William Byron found redemption, while Johnny Sauter found his first NASCAR Camping World title Friday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Byron a young phenom who was a Chase favorite until a blown engine a week prior at Phoenix left out of the Championship 4, led 31 laps from pole taking the lead for the final time with 10 laps to go, and holding off Tyler Reddick for his seventh season win.
“It feels awesome,” Byron said. “It’s just – it’s incredible. I mean this team has worked so hard all year. We just had an unfortunate situation last week that we couldn’t control, but, man, they brought a good truck. Qualified on the pole. These guys just are awesome.”
Sauter finished third to claim the title.
“It’s not just me, it’s the whole team, everyone at GMS racing,” Sauter said. “I’ve got to thank the Gallagher family, everyone that gave us this opportunity. I’m proud to be a champion and I hope to represent the NASCAR Camping World Truck series the best I can.”
For much of the 134 laps, the race and the title seemed to belong to two different drivers. Kyle Larson led a race high76 laps, while is was two time champion Matt Crafton who seemed to be in control of the title running in the top five most of the night and ahead of his three Championship contenders.
In the closing laps however the race’s fourth and final caution jumbled up the field. Reddick took only two tires, and the lead, with the restart coming 20 laps from end.
Crafton was still in control of the title fight, but began to fade as the laps wound down. Sauter made his move with 16 to go, securing third and as it turned out the title winning move. Larson, who had lost eight spots on the final pit stops, made one final run towards the front but scrapped the wall and slowed.
“I figured it was just a matter of time,” an obviously disappointed Crafton said. “We were just really bad on that last run for whatever reason. We just went the wrong way for whatever reason. It just got really tight on that last run for whatever reason.”
Larson would finish fourth, Daniel Hemric fifth. Daniel Suarez was sixth with Crafton holding on for seventh. The remaining two Championship 4 drivers, Christopher Belland Timothy Peters were eighth and ninth behind Crafton, Cole Custer rounded out the top 10.
Sauter, a Wisconsin native scored three wins in 2016 starting with the season opener at Daytona, and at Martinsville followed by Texas in October, the win that locked him into the Championship 4.
“During the beginning of the race, to be honest, I was being conservative, just trying to take care of it,” Sauter said. “You know just not make any stupid mistakes With about 85 laps to go I was like, okay I can start picking them off here,. with about 50 to 60 to go, I thought, okay we got something here, we were really catching the 88 (Crafton), looked like he was pushing real bad, just so proud of these guys, I can’t thank everyone enough. I’m a small part of this deal. This is awesome we’re taking it back to Wisconsin”
The win for Byron is his last for owner Kyle Busch. Byron who secured the 2016 Camping World Truck Series Rookie of the Year title Friday, announced earlier in the season that he signed for Hendrick Motorsports to race for JR Motorsports starting in 2017.
“Before this race, we knew we had a lifelong bond between all of us,” Byron said. “I mean, it’s just been an incredible season. I’ve learned so much. They didn’t know what to expect I think with a rookie driver. They were like, ‘What’s this kid going to do,’ so I just tried to prove them right all year and we just had an awesome year, so no better way to finish it off at Homestead like this.”
The full results can be found here.
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- Clint Bowyer’s last-ditch effort ends in nine-car wreck - February 17, 2019
- Jimmie Johnson scores miraculous top 10 at Daytona - February 17, 2019