William Sawalich
(Photo: Adam Glanzman/ARCA Racing)

Homeward bound: William Sawalich returning to Elko Speedway for Saturday’s Menards 250

It’s always good to go home.

That’s especially the case for 16-year-old William Sawalich, who is returning to his home track, Elko Speedway, on Saturday night for the running of the Menards 250 for the ARCA Menards Series.

Sawalich, who claimed his maiden ARCA Menards Series victory last week at Michigan’s Berlin Raceway, is from nearby Eden Prairie, Minnesota. It’s a 33-minute drive from there to Elko, which is right next to the local quarter midget club where Sawalich first started his racing career.

RELATED: What to know about Saturday’s Menards 250 at Elko

“It means a lot to me to be able to go back to where I started racing,” Sawalich said. “Right next door to Elko is Little Elko Speedway. I started racing quarter midgets there when I was nine. I did that for a few years, and I moved up to the big track and did Legend cars there.

“That’s kind of where I started my love for racing. I started off only going there, and then we started to travel. It’s really special to me, and I think it would be special for anybody to go back to where they started.”

William Sawalich, driver of the #18 Starkey-Sound Gear Toyota, during the Berlin ARCA 200 for the ARCA Menards Series at Berlin Raceway in Marne, Michigan on June 17, 2023. (Eric Bronson/ARCA Racing)
William Sawalich, driver of the No. 18 Starkey-Sound Gear Toyota, in action during the Berlin ARCA 200 at Berlin Raceway in Marne, Michigan on June 17, 2023. (Photo: Eric Bronson/ARCA Racing)

A first-generation racer, Sawalich became interested in motorsports thanks to a childhood friend. That interest ultimately led him to become a competitor at Little Elko Speedway with the Minnesota Quarter Midget Racing Association, where he still holds track records in two divisions.

“I kind of wondered if I could get into it somehow. Obviously, I was really little at the time,” Sawalich recalled. “We found out about quarter midgets, and I had no idea about that until my mom and dad told me that’s something that I could possibly try.

“We went out to Little Elko Speedway just to try someone’s quarter midget. I loved it; it was a blast. I’ve always loved driving basically anything. That was a good moment in my life.”

After learning the basics at Little Elko Speedway, Sawalich advanced to the 0.375-mile Elko Speedway next door, where he raced Legend cars before hitting the road to race Late Models across the United States.

His success racing Late Models ultimately led him to Joe Gibbs Racing this year as the team’s primary ARCA driver. He’s already enjoyed success, winning two ARCA Menards Series East races in addition to his maiden ARCA Menards Series triumph last Saturday at Berlin.

William Sawalich
(Photo: Eric Bronson/ARCA Racing)

That success has given him extra motivation to hit the ground running again when he returns to Elko Speedway for the Menards 250, where he’ll race in front of his hometown crowd.

“It’ll be different,” Sawalich said about racing a full-bodied stock car at Elko Speedway for the first time. “I’m interested to see if I can take anything from the Legends to the ARCA car. The ARCA car is so big and it’s got so much more horsepower, that track is going to seem really small to me compared to a Legend car, where I thought it was huge at the time.

“I think it’s going to be another short track bullring type of thing. It’s going to get rough. It’ll be fun.”

Saturday’s Menards 250 will air live on FS2 and FloRacing beginning at 8 p.m. CT / 9 p.m. ET.