On a last-lap green/white flag shootout, Luke Fenhaus won his first career ARCA Menards East Series race in his third career start.
The Pinnacle Racing Group driver gained the lead on an overtime restart at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, passing William Sawalich on the backstretch, who dominated the event, en route to taking the checkered flag on Saturday (May 13) night.
Finishing runner up behind Fenhaus was Sawalich, who had dominated the race, leading the first 204 laps of the event in his Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota.
“First of all, I have to thank Jerry and Mark Webb, everyone who put this deal together,” Fenhaus told FloRacing in victory lane. “Just to have everyone on this team behind me, to have good cars, to have good runs.”
Right behind Sawalich was Sean Hingorani, who finished third. The finish gives the Venturini Motorsports driver his best result in East series competition this season to date, narrowly beating his previous best of fourth.
Making his ARCA series debut in the VMS No. 20, Giovanni Ruggiero finished fourth. The 16-year-old from Massachusetts spent nearly the entire race inside the top five.
Dover Motor Speedway winner Jake Finch finished fifth, racing for his family-owned team Phoenix Racing in the No. 1 Toyota.
Lavar Scott finished sixth in the event, the last car on the lead lap. Zachary Tinkle ended up in seventh, with Tanner Arms eighth, Tim Monroe ninth and Dale Shearer rounding out the top 10. The latter of the four were each multiple laps down. For Shearer, the result marks the first time the 63-year-old has ever finished inside of the top 10 in ARCA competition.
Sawalich jumped out to an early lead on the initial start, pulling out in front of Ruggiero, whom he shared the front row with, and never looked back. He held the lead through the first portion of the race until the first caution fell shortly before the halfway break. Sawalich had little to no competition for the lead, and the only true danger he faced was working through lapped traffic. Sawalich lapped up to the sixth-place car, Scott, and put many of the slower cars numerous laps down in the process.
The most heated battle on the race track during the first half of the race was between the two VMS drivers, Hingorani and Ruggiero, as the pair battled for second place. Ruggiero held the spot until lap 82, when Hingorani made his way around, after following closely behind for many laps.
The first caution of the night fell on lap 85 when Arms lost control of his No. 95 Toyota, which had been visibly sideways for much of the race. He was able to continue and the car sustained no substantial damage.
From there, the race restarted with 15 laps to go before the halfway break, and Sawalich kept the lead for all of them, bringing the field into the five-minute break period. However, during that ten-lap dash, Finch showed strong speed, passing two cars on the restart, putting himself third.
After the break, the race restarted with no real change at the front of the field, as Sawalich regained the lead, and held in for the next 45 laps until the second caution of the night fell on lap 145. Rita Goulet spun her No. 31 Chevrolet around in turn two, though didn’t make any significant contact.
Much like the previous restart, Sawalich retained the lead, though he received a little bit of a challenge from Hingorani, who restarted beside him. Sawalich cleared Hingorani on the exit of turn two and held the lead until the white flag.
On that white flag lap, just as Sawalich was nearing the checkered flag, Goulet spun again in turn three, bringing out the caution for the third time. That set the field up for an overtime restart, as the series always finishes its races under green flag conditions.
On the restart, Fenhaus passed Sawalich on the backstretch, and held the lead through turns three and four, despite a push from Sawalich, taking the win, the first of his career. All three 2023 East races have produced different race winners.
The East series returns next Saturday (May 20) evening, for the return of Flat Rock Speedway to the schedule, for the first time since 2000. The Dutch Boy 150 will begin at 7:30 p.m. ET and live coverage will be exclusively on FloRacing.
About the author
Josh joined Frontstretch in 2023 and currently covers the ARCA Menards Series. Born and raised in Missouri, Josh has been watching motorsports since 2005. He currently is studying for a Mass Communication degree at Lindenwood University
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