The No. 18 team has won many races in the ARCA Menards Series over the past few years. Ty Gibbs won the 2021 series championship and Sammy Smith won back-to-back ARCA Menards Series East championships in 2021 and 2022.
On Friday night (March 10) at Phoenix Raceway, William Sawalich proved he too will take that team to victory lane. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen in his series debut.
Sawalich won the pole by more than a half second over the competition. He led a race-high 93 of the 160 laps, including fending off eventual winner Tyler Reif on several restarts.
Yet on the first overtime restart, Sawalich went down low to block Bradley Erickson, and his shot for victory ended.
Sawalich’s finish was not indicative of his performance at the 1-mile track in Avondale, Ariz. He led the opening 24 laps before he lost the lead to Leland Honeyman on a brazen divebomb.
Sawalich lost a few more positions, settling in fourth-place. With about 20 laps to go until the competition caution, he raced inside Honeyman. Unfortunately, he lost control and spun. Luckily, Sawalich did not suffer any serious damage to his No. 18.
The No. 18 Toyota was still fast. At the lap 75 competition caution, Sawalich already piloted his racecar into fifth-place.
On a restart on lap 84, Sawalich retook the lead. Additionally, two of the fastest racecars, driven by Jesse Love and Jack Wood, had wrecked, leaving Sawalich as the clear-cut favorite.
In the final 75 laps, Sawalich led 69. But on the penultimate restart, his bid for victory ended.
Make no mistake though, Sawalich will have plenty of opportunities to win in ARCA competition, both in 2023 and 2024.
The Minnesota native cannot run full time as he is only 16-years-old. He and Connor Mosack will share the driving duties of the No. 18 as the team is defending its 2022 owners’ points championship.
In addition to running part time in the main series, Sawalich is also running full-time in the ARCA Menards Series East. He’ll be racing a deeper field in 2023, one which includes Friday night’s winner Reif.
Sawalich left Phoenix without the trophy and the desire to know whether his last spin was his fault. But if his performance is indicative of what he will accomplish in ARCA in 2023, his future is certainly bright.
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