Johnny Sauter made a pass when it mattered most and captured his second career victory in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway.
Sauter had just passed then-leader Ryan Truex after the white flag was displayed signaling the last lap when a massive wreck erupted behind them on the frontstretch which forced the race to end under caution.
It’s a sentimental victory for Sauter who was running his first race with a new team, GMS Racing. For the first time, the win will also all-but ensure Sauter will have a chance to compete for this season’s championship.
NASCAR has implemented the Chase format in both Truck and Xfinity series this season.
“I knew there were seven laps to go after that red flag but I didn’t know how it would all go after putting all that oil-dry down. I was thinking this could be a few laps shootout,” Sauter said from Victory Lane.
“I’m so pumped up. Chevrolet – it’s their first win ever at Daytona in Trucks.”
Reminded he now has virtually clinched a spot in the Chase, Sauter said, “That’s so cool. I’m all for it. I just a feeling. Our truck was so good in practice yesterday. I thought we were going to have a shot at this.”
Truex finished second, Parker Kligerman was third, Brandon Brown was fourth and Travis Kvapil was credited with fifth, unofficially.
Bell flips violently
Christopher Bell’s truck was caught up in the last lap accident and ended up rolling 10 times before coming to a stop. He has been transported a local hospital for further evaluation.
UPDATE: Bell was released from the hospital very early Saturday morning.
Truex was disappointed with the runner-up finish but was proud of his team’s effort considering his deal to race was only completed two weeks ago.
“This truck wasn’t a truck a month ago and I didn’t have a ride two weeks ago,” Truex said. “It’s tough not to win but we’ll be at Atlanta and we’ll be at Martinsville.”
Truex drives for Shige Hattori, a former IndyCar and NASCAR driver from Japan.
With less than 10 of 100 laps remaining, Truex was working furiously to hang on to the top spot as the drivers behind him shuffled for position.
The Big One
On Lap 93, Tyler Reddick appeared to bump Timothy Peters slightly from behind. Peters then hit Cameron Hayley, who was running in front of him, and Hayley basically spun in front of the field.
Officially, NASCAR listed 18 trucks – more than half of the 32-truck starting field – as involved in the accident. The race was red-flagged for nearly 28 minutes to clean the track of debris and oil.
Once the red flag was lifted and the race restarted on Lap 99, Truex remained in the lead followed by Sauter, Peters, Christopher Bell and Parker Kligerman.
Truex and Sauter remained side-by-side until both took the white flag.