In wild finish, Sauter wins Truck Series opener at Daytona

Feb. 19, 2016
By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
 

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – With the No. 4 Toyota of Christopher Bell barrel-rolling through Turn 1 behind him, Johnny Sauter nosed ahead in his No. 21 Chevrolet and had more than a car-length lead when NASCAR called the final caution of the NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway.

With the victory, Sauter is all but guaranteed a spot in the first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase, a seven-race playoff modeled after the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

But Sauter needed a push from Bell to take the lead, moments before contact with the No. 17 Toyota of Timothy Peters launched the No. 4 and sent it rolling in as part of a 10-truck accident. Ryan Truex ran second, followed by Parker Kligerman, Brandon Brown and Tyler Young, as attrition eliminated some of the strongest trucks in the field.

The victory was the first for Chevrolet in 17 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races at Daytona. It was Sauter’s 11th win in the series in his first start in the No. 21 GMS Racing Chevy and his first race with crew chief Marcus Richmond.

“I just had this feeling that our truck was so good yesterday that, if I didn’t make any mistakes, we were going to have a shot at this,” Sauter said. “And Marcus did a phenomenal job calling the race… This is unbelievable.

“I’m so pumped to be the first guy to get to Victory Lane here. GMS—I mean, what can I say? This is the opportunity of a lifetime.”

A colossal wreck on Lap 93 involved more than half the 32-truck field and eliminated some of the strongest competitors from contention, including Austin Theriault (who had led a race-high 31 laps), polesitter Grant Enfinger, two-time series champion Matt Crafton, defending race winner Tyler Reddick, Canadian Cameron Hayley and Mexican star Daniel Suarez.

NASCAR red-flagged the race for 27 minutes, 54 seconds for track cleanup. When the trucks began rolling again, Truex was in the lead, followed by Sauter and Peters, for a restart on Lap 98. Truex and Sauter battled side-by-side until Bell pushed Sauter to the lead after the trucks took the white flag.

“The 4 truck, thanks for the push,” Sauter said. “He was pushing me. I was sideways. We lost momentum there, and I thought we were all going to crash. The next thing I knew he was pushing me again and bumping me, and it all worked out.”

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