In wild finish, Sauter wins Truck Series opener at Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 19:  Johnny Sauter, driver of the #21 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway on February 19, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

DAYTONA BEACH, FL – FEBRUARY 19: Johnny Sauter, driver of the #21 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway on February 19, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

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.”

Note: After the race, Bell was transported to a local medical facility for further examination and observation. No specifics about his condition were available, but Bell was able to climb from his car and walk to a waiting ambulance–standard protocol after any wreck.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race – NextEra Energy Resources 250

Daytona International Speedway

Daytona Beach, Florida

Friday, February 19, 2016

1. (2) Johnny Sauter, Chevrolet, 100

2. (20) Ryan Truex, Toyota, 100

3. (23) Parker Kligerman, Ford, 100

4. (22) Brandon Brown, Chevrolet, 100

5. (32) Travis Kvapil, Chevrolet, 100

6. (21) Tyler Young, Chevrolet, 100

7. (24) Ben Rhodes #, Toyota, 100

8. (18) Daniel Hemric, Ford, 100

9. (26) Scott Lagasse Jr(i), Chevrolet, 100

10. (6) Matt Crafton, Toyota, 100

11. (29) Michel Disdier, Chevrolet, 100

12. (25) Bobby Gerhart(i), Chevrolet, 100

13. (13) William Byron #, Toyota, 100

14. (30) Timmy Hill, Chevrolet, 100

15. (3) Timothy Peters, Toyota, 100

16. (8) Christopher Bell #, Toyota, 99

17. (15) John H Nemechek, Chevrolet, 99

18. (12) Tyler Reddick, Ford, 99

19. (19) Austin Wayne Self, Toyota, 99

20. (1) Grant Enfinger #, Chevrolet, 98

21. (11) Spencer Gallagher, Chevrolet, 96

22. (17) Chris Fontaine, Toyota, Accident, 95

23. (31) Ben Kennedy, Toyota, Accident, 93

24. (10) Cole Custer #, Chevrolet, Accident, 93

25. (14) Cameron Hayley, Toyota, Accident, 92

26. (7) John Wes Townley, Chevrolet, Accident, 92

27. (4) Austin Theriault, Ford, Accident, 92

28. (5) Daniel Suarez(i), Toyota, Accident, 92

29. (16) Rico Abreu #, Toyota, Accident, 92

30. (27) Jordan Anderson, Chevrolet, Rear Gear, 75

31. (9) Cody Coughlin #, Toyota, Accident, 41

32. (28) Tommy Joe Martins, Chevrolet, Accident, 11

Average Speed of Race Winner:  129.032 mph.

Time of Race:  01 Hrs, 56 Mins, 15 Secs. Margin of Victory:  Caution.

Caution Flags:  7 for 29 laps.

Lead Changes:  26 among 10 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   G. Enfinger # 0; A. Theriault 1; G. Enfinger # 2-3; A. Theriault 4-9; G. Enfinger # 10; J. Sauter 11-13; T. Reddick 14-20; A. Theriault 21; J. Sauter 22-24; M. Crafton 25-29; A. Theriault 30-44; T. Kvapil 45-46; T. Peters 47-51; A. Theriault 52-59; J. Sauter 60-63; C. Hayley 64-66; T. Hill 67; T. Peters 68-70; T. Reddick 71-75; T. Peters 76-82; C. Hayley 83; R. Truex 84; G. Enfinger # 85; R. Truex 86-91; J. Sauter 92; R. Truex 93-99; J. Sauter 100;.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  A. Theriault 5 times for 31 laps; T. Peters 3 times for 15 laps; R. Truex 3 times for 14 laps; J. Sauter 5 times for 12 laps; T. Reddick 2 times for 12 laps; M. Crafton 1 time for 5 laps; C. Hayley 2 times for 4 laps; G. Enfinger # 3 times for 4 laps; T. Kvapil 1 time for 2 laps; T. Hill 1 time for 1 lap.

Top 10 in Points: J. Sauter – 36; R. Truex – 32; P. Kligerman – 30; B. Brown – 29; T. Kvapil – 29; T. Young – 27; B. Rhodes # – 26; D. Hemric – 25; M. Crafton – 24; M. Disdier – 22.

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