have shown flashes of consistency, each scoring three top 10s in the first five races of 2024. However, early wrecks at Daytona took Kris Wright and Toni Breidinger out of contention for wins, and with a deeper field, put them in a deeper points deficit to start the season. Amber Balcaen suffered much of the same fate, losing out on valuable points at Dover Motor Speedway after a wreck.

Christian Rose and Van Alst each find themselves in the top five in points to start the season. Rose in particular has shown noticeable improvement from 2023, matching his top five total of two in the first three races of 2024. However, after a wreck at Dover due to tire failure, and contact while running inside the top 10 at Kansas Speedway, he has back-to-back finishes of 14th or worse, putting him 20 points back to start the season. Van Alst has finished every race but only done so within the top 10 twice, at Daytona and Dover. However, by finishing every race, he sits only six points outside of the points lead heading into Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Each season, some races get larger car counts than others, whether that be due to combination races, or drafting tracks like Daytona or Talladega Superspeedway, that act as a great equalizer for teams. With more cars on track, naturally, more points are on the table, and full-time drivers have to capitalize on those opportunities. Andy Jankowiak has run into trouble in two of those races, finishing 27th at both Phoenix Raceway and Talladega, both races where more than 30 cars started. In the other three races, however, Jankowiak has finished inside the top ten. That puts Jankowiak seventh in points after five races, 37 markers back.

Lastly, a pair of Rev Racing teammates, Lavar Scott and Andres Perez de Lara, who respectively sit first and sixth in the standings. Scott, like many other full-timers, has run into issues in races with larger fields. He finished 15th at Daytona after an incident, and 31st at Talladega after fuel pressure issues ended his race early. Add in a 13th-place finish at Kansas due to contact with the wall, and Scott finds himself 33 points behind his teammate. As for Perez de Lara, he has not led a lap, and only has one top-five finish, yet holds the points lead. What he has done, however, is finish every race, and done so in the top 10 in four of those races, with the only outlier being a 12th-place run at Daytona.

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There is also something to be said for the winners of the national division so far. Each of the five winners are very respectable drivers — they just happen to not be full-time. Gus Dean is always very competitive at drafting tracks, and with a good VMS car underneath him, a win wasn’t necessarily unprecedented. The pair of William Sawalich and Connor Zilisch are widely considered to be two of this most sought-after talents working their way up in the ranks — however, due to their age, they can’t compete on larger-style tracks yet. With that being said, wins from either driver aren’t necessarily shocking on tracks they are eligible to compete on.

Jake Finch has also shown very well in his starts, but since he’s sharing the VMS No. 20 with Gio Ruggiero, he loses out on full-time points, keeping him from competing for the championship. The other winner, Connor Mosack, has a part-time schedule in a number of series this season, and has been competitive in his numerous ARCA starts, winning twice, but like Finch, lacks the full-time status to join the championship battle.

While the lack of wins by full-time drivers could seem troubling to some fans, it’s something that should be celebrated. The drivers in the series are more than capable of winning, and any one of the current top eight in the points standings could crack victory lane on any given race week. However, if the first five races are any indication, consistency from each of those full-time drivers over the last 15 races of the season is going to be what crowns a champion. That sets up a potentially vintage points battle that is sure to be something to watch over the course of the summer months. 

About the author

Josh joined Frontstretch in 2023 and currently covers the ARCA Menards Series. Born and raised in Missouri, Josh has been watching motorsports since 2005. He currently is studying for a Mass Communication degree at Lindenwood University

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