Connor Zilisch (ARCA photo)

Zilisch Does It Again With Flat Rock Score

FLAT ROCK, Mich. — A stellar season for Connor Zilisch continued Saturday evening at Flat Rock Speedway.

Joining a long list of notable winners at the facility that includes Frank Kimmel, Tim Steele, Bob Keselowski and Bill Venturini, Zilisch put together a dominant, wire-to-wire performance in the Dutch Boy 150   to claim his second ARCA Menards Series East victory of 2024.

Zilisch was not thrilled with tailing William Sawalich for most of last week’s trip to Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway. Rebounding with a stellar outing of his own at a historic track like Flat Rock made Saturday’s victory even more cathartic for Zilisch.

“We got our teeth beat in last week, but we came back this week,” Zilisch said. “We don’t quit, and all these guys work so hard back at the shop. This is their fourth weekend in a row on the road, and it’s not easy for these guys. To come here and lead every lap means a lot.”

With a resume that includes two LMP2 class victories in the Rolex 24 and 12 Hours of Sebring, Zilisch had plenty of momentum on his side entering Flat Rock as the East Series points leader.

Establishing a commanding tone was imperative for Zilisch to increase his narrow advantage in the standings after Sawalich closed the gap at Nashville. By earning the General Tire Pole Award with a 12.724 lap time, Zilisch had no issues controlling the race from the moment the first green flag waved.

The only close call Zilisch faced in the Dutch Boy 150 came in the form of lapped traffic. While trying to navigate around slower traffic in the early stages, Zilisch made slight contact with Jeffrey MacZink, which left his left-rear quarter panel dangling for the rest of the night.

Sawalich, who also collided with slower cars in the stack-up, was unable to capitalize on the opportunity and had to watch as Zilisch drove away. Not even a late caution for Cody Dennison’s spin was enough for Sawalich to mount a charge.

Despite this, Sawalich was satisfied with the speed his car possessed. He knows he still has plenty of races left to shift the championship fight back in his favor.

“The lapped cars were pretty tough today,” Sawalich said. “This Joe Gibbs Racing crew brought me a fast Toyota Camry, so I’m really proud of that. Second place was not where we wanted to be, but we’ll definitely take it and come back later.”

Although Sawalich will leave Flat Rock with a larger deficit to Zilisch in the point standings, the defending East Series champion remains a potent threat for the title, especially since he has won at two of the four remaining tracks on the schedule.

Zilisch remains focused on the East Series championship, but on Saturday, he took pride in earning Chevrolet a victory at a track less than 30 minutes from the manufacturer’s headquarters in Detroit. Without the nurturing environment Chevrolet offers, Zilisch knows his development into a competitive short-track driver would not be as seamless.

“Everyone at Chevrolet, [including] Josh Wise and Scott Speed, do so much for me to prepare me for these moments,” Zilisch said. “It truly means a lot to come here and get a win for my first time coming [to Flat Rock]. I had no idea a quarter-mile could be this interesting, but this place has some character, and it sure was a lot of fun.”

Gio Ruggiero, the other contender in the East Series title fight, came home in third after starting on the outside of the front row. Rounding out the top five finishers were Ruggiero’s teammate Toni Breidinger and Zachary Tinkle.