Gio Ruggiero joins Venturini Motorsports for 16-race schedule in 2024

Venturini Motorsports is welcoming one of the most talented short track drivers in the country to their storied program.

Gio Ruggiero, who spent the 2023 season competing in Super Late Models, will contest 16 races for Venturini Motorsports in 2024. That schedule includes a full campaign in the ARCA Menards Series East along with sporadic appearances in the main ARCA Menards Series and ARCA Menards Series West.

Ruggiero has long been familiar with the standard of excellence Venturini Motorsports has maintained on the ARCA platform over the past several decades. He knows high expectations are being placed upon him but is ready to add to Venturini’s stellar legacy in ARCA.

“I’m really looking forward to next year with Shannon [Rusch] as my crew chief,” Ruggiero said. “[Venturini Motorsports] is a great organization with a great group of people. They’ve won a ton of races in the ARCA Menards Series, so I’m definitely excited to be with them.”

Although he did not win a copious amount of events last year, the victories Ruggiero did claim made him stand out amongst the competition.

The most notable of these came in the prestigious Winchester 400, where Ruggiero had to fend off Super Late Model veterans Cole Butcher and Stephen Nasse at the end of 400 grueling laps around Indiana’s Winchester Speedway. He also edged out NASCAR Cup Series star and former Venturini Motorsports driver William Byron in a photo finish at Hickory Motor Speedway.

Giovanni Ruggiero, driver of the No. 5C Late Model Stock Car, during driver introductions for the Solid Rock Carriers CARS Tour’s Blue Ridge 250 at Tri-County Speedway in Granite Falls, North Carolina on October 21, 2023.

Gio Ruggiero put together an impressive short track resume in 2023 that included a victory in the Winchester 400.

A bonus for Ruggiero during his successful year was the opportunity to make his ARCA Menards Series East debut for Venturini Motorsports at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway. Serving as a replacement for the injured Isabella Robusto, Ruggiero kept his car out of trouble all evening to bring home a solid, fourth-place finish.

Nashville proved to be invaluable for Ruggiero when it came to getting acclimated with the Venturini Motorsports culture. While he expects a learning curve in his first year with the team, Ruggiero is confident he can mesh immediately with everyone at Venturini Motorsports so he can build momentum from the Nashville outing.

“It was definitely a great experience to get some seat time with the VMS guys,” Ruggiero said. “I was trying to introduce myself to them, and I thought I learned a ton about the ARCA car as well with the way it drives on a long run. I also learned how that series operates and how things are going to go when I’m at ARCA races.”

Team co-owner Billy Venturini said Ruggiero’s ARCA debut at Nashville was an exercise in learning his limits while piloting one of his cars.

Passing and restarts were two areas in which Billy felt Ruggiero could improve upon. Despite this, Billy commended Ruggiero for the maturity he displayed during his debut race and has every reason to believe the young prospect will only improve as the 2024 season progresses.

“[Ruggiero] showed an incredible amount of car control [at Nashville],” Billy said. “There were a couple of little things he needed to learn, but with that race, I feel like if we could have re-run it, he probably could have contended for the win.

“There’s a very high ceiling with him, and it’s a pleasure to have him with the program.”

Restarts are an area with which Billy plans to be hands-on during Ruggiero’s development. He added that every ARCA season typically has one Venturini Motorsports driver rise to the top in restarts because of how intricate the team is within emphasizing momentum and avoiding wheel spin.

Ruggiero is optimistic he can seamlessly transition into the ARCA cars on short tracks but expects more of a challenge with larger facilities. Road courses like Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International are on Ruggiero’s 2024 schedule, along with his first intermediate race at Kansas Speedway in the fall.

“Running races on the bigger tracks will be something new for me,” Ruggiero said. “I’ll have to learn a lot about aero for sure. I’m not very familiar with that, but I’m looking forward to learning as much as I can and hopefully chase some wins on the bigger tracks.”

Gio Ruggiero, driver of the #20 VMS Toyota, races in the Music City 200 for the ARCA Menards Series East at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville, Tennessee, on May 13, 2023. (Austin Anthony/ARCA Racing)
Gio Ruggiero will look to claim Venturini Motorsports’ first championship in the ARCA Menards Series East. (Photo: Austin Anthony/ARCA Racing)
While Ruggiero is eager to tackle the more advanced tracks, his primary focus is on winning a championship, a concept with which he is very familiar.

Titles in the Southern Super Series and CRA Super Series have bolstered Ruggiero’s confidence ahead of the eight-race East Series calendar. Even though Ruggiero only has experience at three of those venues, Billy Venturini does not anticipate a steep learning curve given his success at other short tracks around the country.

Coming off a year in which the team won ARCA and West Series titles with Jesse Love and Sean Hingorani, respectively, Billy believes Ruggiero can deliver the organization their first East Series title by fending off Joe Gibbs Racing development driver and defending champion William Sawalich.

“The ARCA East title was the one we were missing last year,” Billy said. “That schedule doesn’t fit us as well as the others, but we got better at it last year. The short tracks come down to a battle between us and Joe Gibbs Racing, and I expect the same thing [with Ruggiero this year]. We race each other’s tails off and put on a good show.”

Ruggiero understands the challenge of usurping Sawalich for the East Series championship but is eager to carry over the momentum from his efficient year in Super Late Models and add his name to the long list of successful drivers who have come through Venturini Motorsports.

“It would definitely be awesome to win [the East Series title],” Ruggiero said. “I won a championship in my first year with Super Late Models, so it would be great to do it again in an ARCA car.”

Ruggiero will look to start a busy year with Venturini Motorsports on a high note when he heads to Phoenix Raceway on March 8, which serves a combination event between the main ARCA division and the West Series.