Race Weekend Central

William Sawalich Outduels Gio Ruggiero, Wins ARCA Race at Phoenix

Venturini Motorsports vs. Joe Gibbs Racing has been the top team rivalry in the ARCA Menards Series over the past few years, and on Friday night (March 8), William Sawalich in the JGR No. 18 outdueled Gio Ruggiero in the VMS No. 20 to take the victory in a weather-shortened event at Phoenix Raceway.

The race at the 1-mile facility was a combination race featuring the national series and ARCA Menards Series West. And by winning, Sawalich picked up the fifth win of his main series career and the second win of his West career.

One hundred and fifteen laps were completed of the scheduled 150-lap race before Mother Nature showed up. The race was initially halted by lightning, and when rain hit the racetrack, series officials decided to end the race early, thereby sending Sawalich to victory lane.

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“I mean, for sure, not the way we want to win a race but our Starkey Soundgear Toyota was really good all night,” Sawalich told FOX Sports 1 post-race. “I kind of fell back during that first stint and the guys made a good adjustment. I’m super proud of them for doing that and sticking with me. I mean, we ran a good race and definitely had a chance to win it so I’m really proud about it.”

Ruggiero made his first national series start in the No. 20, and he was quick. He led laps and raced Sawalich cleanly, though the two drivers did bump fenders while battling for the lead a time or two.

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series regular, and former ARCA champion, Grant Enfinger finished third. Enfinger joined West team Sigma Performance Services for the event and earned the second-year organization its best-ever finish. Enfinger told FS1 that Phoenix is his only scheduled race of the 2024 season.

Connor Mosack wound up fourth for Pinnacle Racing Group and Sean Hingorani, the 2023 West champion, came home fifth. Isabella Robusto finished sixth in her ARCA debut, while Jack Wood, Andres Perez de Lara, Toni Breidinger and Lavar Scott rounded out the top 10.

“It’s unreal,” Robusto said post-race. “I wish we had one less caution there in the race and it was 35 laps longer. The car was definitely better on the long run. We saw that in the first half, was able to run up to third place and was running down second there for a while. So, I had a really good car. Can’t thank Venturini Motorsports and Toyota enough.

“My Toyota Camry was really fast, and I think that I have a lot to go back and watch and learn from this. Restarts and how the air works is going to be the main things I need to go and look at before we go to the next race.”

The second race of the season featured clean racing with only two multi-car crashes. Unfortunately, the first one occurred on the first lap of the race involving West debutants Danica Dart and Cody Kiemele.

Then about 10 laps before the scheduled lap 75 competition caution, Eric Johnson Jr. tagged David Smith, who collected Jake Bollman in the crash as well.

Bollman finished 31st and Smith finished 32nd, both with DNFs.

Sawalich unofficially led 66 laps, whereas Ruggiero led 49; their results reflected their performances.

ARCA Results from Phoenix

The ARCA field next hits the racetrack at Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday, April 20 at 12:30 p.m. ET; TV coverage will be provided by FS1. The West drivers head to Irwindale Speedway on Easter weekend to race on Saturday, March 30 at 10 p.m. ET, with live coverage provided by 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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