Early in 2022, Rev Racing announced Nick Sanchez would return to its program for the fourth consecutive year, this time as a full-time driver in the ARCA Menards Series with the goal of winning a series championship.
The 21-year-old from Miami, Florida, accomplished exactly that by claiming the 2022 ARCA Menards Series championship. In doing so, Sanchez became the first Rev Racing driver to capture a NASCAR or ARCA touring series title since Kyle Larson won the East Series title in 2012.
“It has kind of set in,” Sanchez said about becoming the 2022 ARCA Menards Series champion. “Talking to my team, reliving all the good and bad moments, seeing all the trophies, it kind of has set in. I’m still very much enjoying it.”
Sanchez claimed three victories throughout his first year driving full-time in the ARCA Menards Series, taking checkered flags at Talladega Superspeedway, Kansas Speedway and Michigan International Speedway.
“We took every opportunity we could to try to get a win and get as many points as we could,” Sanchez said. “I think my team did the best job at that. We were just on it.”
Looking back on those triumphs, Sanchez believes his victory at Talladega was of particular importance due to the larger field size compared to the short tracks on the ARCA Menards Series schedule.
“Talladega is a wild card, but I think that was probably the most important race in terms of not just that we won, but the finishing positions of my main rivals,” Sanchez said. “I think races like that, where you have double the car count compared to if you go to a Berlin or Elko, we capitalized on it. We also didn’t put ourselves in a hole.
“We could have finished as far down the running order as 33rd at Talladega and you can’t finish 33rd at Elko because there aren’t that many cars. Races like that, we were very mindful of the benefit of winning but also how much screwing it up could hurt.”
Sanchez, who entered the ARCA Menards Series season finale at Toledo Speedway with just a two-point edge over GMS Racing’s Daniel Dye in the championship standings, secured the title with a sixth-place finish in the Shore Lunch 200. He ended the season with nine top fives and 16 top-10 finishes through 20 races.
“For the first three quarters of the year we wanted to win every race,” Sanchez said. “I think because we won those three races, it kind of got us into the championship circle. We really got those extra points early. My main competitors racing for the championship didn’t have those wins. They didn’t have those bonus points.
“There were many other races we could have won and should have won, but there were probably some other races where we shouldn’t have finished as good as we had. It was just making the bad days good, and I think at the end of the day that is what got us to the end of the year and hoisting a championship trophy.”
The finale at Toledo turned out to be an extremely stressful affair for Sanchez, who didn’t turn a lap in practice due to an engine issue. He qualified eighth and battled Dye for much of the race before Dye limped to the pits during the second half of the race with a broken right-front ball joint on his No. 43 Chevrolet.
“We qualified and raced a lot better than expected,” Sanchez said. “I think if Daniel had stayed in the race, it would have been close. I really think at the end we would have come alive. I think it was a good battle, but obviously it made it a lot easier when the 43 had mechanical issues.
“My team never told me what happened to the 43, but I could see him in the pits every lap. Every lap I go by and he’s sitting there and I’m just feeling better and better about my chances. Obviously it got to a point he was enough laps down to where it was mathematically impossible to lose the championship. At that point those were the easiest laps of my life, and I was just enjoying myself.”
Sanchez has been a participant of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Driver Development Program since joining Rev Racing in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series in 2017. He joined the East Series two years later with the team, scoring a pair of top-10 finishes, including a pole at Virginia’s South Boston Speedway, in three starts.
The following year, Sanchez ran the full East Series schedule and finished third in the standings. He spent 2021 running most of the ARCA Menards Series schedule before moving to a full-time slate this season with the team run by Max Siegel.
“Max took a chance on me in 2017 in Legend Cars and built me into the driver I am today,” Sanchez said. “For me to get the championship and for my team to get it for him is huge. I know he greatly appreciates it and it is satisfying for him to see his team get it done.
“Obviously if it wasn’t for Max, Chevrolet and Gainbridge, this would not be possible.”
In addition to his action in the ARCA Menards Series in 2022, Sanchez also made his debut in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. He made eight starts for Big Machine Racing and B.J. McLeod Motorsports, earning a best finish of seventh at Martinsville Speedway on Oct. 29.
With the ARCA Menards Series championship now on his resume, Sanchez will turn his attention to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2023.
He’ll remain with Rev Racing, who have formed a technical alliance with Kyle Busch Motorsports to compete in the Truck Series for the first time in team history.
It’s an opportunity Sanchez is keen to take advantage of.
“I’m just excited. The only thing I’m focused on next year is winning,” Sanchez said. “It feels like every step I take it just gets a little bit easier in that sense. When I started off with Rev Racing we were struggling for top 10s in the ARCA Menards Series. This year I wanted to win, I wanted to win every race.
“The only thing that is going to satisfy me next year is wins. Not top fives, not top 10s, not laps led, not poles — I want to win. I am making it very clear to my Rev team, and I’m trying to work to be an even better driver for next year.”