Sean Hingorani makes history as first driver of Indian descent to win an ARCA West Series crown.
East Series champion William Sawalich wins from the pole to punctuate successful coast-to-coast ARCA campaign.
Kaden Honeycutt brings owner’s championship, despite ninth-place showing.
All Sean Hingorani had to do to clinch the ARCA Menards Series West championship was finish 25th or better in Friday’s season-ending Desert Diamond Casino West Valley 100 at Phoenix Raceway.
And the 17-year-old from Newport Beach, Calif., did that easily, chasing pole sitter William Sawalich and second-place Dean Thompson across the finish line to bring Venturini Motorsports its first West Series crown and fourth overall in the ARCA platform.
Trevor Huddleston, ranked No. 2 entering the race, saw his chances to record a runner-up finish in the final standings fizzle early in the race. He got loose and sideways on Lap 13 and never was a factor in this 12th race of the season.
“We had a lot of ups and downs throughout the year. But me and the VMS guys powered through it, and here we are today: 2023 ARCA Menards Series West champions. Coming into the weekend, I was pretty confident that we had a big points lead, and all we had to do was execute and finish the race,” Hingorani said after becoming the first driver of Indian heritage to win a championship in the series. “I wanted to win. Unfortunately, we didn’t. All in all, we had a great day.”
Hingorani, driver of the Mobil 1 Toyota, had little time to savor his championship. He had to dash over to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series pits and prepare for Friday night’s race in the No. 75 Fidelity Capital Team Chevrolet Silverado for Henderson Motorsports, a ride Kyle Busch Motorsports arranged for him.
“When you get opportunities that good, you can’t pass ’em up. I’m happy to be running the No. 75 Henderson truck,” Hingorani said, but clarified that “we do not have anything planned yet” for 2024. As for opportunities outside stock-car racing, he said, “Right now, we only have plans to stay in NASCAR. Right now, I have no plans to change series.”
Hingorani said, “I grew up on the West Coast, and it meant a lot to me for Billy Venturini to put together a program out here and to be able to make all the West races, considering they race almost every weekend and they race sometimes on the same day back there. It was great to be able to be in the position I am now. We were able to execute and get a championship. So it was a great year.”
He closed his rookie season with five victories (at California’s Irwindale, Kern Country, and Shasta racetracks, Washington’s Evergreen Speedway, and Arizona’s Phoenix Raceway), along with two pole positions, and seven top-five finishes.
Sawalich, also 17, made up Friday for his disappointing trip here in March, when he nearly notched his first ARCA Menards Series West triumph, also from the top starting spot. Bradley Erickson spun him out in the late going that day. But Friday belonged to the Eden Prairie, Minn., driver of the No. 18 Starkey Sound Gear Toyota.
He that his March experience here prepared him for Friday’s finale: “I learned a lot for this race. I knew coming here I wanted to win to make up for (that one).”
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver and Toyota development driver said, “It’s really important for my future to be with them. They’re a great organization, and they’re a good racing family to be in. Coach and I have good conversations weekly. It’s good to have someone like that behind my back. It’s really special to have that, and I feel like we have a bright future with them.”
For Sawalich, who earned his fifth victory of the season across the ARCA Menards platform to add to his East series championship, the task doesn’t seem all that complicated.
“This year I pretty much did almost everything of what I wanted to do,” he said. “We were always in contention of every race we were in. For next year, I feel like doing the same thing but a little bit better. Personally, I have a few things to work on. There’s not much to do but to win races.”
Ninth-place Kaden Honeycutt, 20, of Aledo, Texas, wrapped up the ARCA Menards Series West owners championship for Steve McGowan and Bruce Cook in his MMI-Sunwest Construction Chevrolet.