It's the second win in three days for the Donnie Wilson Motorsports No. 24
For much of the Rumble by the River 125, it looked as if the annual Southern Super Series summer showdown at Montgomery Motor Speedway would be decided amongst Hunter Robbins and Bubba Pollard.
That narrative left out William Sawalich and the Donnie Wilson Motorsports No. 24.
Despite inheriting the pole during the pre-race redraw and driving for the same team that sent William Byron to five victories in six races this season, Sawalich seemed like a secondary contender juxtaposed against legendary short trackers like Pollard, Robbins, Stephen Nasse and Augie Grill.
Nevertheless, Sawalich led the first 75 laps that led up to the halfway break.
Robbins took the lead off the impending restart but fell off considerably before giving the lead to Pollard on Lap 83, before he too fell off the pace and out of the race. That left Sawalich back out front and in position to withstand a late charge from Stephen Nasse to secure the first Super Late Model victory of his career.
"It's a very big deal," Sawalich told Racing America of winning on this stage against this level of competition. "I can't thank everyone enough at Donnie Wilson Motorsports for the opportunity and for giving me a good car. I'm just glad I was able to execute."
It appeared as if Pollard was going to cruise to Victory Lane until feeling as if his right front tire was coming apart. That forced him down pit road on Lap 114. Pollard and team were pulling the car apart to in the immediate aftermath of the race to find out what happened.
"Not sure," longtime crew member Aaron Yetter said.
Pollard was concerned he would crash the car if he stayed out any longer and it wasn’t worth the points with just a 16 car field.
"I was just ridin’, savin’," Pollard said of starting eighth. "I was just taking my time and getting through there. Patiently. We had plenty left, we took back off and it wasn’t the same race car. I was super tight after that. The right front was gone. We didn’t have that much camber in it, anything unusual. It was like a light switch as we took back off and after they cooled down.
"I thought I had a flat, it was chattering and shaking so hard."
Robbins had a similar but opposite problem as he got too free in the second half of the race and fell from the lead to eighth -- where he ultimately finished the race.
"I wasn’t sure if we had a soft right rear of something like that, it just got loose all of a sudden and once we moved up to the third groove, that stabilized us," Robbins said. "I should have done it sooner in hindsight.
"When everyone is nose-to-tail like that, you just don’t always have the confidence to go up there. Our car just got loose, didn’t quite expect it, but our last two Super races kind of went that way and it’s something to work on for sure."
With 25 laps to go, the top four were all over the track, nose-to-tail with Pollard, Sawalich, Nasse and Grill in a pack.
Eventually that race sorted down to Sawalich versus Nasse and the latter wishes he could have one corner back from that battle.
"I caught him in 1 and 2, and about got to his bumper and had to back off a little bit and I think I wanted to nudge him a little bit," Nasse said. "I really messed up my corner trying so hard not to get into him and he pulled me three or four cars down the straight and I just messed up the next corner trying to get it back, drove in too hard.
"Wish I had been either more patience, or really, I didn’t expect him to whoa up so much in the center, and that surprised and hurt me. But if I could have predicted it a little better, maybe I could have given him a little of a nudge to beat him off the corner."
Nevertheless, it was the second win in three days for the Donnie Wilson No. 24 following Money in the Bank at Berlin Raceway on Thursday night.
Pollard and Wilson exchanged jabs back and forth on Twitter after that race. Pollard says the level of competition is high between them right now.
"It’s challenging," Pollard said. "That’s what we’re here to do, is race. We had a good race car tonight, I felt like. We just couldn’t put it all together and that’s part of it. They’re good. They should be good as much money as they spend and time they have into that deal. Congrats to them and we’ll come back. We’ve got something for them.
Southern Super Series Rumble by the River 125 Montgomery Motor Speedway June 11 202
-Story By Matt Weaver For Racing America