By Christian Koelle, Staff Writer
It has been 83 days since the ARCA Menards Series crowned a champion at Kansas Speedway.
This weekend, the ARCA Menards Series kicks off the 2022 schedule with the annual preseason test at the Daytona International Speedway. This year’s test holds many new storylines as the ARCA Menards Series season is just a short 35 days away.
Here is the preview for this weekend’s preseason test at Daytona.
Defending ARCA Menards Series champion Ty Gibbs has moved on to greener pastures and will not participate in this year’s ARCA test at Daytona. Joe Gibbs Racing though will be involved with Sammy Smith’s promotion from the ARCA Menards Series East. Due to the East Series champion not being old enough to run the season opener at Daytona, he’s merely running his first laps on the high banks at Daytona. Drew Dollar has moved over from Venturini Motorsports to run Joe Gibbs’s car during the ARCA test but it has not been confirmed that Dollar will run for the team in 2022.
As the time has grown closer to the season opener, it has been revealed that Venturini Motorsports will not have a full-time car running for the 2022 ARCA Menards Series championship. It will however have a good amount of drivers racing for them this season. Parker Chase, Corey Heim, Jesse Love, and Toni Breidinger will all test with Venturini Motorsports this weekend at Daytona. All four drivers are returning to the organization from 2021.
Speaking of full-time drivers in 2022, Rev Racing will have two cars running for the ARCA Menards Series title in 2022. Nick Sanchez earned his first career victory in the last race of 2021 at Kansas and will look to gain on that momentum. He finished third in ARCA points in 2021 and is the highest driver in points from last season running full-time in 2022. Joining him will be Rajah Caruth, promoted from the ARCA Menards Series East. Caruth will be splitting his time between running for the ARCA championship and running with Alpha Prime Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
DeLand, Flordia native Daniel Dye will make his Daytona International Speedway debut in 2022. One of the breakout drivers from 2021 will run full-time for GMS Racing this season after splitting his time in the National and East Series. NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Jack Wood ran at Daytona in 2021 for GMS Racing finishing ninth. The test this weekend will feature Dye’s debut on a Superspeedway and first start on a track larger than one mile.
Rette Jones Racing returns to the Daytona International Speedway with a new driver from the West Series. Amber Balcaen will run full-time for the organization in 2022. The Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada native competed in three races in 2021 with Bill McAnally Racing with the best finish of 11th at Irwindale. Rette Jones Racing competed in 13 races in 2021 with six different drivers. Balcaen, much like Dye, will use the test this weekend to make her debut on a track larger than a .5-mile. 2021 New Smyrna East Series winner Max Gutierrez and Logan Bearden will also test with RJR.
Mullins Racing will have a stern representation in this weekend’s test with the second most drivers of any other team. Willie Mullins will test the newly painted black No. 3 Chevrolet (only black for the test). Six drivers will share the No. 3 Ford Fusion. Logan Clark, Cole Bruce, Brayton Laster, Blake Lothian, Brad Perez, and Robert Bruce will all split the Ford Fusion during the weekend test.
As usual, Fast Track Racing and Andy Hillenburg will have the most drivers participating in this weekend’s test at 15. Arnout Kok, Devon Rouse, Brandon Varney, Jon Garrett, Tanner Allen, Ed Pompa, Tim Monroe, Chuck Hiers, Tony Cosentino, Marc Aigeldinger, and Martin Doubek will all test for Fast Track Racing this weekend. Hunter Jack, Luke Fenhaus, Jake Drew, and Mason Diaz will also test with Fast Track as part of the 2022 ‘Road to Daytona’ lineup. All four drivers have proven themselves in their respective Series’ in order to receive the opportunity. Drew was the leading driver in the ARCA Menards Series West while Diaz was the leading driver in the East not to already have an opportunity lined up to test.
Standout drivers from the Superspeedway races in 2021 Greg Van Alst (third-place start at Daytona) and Dave Mader III will both test this weekend. Van Alst had two solid runs going in 2021 before being collected in accidents in both races. He qualified third in the season-opener last season. 66-year old Mader finished second at Talladega last season, his first runner-up finish since 1991.
Dean Thompson will test at Daytona with Niece Motorsports this weekend. The ARCA Menards Series West standout from 2021 will be going full-time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this season. It is expected that Thompson will test at Daytona to gain approval to run in the season-opener for the NCWTS the day before the ARCA Menards Series races at Daytona. Thompson will test alongside Tyler Carpenter, the Gateway Dirt Nationals winner, who will receive an opportunity to run the Knoxville Truck Series race later this season after his victory in St. Louis.
Josh Williams Racing returns to the ARCA Menards Series with Michael Lira, son of longtime ARCA Menards Series team owner Carlos Lira. Logan Misuraca and Daniel Escota will also test the No. 60 in Williams return to ARCA. Brad Perez, who is testing with Mullins Racing, ran for Josh Williams in 2021 at Watkins Glen last season.
David Gilliland Racing isn’t entered in the weekend’s test. Tanner Gray and Thad Moffitt had competed at Daytona in 2021 with the organization while Taylor Gray, Joey Iest, and J.P. Bergeron competed in other races during the 2021 season. According to the DGR website, “See you in 2022!” on both the ARCA Menards Series and West Series pages at the bottom but no plans have been revealed for the organization.
The fastest driver from the 2021 ARCA Menards Series Daytona test, Derrick Lancaster, will not test at Daytona in 2022. Lancaster was involved in a horrific accident at Talladega in 2021 resulting in major burns. Lancaster told Kickin’ the Tires in 2021 that he’s not done and most recently told The Roanoke Times in July that he wants to drive again.
Testing will kick off at 10 a.m. ET on Friday, January 14th and will run through 5 p.m. ET. It will go 10 a.m. ET through 5 p.m. ET again on Saturday, January 15th. Should weather intervene, the make-up date will be on Sunday, January 16th. Live timing and scoring will be available on ARCARacing.com. Stay tuned to Kickin’ the Tires as we will give a rundown on each day of testing.
Photo: Kate Gardiner/ARCA Racing