After what was shaping up to be a clinic put on by the No. 20 for Venturini Motorsports, a late-race move ended up catapulting William Sawalich and Joe Gibbs Racing to the victory in Saturday’s ARCA Menards Series event at Berlin Raceway.
Coming into the night, Jesse Love, who captured the pole and dominated the entirety of the event, was searching to win his fourth consecutive event in the ARCA Menards Series – something that has been done 44 times prior in series history.
The driver of the No. 20 JBL Toyota Camry was bad fast, lapping the field up to third-place on two separate occasions. However, with just two laps to go, Sawalich, with the help of lapped traffic, closed quickly on Love, caught him, and gave him a bump entering turn three.
The 16-year-old driver would lead just three laps in Saturday’s 200-lap contest, but he ended up leading the lap that meant more than any other.
— ARCA Menards Series (@ARCA_Racing) June 18, 2023
“It was a little bit more dirty than I wanted to, it was the last lap and I’ve had that happen to me before and he totally had a lap to get me back,” Sawalich said about the late-race move on Jesse Love.
“It’s pretty cool and pretty special. We’re gonna enjoy this one until Elko,” the Eden Prairie, MN native added. The victory marks the first in the ARCA Menards Series for Sawalich, in his second career start.
Love ended up in the runner-up spot on the night, after leading 197 of 200 laps. However, in his post-race interview, he was none too happy with the driver of the No. 18.
“I’ve just been raced by the 18 really dirty in a lot of different races throughout my whole ARCA career so. I’m gonna ballpark him every chance I get,” the 18-year-old said.
Sean Hingorani, Love’s teammate at Venturini Motorsports finished in third place but backed up the comments of his teammate. “Feel bad for the 20 team and our whole team. Just the 18. Everyone is getting sick of the way he’s driving.”
Andres Perez de Lara, driving the No. 2 for Rev Racing, and Toni Breidinger completed the top five in Saturday’s sixth event of the 2023 ARCA Menards Series season.
For Breidinger, it was a big night at Berlin, capturing her first career top-five in the series. “Venturini gave me an amazing car as always. I think just having the extra confidence. I was at this track last year so I was a little bit more familiar with it,” she remarked.
Just outside the top five, and continuing his top 10 streak to four races was rookie Frankie Muniz. “I can’t be disappointed with a sixth-place finish. It ties my career best. At the same time, I’m extremely disappointed. I was really hoping to break into the top five…I really struggled on the starts and the restarts,” he said post-race.
Christian Rose, Tony Cosentino, Zachary Tinkle, and Jon Garrett rounded out the top 10.
Following Saturday’s event at Berlin, Love continues to hold the ARCA Menards Series points lead over rookie Frankie Muniz, now by 20 points. Andres Perez de Lara sits third, 39 points back. Christian Rose and Tony Cosentino complete the top-five.
POINTS – #ARCA Menards Series (6/20):
1. Jesse Love 288pts
2. Frankie Muniz (-20)
3. Andres Perez de Lara (-39)
4. Christian Rose (-48)
5. Tony Cosentino (-49)
6. Toni Breidinger (-59)
7. Jack Wood (-74)
8. Jon Garrett (-83)
9. Greg Van Alst (-89)
10. AJ Moyer (-105)
— Joseph Srigley (@joe_srigley) June 18, 2023
Up next, the series heads to Elko Speedway on Saturday, June 24 at 8 p.m. CT / 9 p.m. ET on FS2.