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Connor Zilisch Earns 1st ARCA Win at Dover

In the ARCA Menards Series General Tire 150 from Dover Motor Speedway, 17-year-old phenom Connor Zilisch emerged victorious for the first ARCA victory of his blossoming career.

In a race defined by a series of wrecks that eliminated numerous contenders, Zilisch progressed steadily through the field to position himself for the win as the race drew to a close. 

Zilisch acknowledged his early struggles to FOX Sports in saying, “I can’t even lie, those first 70 laps, I was pretty intimidated…, and I was down on myself running 5th or 6th and not being able to make up ground.”

The youngster also described his path to victory to FS2 saying, “Those restarts were hectic, but we kept it up front and got ourselves a win at The [Monster] Mile.”

William Sawalich dominated early, leading every lap of the first segment prior to the lap 50 break. By the time lap 50 went up on the board and the caution flew for the first scheduled break, the number of cars left on the lead lap had been whittled down to nine. 

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While the beginning stages of the race played out nearly incident-free, the remainder of the event was defined by multiple incidents which eliminated several contenders.

The first of several race-defining moments occurred on the lap 69 restart, as Gio Ruggiero pounced on leader Sawalich to take the lead. However, Ruggiero was penalized for a restart violation, as ARCA officials ruled that he fired before the control car Sawalich and executed an illegal restart. While the penalty cost Ruggiero the lead, he remained in contention with less than 10 cars on the lead lap.

Shortly after the restart, the ARCA points leader entering Dover, Christian Rose, pounded the wall off turn 4 as he experienced an apparent tire failure.

“…it just went straight on me, I don’t know if we cut a tire down or if something broke, but for only running 10 to 15 laps, I can’t imagine we had a tire go down in 4, and there’s nothing you can do but just hang on,” Rose remarked to the media following his day-ending incident.

Also swept up in the incident was Amber Balcaen, who hit the inside retaining wall hard as she took evasive action to miss Rose. While Rose emerged unhurt, Balcaen received medical attention for some lower leg discomfort following the accident.

“It was either drive right into him, or try to cut down and miss him, but a lot happens really fast at this racetrack,” Balcaen said of what caused her involvement in the accident with Rose.

She also addressed the severity of her injuries in the crash saying, “We’re gonna check on it, and I’m going to do everything in my power to be at Kansas race-ready. I will not miss a race.”

With Ruggiero having to work his way back through the field following the penalty, Carson Kvapil emerged as the primary threat to Sawalich’s lead.

As the leaders worked through lapped traffic, each dealt with their own struggles, including a notable incident where Sawalich and Kvapil split a lapper three-wide down the backstretch with Kvapil going so low he nearly brushed the inside wall. A caution soon flew for a Marco Andretti mechanical failure, and this yellow incited a series of more accidents. 

Following the lap 101 restart, Kvapil seemed to have a tire failure as he washed up the track in turn 3 and unfortunately collected the left front of Lavar Scott’s car. While Scott continued without much consequence, Kvapil had to pit for repairs and drop to the rear of the lead lap. 

The ensuing restart proved to be the decisive one, as leader Sawalich came together with Zilisch who had worked his way toward the front through all the trouble previous frontrunners encountered. The contact sent Sawalich into the turn 3 wall and ended his day.

With the dominant car of the day now in the garage, Zilisch set sail out front. After prevailing in another restart following a crash involving Toni Breidinger and Kris Wright, Zilisch remained on the point through the closing stages and took his first ARCA victory.

Ruggiero overcame his early penalty to finish second, while Kvapil finished third despite the damage he sustained in his earlier incident. The Rev Racing entries of Scott and Andres Perez de Lara rounded out the top five, and Wright, Andy Jankowiak, Greg Van Alst, Caleb Costner and Zachary Tinkle completed the top 10 in sixth through 10th, respectively.

ARCA Results from Dover

The national series next heads to Kansas Speedway for its first of two races there in the 2024 season. That race will take place on Saturday, May 4 at 2 p.m. ET with TV coverage provided by FOX Sports 1. Dover was a combination race between the national tour and the ARCA Menards Series East. The East competitors will now visit Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway on Saturday, May 11. That green flag will fly at 8:30 p.m. ET with live coverage provided by FloRacing.

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