Of all the drivers who race stock cars across the country, only a small percentage will ever receive opportunities to run on the hallowed high banks of Daytona International Speedway.
With the support of several sponsors, the ARCA Menards Series maintains a program called the Road to Daytona that provides such an experience to deserving drivers every year.
RELATED: Entry List for 2021 Daytona Test
The annual preseason test (Friday and Saturday, Jan. 15-16) at the 2.5-mile trioval in Daytona Beach, Florida, often marks the first time drivers get chances to make laps around the famed track. Most do so preparing for the first race of the season, which for the ARCA Menards Series in 2021 is the Lucas Oil 200 Driven by General Tire at Daytona.
For the Road to Daytona participants, the test is a payoff after a season’s worth of success in one of ARCA’s regional touring series.
Since 2012, champions from the ARCA/CRA Super Series and ARCA Midwest Tour have been invited to test at Daytona as a part of the program. The invitations are benefits to the titles alongside the champions’ point fund payoffs and trophies.
This year, in addition to the pair of drivers from the two super late model tours, a pair from the ARCA Menards Series East and West are invited. Two-time ARCA Daytona winner and 1995 ARCA Menards Series champion Andy Hillenburg is providing their cars with support from Ilmor, General Tire, Sunoco, Valvoline, Eibach Springs and JRi Shocks.
The 2021 Road to Daytona drivers participating in the preseason test include ARCA/CRA Super Series rookie of the year Jaren Crabtree, ARCA Midwest Tour winner Justin Mondeik, ARCA Menards Series East driver Parker Retzlaff and ARCA Menards Series West runner-up Blaine Perkins.
Crabtree, 21, received the Road to Daytona invitation after ARCA/CRA Super Series champion Josh Brock was forced to decline due to medical reasons. Crabtree is the son of longtime ARCA/CRA Super Series racer Jim Crabtree, a two-time ARCA/CRA Super Series winner with more 150 career series starts.
Jaren Crabtree’s older brother, J.P., is also a racer, with success in the CRA Late Model Sportsman Series.
Jaren got his start at the quarter-mile Anderson Speedway before making the move to the touring series in 2019. He finished sixth in the final 2020 ARCA/CRA Super Series standings with a best finish of 1oth at Lebanon I-44 Speedway in Missouri.
Mondeik received the Road to Daytona nod from ARCA Midwest Tour officials after he finished third in the 2020 series standings. The 24-year-old earned his first ARCA Midwest Tour win in the Larry Detjens Memorial at State Park Speedway in Wausau, Wisconsin. He finished in the top 10 in each if his five series starts last year, including a top-five performance in the season finale at La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway in West Salem, Wisconsin.
Mondeik won 14 races in 25 starts in local late model competition at Norway Speedway in Norway, Michigan, State Park Speedway in Wausau, Wisconsin, and Golden Sands Speedway in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. He also earned track championships at State Park and Golden Sands.
In addition to participating in the Road to Daytona, Mondeik will compete in the World Series of Asphalt Racing at Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway for the second consecutive season.
Sam Mayer, the 2020 ARCA Menards Series East champion, was already entered to test at Daytona with Bret Holmes Racing. Which opened the door for the 17-year-old Retzlaff.
Retzlaff, a Rhinelander, Wisconsin, native, appeared in all six East Series races last season and earned five top-10 finishes. His best finishes were a pair of seventh-place runs (Toledo and Dover), and he closed the year fourth in the series standings.
Retzlaff also scored a couple of impressive iRacing wins during the East Series’ hiatus amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
ARCA Menards Series West champion Jesse Love is participating in the annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which allowed his invitation to transfer to the 2020 runner-up.
Perkins, 20, had a breakout season in the West Series, winning three times — at Utah Motorsports Campus in Grantsville, Utah, at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Washington, and at Douglas County Speedway in Roseburg, Oregon.
The former Irwindale Speedway late model champion finished second in the West Series standings driving for West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame team owner Bob Bruncati.
Former Road to Daytona participants include two-time ARCA/CRA Super Series champion Travis Braden and four-time ARCA Midwest Tour champion Ty Majeski. Both went on to score wins in the ARCA Menards Series.
Last year’s Road to Daytona participant from the ARCA/CRA Super Series, Greg Van Alst, recently purchased several ARCA Menards Series cars and plans to compete in at least 10 races in 2021, including the season opener at Daytona.
ARCA Staff Report