As the final days of the 2021 calendar tick away, ARCA Menards Series teams have already begun their preparations for the 2022 season. For a few young drivers, 2022 will open with the opportunity of a lifetime.
Officials from the ARCA Menards Series have named four drivers — Hunter Jack, Luke Fenhaus, Jake Drew and Mason Diaz — who have earned a Road to Daytona seat for the 2022 pre-race practice session at Daytona International Speedway on Jan. 14-15 as a result of their on-track performance in 2021.
The Road to Daytona initiative began in 2012 to allow drivers the chance to go from local short tracks to stock car racing’s most hallowed ground at Daytona and make laps under preseason practice conditions. Standouts from the ARCA/CRA Super Series and the ARCA Midwest Tour have participated in the program from its inception, and they have been joined by representatives from the ARCA Menards Series East and ARCA Menards Series West since 2020.
For some of these drivers, their participation marks the first time they’ve visited Daytona. For nearly all of them, it marks the first time they’ve turned a lap at the 2.5-mile superspeedway.
The Road to Daytona participants will once again run cars prepared by Andy Hillenburg’s Fast Track Racing team. Hillenburg, the 1995 ARCA Menards Series champion and a two-time AMS winner at Daytona, will also personally coach each racer as they get ready to hit the track at 180-plus mph for the first time.
Representing the ARCA/CRA Super Series is Jack, the 2021 champion whose fifth consecutive finish inside the top 10 of the final standings culminated in the title.
Jack, a Butler, Indiana, native and son of longtime ARCA late model driver Brent Jack, bested Cody Coughlin and Kyle Crump in the famed Winchester 400 season finale to claim his first series championship.
The ARCA Midwest Tour will send to Daytona its 2021 Rookie of the Year. Fenhaus finished second in the final point standings to five-time series champ (and former Road to Daytona participant) Ty Majeski in 2021. Fenhaus, 17, held off Derek Kraus — yet another former Road to Daytona participant — to win the Slinger Nationals after taming the tough, high-banked quarter mile.
Less than a week later, Fenhaus found himself back at Slinger behind the wheel of a Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) machine, competing against a who’s-who of racers in Tony Stewart and Ray Evernham’s startup series. Fenhaus was leading in the waning laps until a caution flag allowed Marco Andretti to get past the Wausau, Wisconsin, local, ultimately knocking Fenhaus back to second.
Drew nearly took the ARCA Menards Series West championship despite not winning a race in 2021, but a stunning turn of events on the final lap of the final event at Phoenix Raceway propelled Jesse Love to tie Drew in the standings, with Love coming out ahead on a tiebreaker.
A karting convert, Drew quickly showed he could excel at both ovals and road courses, leading the series with three General Tire Pole Awards at Sonoma Raceway, Portland International Raceway and The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Drew will return to West Series competition in 2022 as a favorite to avenge 2021’s heartbreak.
Rounding out the group is Diaz, the ARCA Menards Series East representative and the only driver to have started all 14 races since the former NASCAR K&N Pro Series East was rebranded as the ARCA Menards Series East before the 2020 season.
Diaz had top fives in each of the first three races in 2021. He also led 130 laps from the pole at his home track of Southern National Motorsports Park, but mechanical issues at the end of the East season saw him plummet from second to sixth in the final standings. Diaz has the most high-level experience of the group, making seven starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series scattered between 2017-20.
Additional support for the Road to Daytona program is provided by ARCA Menards Series partners General Tire, Ilmor Engines, Eibach Springs, Sunoco and JRi Shocks. Further information regarding the 2022 pre-season practice at Daytona can be found at ARCARacing.com.