Like any opportunity for a race team to hit the track, Friday and Saturday’s ARCA Menards Series pre-race practice at Daytona International Speedway will see teams with a variety of objectives.
More than 60 drivers have registered for this week’s two-day practice session, some prepping for the season-opening Lucas Oil 200 driven by General Tire at Daytona and others looking to gain valuable experience on the legendary high banks at the World Center of Racing.
Below are some storylines to follow during this year’s practice at Daytona.
- Four drivers who have announced plans to run for the 2022 ARCA Menards Series championship — Nick Sanchez, Rajah Caruth, Daniel Dye and Amber Balcaen — will to get their seasons off on the right feet. Of the group, only Sanchez has raced at Daytona; he finished 27th last season after being swept into an early crash. Dye, from nearby Deland, Florida, will be making his first full-season run for the championship in Chevrolets prepared by GMS Racing. Balcaen is driving for Rette Jones Racing, a team that has scored considerable success at Daytona, including a third-place finish with Grant Quinlan in 2019 and a runner-up finish with team co-owner Terry Jones in 2017.
- Defending ARCA Menards Series champion team Joe Gibbs Racing will return in 2022 but will not have a single driver chasing the driver’s championship. Defending ARCA Menards Series East champion Sammy Smith will see a lot of action in the JGR Toyota in 2022, but he will not be eligible to race at Daytona due to age restrictions. Drew Dollar slides over from the Venturini Motorsports program to JGR, and both he and Smith will shake down a pair of No. 18 cars at the Daytona practice.
- Venturini Motorsports is not fielding a driver to chase the series championship in 2022, but the VMS cannon will be loaded at Daytona. Parker Chase, Corey Heim, Jesse Love and Toni Breidinger will all be at Daytona in VMS equipment. Heim was last year’s winner of the Lucas Oil 200 driven by General Tire, and he finished second in the series standings behind Ty Gibbs. Love is the two-time defending champion of the ARCA Menards Series West.
- Former Daytona General Tire Pole Award winner Sean Corr will return, sharing driving duties of the Empire Racing Chevrolet with Connecticut driver Brandon Hunt.
- Greg Van Alst, Andy Jankowiak and Dave Mader III will be at Daytona looking to recapture the magic of successful runs in 2021. Van Alst announced a superspeedway-laden partial schedule last season, and he had some decent runs. He scored his best finish of the season (second), though, on the half-mile at Winchester Speedway. Jankowiak scored a handful of top-10 finishes on a shoestring budget, including an eighth-place run in his series debut at Daytona. He’s coming off a second-place finish in the indoor TQ Midget feature at Allentown, Pennsylvania. Mader, the winner at Michigan International Speedway in 1991, nearly scored the victory last season at Talladega, missing out at the finish line by just 0.086 seconds.
- Two-time ARCA Menards Series race winner Josh Williams will field a car that will be shared by Michael Lira, Logan Misuraca and Daniel Escota.
- ARCA Road to Daytona participants Hunter Jack, Luke Fenhaus, Jake Drew and Mason Diaz will all make laps in a Fast Track High Performance Racing Team entry prepared by 1995 and 1997 Daytona winner Andy Hillenburg.
- Willie Mullins and wife Dinah will field a car for Big Willie himself, and another car shared by Blake Lothian, Brayton Laster, Bradley Perez, Cole Bruce and Logan Clark.
- Niece Motorsports will field entries for Dean Thompson and Tyler Carpenter. Thompson was a regular in the ARCA Menards Series West in 2021 and has already announced he’ll be running full-time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for Niece in 2022.
- One team that will not be at Daytona for the pre-season practice is David Gilliland Racing. DGR fielded entries for Tanner Gray and Thad Moffitt at Daytona last season, with Gray finishing seventh and Moffitt, the great grandson of 1959 Daytona 500 winner Lee Petty and grandson of seven-time 500 winner Richard Petty, finishing 21st.
Practice is set for 10 a.m. ET through 5 p.m. ET on both Friday and Saturday, with a rain-date set for Sunday. Live timing and scoring will be available on ARCARacing.com.
Teams will return to Daytona for the Lucas Oil 200 driven by General Tire in February, with practice set for Thursday, Feb. 17, General Tire Pole Qualifying set for Friday, Feb. 18 and the race on Saturday, Feb. 19. The race will be broadcast live on FS1 and MRN Radio starting at 1:30 p.m. ET.