Aug. 16, 2014
By Scott Held
BROOKLYN, Mich.—Johnny Sauter’s new crew chief started work eight days before Saturday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Careers for Veterans 200.
So much for a getting-to-know-you period.
Sauter’s Toyota Tundra went to the front after leader Matt Crafton pitted with three laps left and the veteran claimed his first Truck Series victory of the season at Michigan International Speedway.
His 161.087 mph average speed is the fastest in series history, breaking the 154.737 record he set in 2012 when he won at Texas.
“When I was out front leading, I could go where I wanted and do what I wanted,” Sauter said. “The last 40 laps of the race I was running wide open.”
Crafton, Sauter’s ThorSport Racing teammate, finished second after pulling in for a quick splash of fuel. He had a 31-second lead when he entered the pits and was passed as he emerged from the lane after stopping for less than three seconds.
The win vaulted Sauter into the first place in the season standings, seven points ahead of Crafton, who moved from third to second. Pole winner Ryan Blaney started the race with the points lead but lost it after finishing 21st.
“This is great, this is the thing we needed to swing it,” Sauter said after leading 21 laps in his 10th career series win. “We’ve been consistent. We finally got speed this weekend.”
The win ran Sauter’s streak of seasons with at least one truck victory to six.
Ron Hornaday Jr.’s Chevy was third, followed by Tayler Malsam and Kyle Busch. Busch, who’ll start 24th in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Pure Michigan 400 (1 p.m. ET on ESPN), was seeking his sixth victory in as many starts this season in the Truck Series.
ThorSport brought in Jeff Hensley to replace Dennis Connor as crew chief despite the fact Sauter was second in the points standings. Sauter said there were no hard feelings.
“It was just something we thought would make the whole organization stronger,” he said.
Hensley, of course, enjoyed his first race in the pit box.
“I thought we could win, but I sure as heck didn’t think it would be the first time out,” he said.
Crafton was happy the team, based in nearby Sandusky, Ohio, had the top two spots – though he would’ve rewritten the ending if it was up to him.
“It was very eventful, without a doubt,” he said. “All in all, not a bad day. It’s nice to see ThorSport one-two. I just wish it was the other way around.”
The race’s only caution flag came nine laps in after Travis Kvapil’s engine failed and left oil on the track. The last 86 laps of the record-setting race were green.
The long stretch of green-flag laps seemed to benefit Sauter and other drivers who ducked into the pits during the lone caution period.
“It sure seemed like there was more passing in the pits than on the track with everyone so spread out,” he said. “Sometimes it’s good to have a race like that.”
Darrell Wallace Jr. led a race-best 48 laps but finished a lap down in 11th.
Blaney won the pole just by showing up for the final qualifying session. He was the only driver to attempt a lap before time ran out. His 173.152 mph pole speed was significantly slower than the track record 187.647 turned by Joey Logano in the second session.
Jeb Burton set the record during last year’s stop here.