Shift Up Now Athlete Amber Balcaen has successfully completed her rookie season in the 2022 ARCA Menards Series with Rette Jones Racing. The eight-month schedule included 20 races on 19 tracks, starting on the high banks of Daytona International Speedway and ending at a half-mile short track in Toledo, Ohio.
The big race tracks brought incredible speed where, throughout the season, Balcaen proved she could adapt.
When she wasn’t making circles approaching speeds of 200 miles per hour, Balcaen was embracing the shorts tracks. For the first time in a stock car, Balcaen cycled back to her racing roots by making two starts on the dirt at DuQuoin State Fairgrounds and the Illinois State Fairgrounds. The Canadian driver also had two starts on road courses at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Watkins Glen International.
The diversity of the series allowed Balcaen to shine, qualifying six times inside the top ten. She also ran in the top ten for twelves races, and captured six top-ten finishes. This was highlighted by a career-best, seventh-place run at Charlotte on Memorial Day weekend.
With her three top-ten finishes in the last four races of the season, Balcaen finished seventh in the championship standings.
Despite ending the season on a high note, Balcaen reflected on the challenging summer months.
“There was a period in the summer where we just couldn’t finish a race,” she explained. “Whether it was overheating, oil line issues, or someone just dumping me out of the race, it felt like a never-ending streak of bad luck. It tested my mental strength and resilience as well as my teams, having to work extra hours in the shop.
“It was very frustrating because most of these races where people would take us out or bad luck struck, we were competing inside of the top ten or had strong runs going. We should have more than ten top-ten finishes, but luck was just not on our side this year.”
Balcaen believes she came out a stronger individual when the turbulent run fizzled out.
“I have genuinely never encountered so much bad luck in one season,” Balcaen commented. “However, it also sharpened my resilience and mental toughness as an athlete.”
She says she tried to search for the small “wins,” whether it was at the shop or even at the race track, until they saw the light at the end of the tunnel.
“No matter the race result, I still felt extremely grateful every weekend to compete at that level. So when I felt really down, I tried to always turn to gratitude and being grateful for the opportunity I had in front of me and the people that were around me.”
One of those “wins” was being was noted as one of the hottest drivers on the development tour towards the end of the season, after she captured three top-ten finishes in the last four races. This included ending the season with a top-ten finish at ARCA’s home track.
Looking back at all 20 races, Balcaen said she saved her best effort for last.
“Probably the last race of the season was my best,” she said. “I really gave it my all and fought for each position, battled with cars and passed cars too. It was also a tough field of cars. I all around felt way more knowledgeable, comfortable and confident in this ARCA Menards Series than I did at the beginning of the season. I finally feel like I know what I’m doing and wish the season wasn’t over because I was just starting really get into the groove of things.
Balcaen expressed gratitude to her marketing partners and team for standing by her throughout the season.
“I am beyond grateful to ICON Direct, and Glen McLeod and Sons for making this all possible,” she said. “I will never be able to thank them enough for what they have done for me. I am very fortunate to be aligned with such great people who I continue to build great relationships with.
She continued, “Thank you to Mark Rette, Terry Jones and the entire Rette Jones Racing team for putting all their effort in all year. These guys work their butts off and taught me so much. Mark is the most knowledgeable crew chief I’ve ever worked with and really helped develop me into becoming a better race car driver.”
“This season was full of testing moments, a lot of bad luck, and hard challenges to overcome,” she said. “It was a year full of learning and improving. All in all, it was not the season I had hoped for from a results standpoint however, I do believe I improved immensely as a driver in every aspect.
“This makes me more excited for the future knowing I can continue to improve and progress on what I have learned. I hope to return to the ARCA Menards Series next year in some capacity and continue to build upon my improvements from this season.
“I am extremely grateful for every one person, every partner, and to my team for helping make the 2022 season possible.”