For the seventh time across all ARCA Menards Series platforms this season, but the first time in the ARCA Menards Series West, William Sawalich is victorious, winning the season finale at Phoenix Raceway Friday afternoon (Nov. 3).
The 17-year-old held off a late charge from Dean Thompson, who finished runner up, to take the checkered flag.
“It’s very special, we finished where we should’ve left off in our first race of the year,” Sawalich said. “We capitalized on every opportunity we had, had a couple good restarts, I worked on a couple of things myself and I think we’re ready for next year,”
Also within the race, Sean Hingorani clinched the 2023 West Series championship. The Venturini Motorsports driver needed a 25th-place finish to clinch and he bested that, finishing third in the race.
Kaden Honeycutt also clinched a championship during the race, earning the owners’ championship for Cook Racing Technologies thanks to a ninth-place finish.
On the initial start, Sawalich pulled out in front of Hingorani into turn 1, taking an early lead. Hingorani fell further back to third, getting passed early by VMS teammate Thompson. Just as Thompson was going for the lead on Sawalich, the first caution of the afternoon came out as Trevor Huddleston spun on the exit of turn 2.
Sawalich once again led the field to the green on the lap 20 restart and jumped out to a sizable lead by the time the field reached turn 1. The caution flag quickly flew once again on lap 21, as Tanner Reif spun in turn 2 after contact with Eric Nascimento.
On the third restart of the race, Hingorani got around Sawalich on the restart, passing him on the exit of turn 2 as the field battled hard behind them. Hingorani then pulled out to a half-second lead over Sawalich, but the caution yet again flew shortly after. Johnny Borneman III spun in turn 1, making slight contact with the outside wall in the process.
For the first time in the race, Sawalich didn’t have lane choice on the restart, with Hingorani in control. However, Sawalich pulled a similar move as Hingorani did on the previous restart to retake the lead on lap 35. Sawalich pulled out to roughly a second lead, but another caution came out with five laps to go before the race break.
Honeycutt, who was running in hopes of giving the No. 17 team an owners’ championship, lost a tire going into turn 3 but made no further contact. From there, ARCA officials declared the caution as the midway break.
On the restart after the halfway break, Sawalich took the outside lane for the restart, a first for any leader to that point in the race. The move worked out in his favor, as he retained the lead as the field reached the backstretch. Behind him, the field battled three wide for second. Laps later, Hingorani had a moment a few laps later, making contact with teammate Kris Wright and Erickson in a tight-quartered, three-wide battle.
With 27 laps to go, the race restarted once again, with Sawalich retaining the lead. However, Wood had an impressive restart as well, taking second away from Thompson. The two battled for the second position for multiple laps, allowing Sawalich to pull away. Thompson eventually prevailed again over Wood with 21 laps to go, but it would not be enough, coming up just short and allowing Sawalich to take the checkered flag, victorious.
With that, the 2023 ARCA season is in the books. Three champions have been named, with Sawalich winning the ARCA Menards Series East title, Hingorani in the West and Jesse Love in the national division. The 2024 ARCA season picks back up in Feb. 2024, when the series heads back to Daytona International Speedway.
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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