William Sawalich Sweeps Pensacola Late Model Weekend
It continues the stretch of summer success for Donnie Wilson Motorsports
Donnie Wilson didn’t expect his No. 24 car to win on Saturday night.
During the drivers meeting for the Summer Sizzler 75, Donnie Wilson Motorsports driver William Sawalich drew the worst possible starting spot for his heat race, sixth in the opening six-car 10-lapper that would determine the starting lineup for the main event.
At the time, Wilson joked that fans who have grown tired of seeing their organization win dozens of races this season might finally get their wish.
They didn’t, as Sawalich drove to third in the first heat and ultimately outdueled Stephen Nasse from the seventh starting spot in the main event to sweep the Pro and Super Late Model weekend at Five Flags Speedway.
After getting beat by Nasse on two consecutive restarts, Sawalich methodically chased the Jett Motorsports No. 51 down and completed the winning pass with 10 laps to go. Nasse had taken the lead from Augie Grill on Lap 3 and dominated from that point.
Even Sawalich himself didn’t expect to overtake Nasse after getting beat on both restarts.
"Kind of a shocker," Sawalich told Racing America after the race. "I knew we had a good car. We drove a really smart race, tried to save for the end and knowing when to go and hoping the 51 would make a mistake."
That’s a 15-year-old sounding like a driver twice his age at Five Flags Speedway.
The win continues an incredible streak this year by Donnie Wilson Motorsports, who have won six races with William Byron, the Redbud 400 with Sammy Smith and two Southern Super Series races with Sawalich at Montgomery and Pensacola.
For Nasse, it continues a summer of near misses and disappointment following their lone win at Five Flags in April. Nasse finished second earlier in the month at New Smyrna Speedway but was disqualified after the race for a weight violation. He finished fourth at the Redbud 400 but felt it could have been better if not for lapped traffic.
Now a second at Five Flags and another could have been kind of race as he led all but 13 laps. What could Nasse have done different, if anything?
"It’s just about the pace I had to keep there, to keep a comfortable lead there," Nasse said. "I was hoping it would get strung out and stay green and hold him off with that gap but caught some cautions. And William, he’s great on restarts, so I’ve got to give him props there. He raced really clean. He slipped by me on the first restart, and got back by him, a lot of fun racing him but it’s a bit of a bummer to keep finding myself on the short end of that deal.
"I want to get back to Victory Lane bad. We want to roll off some wins here. Definitely bugging me. Ultimately, tonight, I’d rather be the guy chasing like he was than the guy leading, I think."
Bubba Pollard started sixth, one position behind Nasse, but fell to ninth early in the race before methodically working his way through the top 10 to score a podium. He fall back early when Jett Noland stacked up the outside line at the start.
Overall, Pollard finished third with what he felt was a third place car.
"We had a good race car, super loose from the start after we were snug in the heat and then a little free, but the 50 jammed us up on the restart," Pollard said. "Overall, guys used their heads racing tonight. That was good, good night.
"We started the year pretty good and feel like we’ve had better cars than we’ve shown lately. We’ve got some work to do. I ‘m not sure we can get to the level of those (Donnie Wilson Motorsports) cars but they can be beat. We’ll beat them. It’s just a matter of time."
Unofficially, Pollard extended his championship lead over Hunter Robbins to seven points with Nasse 17 back.
Southern Super Series Summer Sizzler 75 Five Flags Speedway July 24, 2022