14-Year-Old Racer Impressing in Carolina Pro Late Models

One of the top drivers in the Carolina Pro Late Model Series this season grew up far from the Carolinas, starting his racing career in quarter-midgets in Minnesota.  Still, 14-year-old rookie driver William Sawalich has wasted little time acclimating to the full-sized cars, with a win already to his credit.


Sawalich currently sits third in series points, with a victory at Carteret County Speedway in June marking his first Pro Late Model triumph.  Sawalich has been working closely with the likes of Lorin Ranier and Ryan Farbo while driving for Brandon and Dennis Setzer, giving him plenty of racing experience to lean on in his development.


Sawalich’s career started with humble beginnings, working his way up the ranks at his home track, Elko Speedway.


I started out watching some NASCAR races and got so interested, I went to a few races with my dad,” said Sawalich.  “Someone told us about quarter-midgets and there was a local track near us, called Little Elko.  That’s my home track, so I started racing there.


“I later moved on to Legends cars at Elko Speedway.  I’m currently doing that now along with the Pro Late Model.  I’m mainly focusing on the Pro Late Model now.”


Already, the young driver is drawing rave reviews from those working with him.  Sawalich is Brandon and Dennis Setzer’s first driver since they started Setzer Racing and Development for the 2021 season out of a desire to pass along their experiences to the next generation.


“I was looking to work for myself and spend more time with my dad, hit the local shows a little bit more,” said Brandon Setzer.  “I’ve always enjoyed working with the up-and-coming drivers and teaching them about racing etiquette, how to race, all that good stuff.”


“I always stressed so heavily getting him prepared and helping him learn the things he needed,” added Dennis Setzer.  “He’s carried that right on now.  I think he enjoys that part.  He worked for KBM for a year and a half, two years, learned a lot of new stuff we didn’t have in our shop.  That’s helped us take out program to a new level.”


An encounter with Ranier at a quarter-midget event ultimately led to the eventual partnership with the Setzer.  Ranier is a noted talent-spotter, playing a role in the career of many drivers who have now found their way to the NASCAR Cup Series.  Ranier speaks highly of Sawalich’s intelligence behind the wheel.


“What I’ve liked the most so far is his ability to learn,” said Ranier.  “He’s extremely talented and can drive a race car real fast, but his ability to learn new things is really impressive.  He’s high-IQ, he’s really smart.  He adapts well to new things, and that’s what racing is.  As you are ascending, you’ve got to understand new stuff going on, new cars, new tracks, racing against new people.  He does a really great job of that at 14 years old.”


While it’s too early to suggest the young Sawalich could become a seven-time NASCAR Cup Champion, Ranier compared his ability to learn and process information behind the wheel to that of another young driver he once worked with.


Jimmie Johnson.  With just the fact of the way he adapts so quickly and is really smart.  You explain something to him one time, and he gets it.  He’s a cerebral driver; he thinks before he does. – Lorin Ranier


That’s a sentiment shared by the Setzers when they discuss Sawalich.


“The biggest strength of William is he’s a good listener,” said Brandon Setzer.  “He takes the advice we give him and applies it.  He’s a smart kid.  He’s asking, ‘What does this change do, explain it to me?’  A lot of that stuff is a huge improvement over a lot of young kids his age.”


“We can put Brandon in the car, shake it down if we need to,” added Dennis Setzer.  “It’s amazing how fast William can get in the car and get up to speed.  That’s been the impressive part with William.  It doesn’t take much practice time for him to get up to speed and start making adjustments.”


Having so many individuals in his corner has been instrumental in Sawalich’s adjustment to the Pro Late Model in 2021.


They just have so much experience I can learn from.  They teach me everything they know, and I just absorb it as much as I can.  Dennis has so much experience from the Trucks, Xfinity Series and the Cup Series.  Brandon is so good on cars and a really good coach for me.  Lorin has a lot of knowledge from all of his involvement in racing. – William Sawalich


Sawalich won in his sixth Pro Late Model start, taking the checkered flag with the Carolina Pro Late Model Series at Carteret County Speedway.  The victory was a significant milestone for Sawalich in his racing ascent.


“It was awesome,” said Sawalich.  “Winning in just my sixth race was pretty incredible.  Brandon did an incredible job on the car, Dennis did a great job coaching me.  The whole team is incredible and I can’t thank them enough.”


The season continues this weekend at Dillon Motor Speedway.  Setzer is confident the team will continue to impress heading into the second half of the Carolina Pro Late Model Series season.


“We’ve been really competitive every race, I feel like,” said Brandon Setzer.  “We’ve had a couple of races that didn’t go quite how we wanted, but you have to take those as learning days.  We’ve had great speed, he’s done a great job.  I think he’s going to be a real force to be reckoned with in the second half of the season.”


-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans

-Photo credit: William Sawalich Racing Facebook

14-Year-Old Racer Impressing in Carolina Pro Late Models