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William Sawalich Dominates, Wins ARCA East at Nashville Fairgrounds

For the fifth time in his ARCA Menards Series East career, but for the first time in 2024, William Sawalich has found victory lane. This time, the 17-year-old led most of the race at the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway en route to victory. 

It was the 2023 East Series champion’s first win since the season finale at Bristol Motor Speedway last September. 

“It was a really good race,” Sawalich told track reporters. “It’s just really great to be here, I love this track.”

See also
When Will a Full-Time ARCA Driver Reach Victory Lane?

Finishing second, in just her second ARCA-sanctioned start was Isabella Robusto, who spent the entirety of the race inside the top three. 

Dover Motor Speedway winner Connor Zilisch finished third, rounding out the three cars that finished the 150-lap race on the lead lap. 

The rest of the top five saw Zachary Tinkle finish fourth, and Andrew Patterson, who was making his ARCA debut, finish fifth. The finish marked Tinkle’s first top-five finish in his ARCA career. 

In sixth, Tyler Scofield crossed the line as the final car one lap down. Rounding out the remainder of the top 10, Caleb Costner finished seventh, and Jayson Alexander, who was also making his ARCA debut finished eighth. Hunter Wright finished ninth, and DL Wilson came across the line in 10th. 

At the initial drop of the green flag, Gio Ruggiero, the polesitter, retained the lead over Sawalich. Sawalich eventually got around Ruggiero, as the polesitter fell to fourth. However, Ruggiero spun on lap 7 after an apparent tire issue while running fourth, an issue that looked to have been created after contact with Zilisch. The wreck ended the 17-year-old’s chances at a win early, but the Venturini Motorsports team got the No. 20 back out 26 laps later. However, at the midway break, Ruggiero exited the car and did not return to the event. 

On the restart, Robusto held with Sawalich for the initial lap, but the 17-year-old Minnesotan driver held the lead, as the front two drove away from the rest of the field. By lap 32, Sawalich had a lead just over a second on Robusto, when the caution flag waved again. Tanner Reif, who had already had a backup engine in his Cook Racing Technologies entry, had an overheating issue. In an attempt to get to pit road, Reif made heavy front-end contact with the tire barrier at the pit road entrance, bringing out the yellow flag, and ending Reif’s race early. 

After a lengthy caution period, the field once again took the green flag on lap 44. Like the previous restart, Sawalich jumped out to a lead by the time the field got to the backstretch.

However, the fight was on for second between Zilisch and Robusto, as Zilisch got underneath Robusto into turn 1 to get the position. Robusto kept close to Zilisch for a handful of laps but eventually lost the rear end of the No. 28, as Zilisch pulled away. Roughly 15 laps later, that battle heated up again thanks to some lapped traffic, but Zilisch still kept the second position. All the meanwhile, Sawalich was pulling away, and had a lead of over four seconds by the time the halfway break caution flew on lap 75. 

The race once again restarted with 69 laps to go, and Sawalich again jumped out to a quick lead. The battle was on again for second place, however, as Robusto got around Zilisch in turn 3 with 68 laps to go. 

The caution flew again quickly after, with 61 laps to go, as a piece of debris was on the backstretch. That set up a restart with 54 laps to go, and like so many times before, Sawalich established himself as the leader as the field worked its way off of turn 2.

Zilisch found his way around Robusto and quickly slotted his way into second, with Robusto behind in third. However, Robusto eventually worked her way back around Zilisch with around 40 laps to go. Elsewhere, Sawalich cruised to victory, as the last 50 laps went green without incident. 

ARCA East Results from Nashville Fairgrounds

The East Series returns to the track next weekend, as competitors will head to Flat Rock Speedway in Michigan for the Dutch Boy 150. That race is set to begin on Saturday, May 18, just after 7:30 p.m. ET, with race coverage being carried by FloRacing.

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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