By Christian Koelle, Staff Writer
For the 60th time in ARCA Menards Series history, the ARCA Menards Series will run the high banks of the Daytona International Speedway.
Saturday’s race at Daytona marks the start of the 2023 ARCA Menards Series season. Rewind to the last time the ARCA Menards Series raced at Daytona, Corey Heim picked up his second straight victory at the 2.5-mile superspeedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. Heim is not entered in Saturday’s event, meaning he will not earn the three-peat, a feat only done by one driver. That driver was the “King” of ARCA at Daytona, Bobby Gerhart. Gerhart pulled off the feat twice winning from 2005-2007 and 2010-2012.
Drivers who have earned victories at Daytona in the ARCA Menards Series include Michael Self, Harrison Burton, John Wes Townley, James Buescher, Michael Annett, Kyle Busch, Chase Montgomery, Ryan Newman, Kenny Irwin Jr., Andy Hillenburg, Mike Wallace, Grant Adcox, Tim Richmond, and Kyle Petty just to name a few.
Jesse Love will compete for the 2023 ARCA Menards Series championship with Venturini Motorsports after running a partial schedule for the last three seasons. During those three seasons, Love has tallied two victories with his first coming at Salem Speedway in 2021. Love has earned two ARCA Menards Series West championships with Bill McAnally Racing in 2020 and 2021 in his last full-time season. Love will jump into the No. 20 Yahoo Toyota Camry starting at Daytona, the same car that earned two straight victories at Daytona with Heim.
Nick Sanchez and Rajah Caruth both have been promoted to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2023. Their spots have been filled though for the 2023 season. The defending ARCA Menards Series championship-winning car will run at Daytona with ARCA Menards Series rookie Lavar Scott. Scott will make his ARCA Menards Series debut at Daytona as he will be filling in for Andres Perez de Lara who will not be old enough to compete at Daytona. Scott will run the full ARCA Menards Series East schedule in 2023 after running at Daytona. As for Caruth’s No. 6, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Jack Wood will make his return to the ARCA Menards Series running a total of seven races with Rev Racing. Wood raced at Daytona in the ARCA Menards Series to a ninth-place finish in 2021 with GMS Racing. Wood also competed in the NCTS season opener last season finishing 33rd after a crash.
After making her ARCA Menards Series debut at Lucas Oil Raceway Park last season, Mandy Chick will run the full ARCA Menards Series schedule in 2023. The 21-year-old from DeSoto, Kansas is the daughter of former NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series owner Steve Chick Jr. Chick made two starts in the ARCA Menards Series last season with the best finish of 16th at the Milwaukee Mile. She was the 41st fastest of 61 drivers during the annual ARCA Menards Series pre-race practice last month and will be meeting many of the tracks on the ARCA Menards Series schedule for the first time.
If you have heard of Fort Worth Screen Printing, you’ve heard of Jon Garrett. Garrett joins Veer Motorsports, in association with Fast Track Racing, to run a full season in the ARCA Menards Series. Garrett owns long-time NASCAR partner Fort Worth Screen Printing that has been on multiple cars over the last few years. The 52-year-old from Athens, Texas has three career starts in the ARCA Menards Series making his debut at Talladega last spring. He made two other starts at Pocono and Kansas sealing his first career top-10 finish at Kansas. Garrett told Kickin’ the Tires last season that he was learning and getting better as the season progressed, it will be interesting to see how Garrett improves during the 2023 ARCA Menards Series season.
Throwing the field a fastball, former baseball player Christian Rose will run the full season for AM Racing in 2023. AM Racing makes its return to the ARCA Menards Series for the first time since 2021. Rose has a wide variety of experience in the ARCA Menards Series spanning from the ARCA Menards Series East to ARCA Menards Series West. He has eight starts at the National ARCA level, six starts in the East, and five starts in the West. Missing only Lucas Oil Raceway Park in 2022, Rose ran the majority of the ARCA Menards Series East races finishing seventh in points. He has the best finish of seventh twice in his career finishing seventh in his last ARCA Menards Series race last year at Kansas. He also finished seventh at All-American Speedway in the West Series in 2021. Transmission issues sidelined him during last year’s season opener at Daytona relegating him to a 31st-place finish. Rose finished the preseason practice 30th of 61 drivers in his return to Daytona.
