Race Weekend Central

William Sawalich Scores Eventful Runner-Up Finish as Venturini Motorsports Rivalry Intensifies

Hot off the heels of his somewhat controversial victory last week at Berlin Raceway, William Sawalich once again found himself in the middle of another on-track run-in. It appears that one of the ARCA Menards Series’ most heated rivalries from recent years has flared back up, as this Saturday’s (June 24) race at Elko Speedway marked the second straight event in which Sawalich in the No. 18 car for Joe Gibbs Racing had a run-in with Venturini Motorsports’ No. 20 entry of Jesse Love.

It was clear in the early going that animosity had carried on from last week, as Love and Sawalich began trading paint as soon as the green flag dropped. While Love jumped out to an early lead approaching two seconds, Sawalich initially seemed content to ride behind him. 

A caution soon after lap 100 set up a short sprint to the race’s first of two scheduled breaks. On the ensuing restart, the Nos. 18 and 20 once again made contact, with Sawalich remaining within striking distance this time. It soon appeared that Sawalich may have had a quicker car as the run progressed, and he caught Love before getting into him to take the lead for the first time. Love soon returned the favor and sent Sawalich up the track to retake the top spot, succeeding just before the race was slowed for the scheduled break at lap 125.

The restart following the first race break spelled disaster for Sawalich, as he was seemingly double-teamed by two Venturini teammates. Love got into him once more on the restart to hold the lead while Sean Hingorani in the No. 15 made contact with Sawalich to send him spinning (although it did appear Sawalich may have come down the track, effectively turning himself). 

See also
Jesse Love Wins at Elko Speedway for Fourth ARCA Win of 2023

After his crash, Sawalich would have to restart at the tail end of the eight cars on the lead lap. But he would claw his way back into the top five quickly before another caution came out on lap 178 for a Christian Rose spin.

With the laps winding down toward the end of the race, Sawalich raced aggressively to knife his way back toward the leaders. He made his way up to third as the race reached its final scheduled break at lap 190. 

The race would only slow for caution once more, for Frankie Muniz’s crash with 50 to go, and Sawalich seemed to be quicker than the Venturini cars pacing the field as the race drew to a close.

Following another fierce battle with Hingaroni that included yet more contact, Sawalich cleared himself into second with 16 laps remaining. More than three seconds behind leader Love, Sawalich ate into that deficit quickly as the two weaved through lapped traffic, but he could not get around the leader and finished the day in second. 

For having such an eventful day, Sawalich will surely be satisfied with a runner-up finish. However, despite that solid top-five effort, the biggest storyline surrounding the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 team will surely be the re-emergence of their rivalry with Venturini Motorsports some two years after Ty Gibbs and Corey Heim had their infamous battle for the championship in 2021.

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