Johnny Sauter secures place in Championship 4 with Texas win
Reigning Camping World Truck Series champion Johnny Sauter has earned the right to race for two in a row.
Sauter repeated his fall victory at Texas Motor Speedway of a year ago by holding off rookie Austin Cindric to win Friday night’s Jag Metals 350 and earn a spot in the Championship 4 in two weeks at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Sauter held the lead through a round of late-race green-flag pit stops and furiously worked to remain ahead of Cindric over the final 12 laps to clinch his third win of the season.
The win is the 16th of Sauter’s career and fourth at Texas.
“It was just a total team effort. I can’t thank everyone enough at GMS Racing,” Sauter said in Victory Lane. “I’m glad we could give Hendrick (Motorsports) horsepower its 400th win tonight.
“It was just unbelievable. I was actually pretty worried about our truck after qualifying. It was pretty loose. All we did all night was lower the track bar half a round.”
Christopher Bell finished third, Chase Briscoe was fourth and pole-winner Justin Haley completed the top-five.
With one race left to determine the series champion at Homestead, the top four positions are currently held by Sauter, Bell, Crafton and Cindric.
“Tonight was representative of how I feel this team is right now,” Cindric said. “I think it was youth versus experience tonight and experience won. Johnny taught be some things tonight.”
Noah Gragson took the lead with five laps remaining in the second 35-lap segment and held off his Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate, Myatt Snider, to claim the Stage victory.
Bell finished third, Kaz Grala was fourth and Ryan Truex completed the top-five.
Most of the lead-lap cars elected to pit during the stage break but Cindric stayed out and inherited the lead at the start of the final stage.
Matt Crafton was penalized during pit stops for having a crew member over the wall too soon and had to start the final stage from the rear of the field.
Sauter got into his GMC Racing teammate, Haley, on Lap 58 to bring fourth caution of the race. Snider held the lead on the restart seven laps remaining in the stage.
The six remaining playoff drivers led the way in the first 35-lap stage, with Bell holding off Sauter to claim the stage victory.
Cindric finished third, Ben Rhodes was fourth, John Hunter Nemechek fifth and Crafton sixth.
After a round of pit stops during the stage break, Crafton stayed out and inherited the lead heading into Stage 2.
A caution was displayed with seven laps left in the stage when Patrick Emerling wrecked on the backstretch. Many drivers headed to pit road but Bell – who took the lead right before the caution – elected to remain on the track.
He restarted the race in the lead with four laps remaining and had little trouble rocketing out to a sizable lead.
Tommy Joe Martins brought out the first caution of the race after wrecking on Lap 4.
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