Race Weekend Central

William Sawalich Leads Every Lap, Wins ARCA East Five Flags Race

After he led the most laps in his ARCA Menards Series debut at Phoenix Raceway only to be spun on an overtime restart, William Sawalich topped that performance on Saturday night (March 25), leading all 200 laps at Five Flags Speedway to win the ARCA Menards Series East season opener.

The 16-year-old from Eden Prarie, Minn., wheeled his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to a dominating performance. He posted the fastest lap in practice, won the pole and won in his East debut in Pensacola, Fla.

“I just got to thank this Joe Gibbs Racing team enough and we had a really fast Toyota Camry here …,” Sawalich told FloRacing in victory lane. “It was a fun race. Thanks to my competitors and team worked really hard to get this car as good as it is.

“For sure, I think the championship is in play as good as that race win was for us. I think we can try and dominate everywhere we go.”

See also
Can Anyone Beat William Sawalich in ARCA East in 2023?

In his East debut, Luke Fenhaus came close to passing Sawalich but ultimately wound up 1.169 seconds behind in second.

“It’s rewarding just cause we’ve been preparing cars and getting them ready to go for the season for the past couple of months,” Fenhaus said. “And now to have two cars ready to go for the rest of the season, it gives some work off my guys shoulders. It’s good to come in second. It’s hard to be that close and finish second but these guys work so hard and I’m proud of their effort and we’ll keep learning and move on.”

Venturini Motorsports teammates Jake Finch and Sean Hingorani finished third and fourth, respectively. Finch earned his second top five and fifth top 10 in six East starts.

“Yeah, obviously not as good as we wanted it to be,” Finch said. “We had a good car. Obviously came here to win. I don’t really come here for anything else other than that. Had a really good car. Proud of everybody at Phoenix Racing. I think I made a little bit too many mistakes. Had trouble with brakes there but that’s not really a great excuse so just need to be a little bit better next time and learned something tonight.

“Just keep running top five, top three and we’ll probably bang one off if we keep doing that. So run all the races, finish all the laps and try to be there at the end.”

The only caution in the 200-lap race was the competition caution. Only the top four finished on the lead lap.

After finishing fourth in the main-series season opener at Daytona International Speedway, Lavar Scott wound up one lap down in fifth place.

Tyler Reif won the most recent ARCA event at Phoenix. In his East debut, he finished sixth, one spot better than fellow full-time driver Zachary Tinkle in seventh.

ARCA East Results from Five Flags

The East competitors next head to Dover Motor Speedway. The General Tire 125 will take place on Friday, April 28 at 5:30 p.m. ET with live coverage on FloRacing.

About the author

Mark Kristl joined Frontstretch at the beginning of the 2019 NASCAR season. He is the site's ARCA Menards Series editor. Kristl is also an Eagle Scout and a proud University of Dayton alum.

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