Malcolm in the Middle star Frankie Muniz will embark on his first full-time season in the ARCA Menards Series in 2023. Muniz will pilot the No. 30 for Rette Jones Racing that Amber Balcaen ran during the 2022 season. Muniz’s life around racing goes back to the 2001 Daytona 500 where the Malcolm in the Middle star drove the pace car. Muniz has been trying his hand at racing throughout his life and finally, in 2023, he’ll get the opportunity to run for a championship. Muniz had speed during the preseason practice finishing 10th out of 61 drivers.
Muniz will be the last full-time driver we’ll speak on as we transfer over to drivers entered in the Brandt 200 without a full-time season either announced or planned.
If you are new to ARCA, the first thing you need to do is head on over to TikTok and give @dinahmmullins a follow. Mullins Racing returns to Daytona with “Big” Willie Mullins and Brayton Laster. Mullins Racing will give Daytona a run for its money with the lineup from the 2022 Daytona race returning. In 2022 the No. 03 and No. 3 finished 13th and 14th and considering that was Laster’s debut race it’ll be interesting to see what he can do in his second Daytona start. He did finish seventh in the preseason practice last month meaning that if he finds himself in the right place, at the right time, they could be serving pizza in victory lane after the Brandt 200.
Every time Sean Corr’s name pops up on the entry list at a superspeedway, the field always needs to be on its toes, especially at Daytona. Corr will make his 60th ARCA Menards Series start Saturday with now 15 of those coming at the Daytona International Speedway. Corr started on the pole in the 2012 edition but finished 43rd after having engine issues. He finished fifth in 2013 and 2019 and fourth in 2020 and 2022. Since debuting in 2009, he’s been a statement driver at Daytona, and don’t be surprised if the Goshen, New York driver finds his way to a podium finish in 2023.
Venturini Motorsports will make it mightily tough for anyone to dethrone the organization this weekend. Adding Amber Balcaen to the lineup in 2023 as well as Gus Dean and Toni Breidinger returning, Venturini Motorsports wants three victories in a row at Daytona. Breidinger and Balcaen both topped the overall speed charts during the preseason practice showing those two can get the speed down. Dean will be making his 60th ARCA Menards Series start as well and is coming off the best career season he’s had since he last ran full-time in ARCA in 2018.
Despite Ty Gibbs and Sammy Smith getting promoted from the ARCA Menards Series program, Joe Gibbs Racing will remain. William Sawalich will run the No. 18 in a good amount of ARCA Menards Series races this season but due to not being old enough, Connor Mosack will try his hand at the Daytona International Speedway. Both Mosack and Sawalich ran the preseason practice with Joe Gibbs Racing turning the fifth and 14th fastest times of the weekend. Sawalich finished fifth but will wait until Phoenix Raceway to make his ARCA Menards Series debut. As for Mosack, he has started in the NASCAR Xfinity, Craftsman Truck, and all three ARCA Menards Series’. In 2022 with Bret Holmes Racing, Mosack tallied four top-five finishes with his best, a third-place finish, at Iowa Speedway. It will be his superspeedway debut and will be his first of six starts in the ARCA Menards Series while he will also run three races with the organization in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. He also has 20 starts slated with Sam Hunt Racing in the Xfinity Series on top of the starts with JGR.
The BRANDT 200 supporting Florida FFA goes live on FOX Sports 1 at 1:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, February 18th. It will be the first race of a new monumental deal with FOX and the ARCA Menards Series. The race will also be available to stream on the FOX Sports App and can be listened to via MRN, SiriusXM (XM channel 391/online channel 981), or ARCARacing.com. Unlike the 65th running of the Daytona 500 the following day, tickets are still available for purchase starting at just $49 for a general admission ticket to both the BRANDT 200 ARCA Menards Series race and Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race. For those interested in purchasing tickets, you can do so by clicking here or giving the ticket office a call at 800) 748-7467.