Eden Prairie’s William Sawalich moved forward in his auto racing career earlier this month, making his debut in the ARCA (Automobile Racing Club of America) Menards Series, which can serve as a feeder system for NASCAR, the country’s top stock car racing series. A lot went well, even if the end result wasn’t what he wanted.
Sawalich, 16, had the fastest time in the qualifying runs for the ARCA Menards Series West General Tire 150 on March 10 in Phoenix. That meant he got to start the race at the front of the field. He said he had a good practice on the day of the race. He led 93 laps. However, on a restart after a caution flag with two laps to go, he was bumped from the lead position by a car trying to pass, and his car turned 180 degrees. Sawalich finished the race in 13th place.
Still, Sawalich is someone who has been racing since he was 9, and he knows that sometimes, those things happen.
“It’s what we call a racing incident,” Sawalich said by phone. “He came up so fast. The spotter didn’t see him.”
Despite the disappointing finish, Sawalich took some positives away from his time in Phoenix.
“I got to see the personalities of my competitors,” he said of the other drivers’ racing styles.
He also enjoyed the atmosphere in Phoenix surrounding his series debut. The NASCAR Cup Series was in Phoenix for a race on March 12, and some of the drivers were on hand to watch Sawalich race.
Last December, Sawalich signed a three-year deal with Joe Gibbs Racing, with the hopes of one day racing in that series.
“It was cool to have those guys there watching,” he said.
The Phoenix race is the first of 20 ARCA Menards Series races in which Sawalich is scheduled to compete this year.
Next up is the ARCA Menards Series East Pensacola 200 on March 25, and Sawalich said he is looking forward to it.
“I’ve raced at that track a lot in my career, in late model and other types of cars,” he said.
Sawalich is looking longer-term too, and feeling confident about the rest of the 2023 ARCA season.
“We have one of the best cars in the series,” he said. “I think we can get a couple of wins.”
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