William Sawalich earns first ARCA road course victory at Portland

PORTLAND, OR. — Patience proved to be crucial for William Sawalich in Friday’s ARCA Menards Series West race at Portland International Raceway.

After tailing NASCAR Xfinity Series veteran Brandon Jones for the first half of the Portland 112, a dive bomb into the Turn 1 chicane with 31 laps remaining ended up being the race-winning pass that gave Sawalich his first road course victory on the ARCA Menards Series platform.

RELATED: Complete results from the Portland 112

Road courses were an area Sawalich believed he needed to improve upon following his rookie ARCA campaign in 2023. He said the consistency displayed at the end of the Portland 112 highlighted the effort his team put in towards finally earning a road course win together.

“We definitely worked on our road course program during the offseason and I worked on myself,” Sawalich said. “I wasn’t that great [on road courses] last year, but I put in the work and got the win [at Portland] so that feels really good. We have a lot of confidence rolling into Sonoma and I know we’re going to be good there.”

Although Sawalich never finished a road course race outside the top five last year, he was not satisfied with his efforts in those races knowing how strong his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Toyota was on the oval tracks.

Friday started exactly how Sawalich wanted to, as he posted the quickest time in practice with a time of 1:16.9. Despite this, Sawalich could not back up that speed in qualifying and was forced to settle for a spot on the outside front row alongside Jones.

With how fast his car was earlier in the day, Sawalich did not force the issue and resigned himself to following Jones during the Portland 112’s opening stages. Several early cautions prevented Jones from pulling away, all while Sawalich gradually grew more comfortable with Portland’s layout.

A strong run by Sawalich coming off Portland’s twelfth turn gave Sawalich the momentum he needed to overtake Jones into the chicane. Once he found clean air, no one in the field could match Sawalich’s pace as he cruised to another win.

Sawalich’s triumph on Friday was his second in the West Series on the year after he visited Victory Lane in the season-opener at Phoenix Raceway in March. He now has three victories on the ARCA platform in total for 2024, his other one taking place at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway in the ARCA Menards Series East.

Now that he is a proven ARCA road course winner, Sawalich is eager to tackle the freshly-paved Sonoma Raceway in only a week. Although Sonoma is much different than Portland, especially when it comes to elevation changes, Sawalich has plenty of faith in himself to find Victory Lane at a road course once again.

“This gives me more confidence on road course races,” Sawalich said. “I know how to lead a road course race now I guess, but we’re getting the ball rolling. I just can’t thank these [Joe Gibbs Racing] guys enough for this car being so good right off the bat.”

Isabella Robusto put together another stellar performance to come home in third behind Sawalich and Jones, with Tyler Reif and Gio Ruggiero making up the rest of the top five.

Rounding out the top 10 finishers were Dale Quarterley, Marco Andretti, Trevor Huddleston, Kyle Keller and Takuma Koga.

The green flag for the General Tire 200 at Sonoma Raceway for the ARCA Menards Series West will wave at 3:30 p.m. PT/6:30 p.m. ET on Friday, June 7. FloRacing has coverage of all the on-track action.