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GIO Wins ARCA 150
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3/24/2024

3/24/2024

Five Flags Speedway


GIO Wins ARCA 150

The Big Weekend: Ruggiero Overpowers Sawalich to Capture ARCA Pensacola 150

By Chuck Corder
5flagsspeedway.com reporter

Gio Ruggiero remembers all too well the empty feeling of finishing second in a monumental race at Five Flags Speedway.
Just a mere three months ago, Ruggiero claimed runner-up honors to Ty Majeski at the 56th running of the Snowball Derby. The 19-year-old New England driver proved that he’s coachable and learns from past mistakes en route to an historic win in the ARCA Menards Series East Pensacola 150 on Saturday night.

Faced with a big moment on Night 2 of The Big Weekend, the kickoff of the 2024 season at Five Flags, Ruggiero thrived under pressure. He powered by race leader William Sawalich on the outside and found clean air following a competition caution at the halfway point. Ruggiero navigated pools of lapped cars a handful times down the stretch and managed to keep Sawalich in his rearview to earn a water-bath celebration in Victory Lane.
“Hats off to this team, who works their butts off,” the Seekonk, Mass., native said. “We had a great car tonight. I’m glad I won here. This has been a great track for me.

“I’m ready to win again.”
Sawalich seemed to be following a familiar script Saturday. During last year’s ARCA race at Pensacola’s high banks, he set the fast time in qualifying and cruised to a win. The 17-year-old once again took the pole Saturday thanks to a blistering lap (17.126 seconds).
“Hopefully, we can pull off the win tonight,” Sawalich said after qualifying. “We have the speed.”
He did. Only this time, Ruggiero would not let Sawalich go run and hide. He stayed glued to Sawalich’s bumper, never letting the Minnesotan separate himself as he did in last year’s ARCA win.

When the 16-car field came to the pits under the competition caution at Lap 75, Ruggiero was well-versed in the test that awaited him.
“I’ve been needing to work more on my restarts,” he admitted. “I study restarts all week. I got better there and that’s how we got win.”
Ruggiero passed with flying colors.

Pensacola favorite Bubba Pollard, a week ahead of his NASCAR Xfinity debut with JR Motorsports, finished a distant third.
Pollard looks to make amends Sunday afternoon as The Big Weekend closes with the ASA STARS Sunshine State 200, featuring the best late model drivers short-track racing has to offer.

Unofficial Finish ARCA 150

# NAME TOTAL LAPS LAST LAP DIFF BEST LAP
1 20 Giovanni Ruggiero * 150 --:--:-- --:--:-- 00:17:686
2 18 William Sawalich 150 --:--:-- --:--:-- 00:17:827
3 1 Bubba Pollard * 149 --:--:-- --:--:-- 00:18:135
4 28 Connor Zilisch * 148 --:--:-- --:--:-- 00:18:076
5 95 Hunter Wright * 148 --:--:-- --:--:-- 00:18:382
6 10 Mike Basham 145 --:--:-- --:--:-- 00:18:524
7 55 Jake Finch 144 --:--:-- --:--:-- 00:18:135
8 11 Zachary Tinkle 144 --:--:-- --:--:-- 00:18:416
9 39 D.L. Wilson 142 --:--:-- --:--:-- 00:18:348
10 06 Cody Dennison * 142 --:--:-- --:--:-- 00:18:878
11 93 Colton Collins * 141 --:--:-- --:--:-- 00:18:736
12 99 Michael Maples * 131 --:--:-- --:--:-- 00:20:316
13 31 Rita Goulet 120 --:--:-- --:--:-- 00:19:857
14 12 Presley Sorah * 42 --:--:-- --:--:-- 00:19:567
15 07 Tyler Scofield * 29 --:--:-- --:--:-- 00:18:459
16 0 Nate Moeller *

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