Johnny Sauter pulls away to win at Charlotte for first time

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - MAY 18: Johnny Sauter, driver of the #21 ISM Connect Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 18, 2018 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

CONCORD, N.C. – As drivers battled for position behind him, Johnny Sauter pulled away his No. 21 GMS Racing Chevrolet during the final 10-lap run to win Friday night’s North Carolina Education Lottery 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“We won Charlotte!” an elated Sauter screamed over his radio as he crossed the finish line 1.340 seconds ahead of Kyle Busch, who was frustrated in his attempt at a series-record tying 51st victory.

A few minutes later, in Victory Lane, Sauter, the pole winner, reveled in the significance of the victory, his third of the season and the 20th of his career.

“This is a tough place,” said Sauter, who turned 40 on May 1. “Everyone wants to win here. I never thought I’d win here. To win this race is just super special. I never thought 40 would be so good.

“This is the biggest race of my career, and I’ve won a lot of big races. We kept making adjustments on the truck all night and made it better and better.”

Sauter scored his 20th straight top-10 finish on a 1.5-mile intermediate speedway, a streak that includes four victories. He also scored points in the first two stages of the race (won by Brett Moffitt and John Hunter Nemechek, respectively) to run his string of in-the-money stage finishes to 30.

Busch’s effort was hampered by a pair of pit road penalties, both incurred when members of his crew came over the wall too soon. Nevertheless, he twice came from the back of the field to finish second, passing Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate and third-place finisher Brandon Jones for the runner-up spot on Lap 133 of 134.

Asked how he managed to charge through the field, Busch said dourly, “Pure talent. That’s about it. My pit crew did absolutely nothing to help me out tonight. My truck drove like (crap)… But somehow, some way I was able to get back to the front. Had a blast.”

Moffitt ran fourth, followed by Ben Rhodes. Stewart Friesen, Parker Kligerman, Noah Gragson, Nemechek and Todd Gilliland completed the top 10.

Sauter took control of the race when he passed Moffitt for the lead on Lap 87, one circuit before Josh Reaume’s spin brought out the fifth caution of the race. Sauter went on to lead a race-high 71 laps and increased his series lead to 59 points over second-place Gragson and 65 over Moffitt in third.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race Results North Carolina Education Lottery 200

Charlotte Motor Speedway

Concord, North Carolina

Friday, May 18, 2018

1. (1) Johnny Sauter, Chevrolet, 134.

2. (4) Kyle Busch(i), Toyota, 134.

3. (28) Brandon Jones(i), Toyota, 134.

4. (6) Brett Moffitt, Toyota, 134.

5. (7) Ben Rhodes, Ford, 134.

6. (10) Stewart Friesen, Chevrolet, 134.

7. (27) Parker Kligerman, Chevrolet, 134.

8. (2) Noah Gragson, Toyota, 134.

9. (9) John Hunter Nemechek(i), Chevrolet, 134.

10. (3) Todd Gilliland #, Toyota, 134.

11. (8) Matt Crafton, Ford, 134.

12. (5) Grant Enfinger, Ford, 134.

13. (14) Chris Eggleston, Toyota, 134.

14. (11) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 134.

15. (13) Myatt Snider #, Ford, 134.

16. (24) Jesse Little, Ford, 134.

17. (15) Cody Coughlin, Chevrolet, 134.

18. (17) Austin Hill, Chevrolet, 134.

19. (12) Dalton Sargeant #, Chevrolet, 134.

20. (21) Jordan Anderson, Chevrolet, 134.

21. (16) Daniel Hemric(i), Chevrolet, 134.

22. (20) Wendell Chavous, Chevrolet, 134.

23. (23) Robby Lyons, Chevrolet, 134.

24. (29) Josh Reaume, Chevrolet, 132.

25. (22) Bayley Currey, Chevrolet, 132.

26. (26) Jennifer Jo Cobb, Chevrolet, 121.

27. (19) Austin Self, Chevrolet, Accident, 117.

28. (30) Timmy Hill(i), Chevrolet, Engine, 100.

29. (31) Mike Harmon(i), Chevrolet, 99.

30. (18) Justin Fontaine #, Chevrolet, Accident, 97.

31. (25) Norm Benning, Chevrolet, Accident, 55.

32. (32) JJ Yeley(i), Chevrolet, Transmission, 21.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  112.675 mph.

Time of Race:  01 Hrs, 47 Mins, 02 Secs. Margin of Victory:  1.340 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  7 for 36 laps.

Lead Changes:  11 among 5 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   J. Sauter 1-2; N. Gragson 3; J. Sauter 4-9; N. Gragson 10-21; J. Sauter 22-26; B. Moffitt 27-42; J. Nemechek(i) 43-63; J. Anderson 64; B. Moffitt 65-71; J. Sauter 72-81; B. Moffitt 82-86; J. Sauter 87-134.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  J. Sauter 5 times for 71 laps; B. Moffitt 3 times for 28 laps; J. Nemechek(i) 1 time for 21 laps; N. Gragson 2 times for 13 laps; J. Anderson 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 16,24,21,25,8,51,75,4,88,97

Stage #2 Top Ten: 8,51,16,4,21,41,88,24,46,18

About Greg Engle 7420 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.