The ARCA Menards Series kicked off a stacked weekend slate of racing from Bristol Motor Speedway with its running of the Bristol 200, which saw William Sawalich claim the win and the ARCA Menards Series East championship.
A caution-ridden race saw the yellow flag fly 10 times as a deep field of 32 cars led to lots of congestion on Bristol’s high banks.
Jesse Love, who led much of the race before being passed in the closing laps by Sawalich, held on to finish second.
Sawalich scores his first East title and his fourth victory in the series this season. It’s also his third win in main-series competition.
Sawalich started from the pole, but it was Love who led early as Sawalich ran into trouble on the initial start. The first of many cautions flew soon after as Alex Clubb impacted the inside after a spin off of turn 4 on lap 3.
Early on, one of the most intriguing storylines entering the weekend played itself out as East championship hopeful Luke Fenhaus encountered trouble in the form of a blown tire.
Fenhaus suffered significant damage in the incident and caused another caution soon after as the issue resurfaced, essentially ending any hopes he had of overtaking Sawalich for the East title.
After Fenhaus’ misfortune, Love continued to lead through several more cautions and ensuing restarts before losing the lead on lap 63 as Sawalich slipped past in lapped traffic. The stack-up at the front also allowed Landen Lewis to get by Love for second.
Lapped traffic gave Sawalich the same troubles as Love, as contact with a slower allowed Lewis to claim the lead as Sawalich slowed to avoid incident.
Through another few cautions, including a restart stack-up that saw the likes of Toni Breidinger and Frankie Muniz getting significant damage, Love worked his way back up to the lead and held onto it into the race’s scheduled halfway break.
While it was not nearly incident-free, the second half of the race featured fewer cautions than the first half. Notable incidents include those that ended the otherwise solid nights of contenders like Kaden Honeycutt and Landen Lewis.
The battle for the win began to take shape with around 30 laps to go, as Sawalich worked his way back up to second and began to reel in Love. As Love’s car grew free over the long run, Sawalich was able to track him down before a caution with only 18 laps to go set up a short run to the checkered — and Sawalich ended up making the pass for the win.
Although the East season has drawn to a close, the ARCA national series will return to action in two weeks at the Salem Speedway for Atlas 200. Tune in on Saturday, Sept. 30, at 7:30 p.m. ET.
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