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Gio Ruggiero Defeats Sawalich for ARCA East Win at 5 Flags Speedway

Gio Ruggiero scored his first career ARCA Menards Series East victory Saturday night in the Pensacola 150 at 5 Flags Speedway. Ruggiero outdueled William Sawalich.


hero image for Gio Ruggiero Defeats Sawalich for ARCA East Win at 5 Flags Speedway

It was back-and-forth like any other ARCA race between the No. 18 and the No. 20. This time it was the Venturini Motorsports team that took home the ARCA Menards Series East opener with Gio Ruggiero winning his first career race in the ARCA Menards platform.

“Just hats off to everybody at Venturini Motorsports. I’m glad we won here it’s a good track for me…It was kind of like Phoenix in reverse…We got better on restarts, and that’s how we beat them,” the Seekonk, MA native said post-race.

“I feel like I work so hard. Gonna be a great race tomorrow and ready to win again,” he added talking about the ASA STARS race tomorrow at Five Flags,” he added.

After a dominant race last year, it was second best for defending ARCA Menards Series East champion William Sawalich. The Eden Prarie, MN native was dominant in the first half up until the race break. After that, it was all the No. 20 car.

“I had a really good car in the first half, he had a really good car in the second. We’ll be back for Nashville,” the pole sitter Sawalich said.

Late model star Bubba Pollard had a fairly quiet night, as he ran inside the top five for most of the race and finished in third.

“It was a long day, but we had fun," Pollard said. "Just get some experience and get some seat time."

Rookie Connor Zilisch had an up-and-down day overall. From a fourth-place finish in the Truck Series race, and flying to Pensacola, spinning out in the first half of the race after contact with Zachary Tinkle.

After the spin, Zilisch quickly recovered to move into the third position when a fuel pump issue occurred.

At the checkered flag, the Daytona Rolex 24 winner came home in fourth for his East Series debut with Pinnacle Racing Group.

Disappointment also fell for Jake Finch after he cut a tire down early putting him several laps down before the race even reached Lap 25. The second-place starter was able to rebound though to a seventh-place finish.

D.L. Wilson also had a great start to his full-time East Series campaign. The veteran came home in ninth, taking home his second career top-10 in the ARCA Menards platform and his first in the East.

Up next, the ARCA Menards Series East travels north to Dover Motor Speedway on April 26th. You can catch the race live on FS1 at 5 P.M. ET.

Story by: Ben Branscum

Photo Credit: Tyler Sontag / SpeedRacer Photo

ARCA Menards Series East Pensacola 150 Race Results

FinNo.DriverTeamLapsDiffBest Lap
120Gio RuggieroVenturini Motorsports
218William SawalichJoe Gibbs Racing
Starkey / Sound Gear


31Bubba PollardPhoenix Racing
Phoenix Construction
1491 lap18.135
428Connor ZilischPinnacle Racing Group
Chevrolet / Silver Hare Development
1482 laps18.076
595Hunter WrightMAN Motorsports
Wilson County Visitors Bureau
1482 laps18.382
610Mike BashamFast Track Racing
HY / TORC of NY / Double H Ranch
1455 laps18.524
755Jake FinchVenturini Motorsports
Phoenix Construction
1446 laps18.135
811Zachary TinkleFast Track Racing
1446 laps18.416
939D.L. WilsonCostner Weaver Motorsports
ETR / Wilson Traditional Metals
1428 laps18.348
106Cody DennisonWayne Peterson Racing
Peterson Motorsports
1428 laps18.878
1193Colton CollinsCostner Weaver Motorsports
Cooper Marketing Unlimited
1419 laps18.736
1299Michael MaplesFast Track Racing
Don Ray Petroleum / Maples Motorsports
13119 laps20.316
1331Rita GouletRise Motorsports
NationalPolice.org / BackTheLane.com
12030 laps19.857
1412Presley SorahFast Track Racing
OEM Pensacola / Tatanka Sauce
42108 laps19.567
157Tyler ScofieldScofield Motorsports
JXT Transportation
29121 laps18.459
160Nate MoellerWayne Peterson Racing
Peterson Motorsports
2148 laps23.526
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