Polesitter Chase Elliott wins hotly contested Martinsville Truck race

MARTINSVILLE, VA - APRIL 01: Chase Elliott, driver of the #23 Allegiant Airlines/NAPA Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Alpha Energy Solutions 250 at Martinsville Speedway on April 1, 2017 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Polesitter Chase Elliott held off defending NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Johnny Sauter after a restart with 12 laps left and pulled away to win Saturday’s Alpha Energy Solutions 250 at Martinsville Speedway by 1.865 seconds.

Elliott grabbed the lead from third-place finisher Christopher Bell on Lap 234, when Bell’s Toyota tangled with Austin Cindric’s Ford through Turns 1 and 2. Bell lost the top spot, and Sauter charged past into the second position before NASCAR threw the 10th and final caution of the race.

The decisive move, however, came after the final restart on Lap 239, when Elliott blocked Sauter’s crossover move in Turn 3 and kept the lead.

“It was fun today,” Elliott said. “I had some help there with Christopher’s misfortune. I was trying all I could to get by him. He was doing a really good job of maintaining my bumper, a good job with me hitting him… His bumper was getting progressively more blue (the color of Elliott’s car) as the day went.

“It was a hard-fought battle, for sure.”

And then came the battle with Sauter, who said he would have made the same blocking move on the final restart, had the roles been reversed.

“Chase did what he needed to do with the old block,” Sauter said.

“I saw him coming in the mirror with a big run, and I knew I had to block him,” Elliott said. “Fortunately, it worked out.”

Bell led a race-high 96 laps, 90 in the final 110-lap stage. Before that, GMS Racing teammates Elliott and Sauter dominated the action. Elliott, a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regular getting extra track time in preparation for Sunday’s STP 500 (2 p.m. ET on FS1), won the first stage.

Sauter took the second stage but had to come through the field from 13th following the restart for the third stage after pitting for tires in a contrarian strategy to that of Elliott, who got fresh rubber before the end of Stage 2.

Elliott (92 laps), Sauter (62 laps) and Bell were the only drivers to lead the 250-lap event at the .526-mile track, but the action behind them was ferocious, producing 10 cautions for 63 laps.

Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Noah Gragson recovered from a spin off Chase Briscoe’s bumper to finish fourth, one spot behind his Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate. Ty Dillon and Brett Moffitt ran fifth and sixth, respectively.

Note: Sauter took over the series lead by four points over Bell, who won the previous NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Atlanta… Elliott and Sauter reversed their positions from the fall race at Martinsville, which Sauter won on the way to his first championship.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race Results Alpha Energy Solutions 250

Martinsville Speedway

Martinsville, Virginia

Saturday, April 1, 2017

1. (1) Chase Elliott(i), Chevrolet, 250.

2. (2) Johnny Sauter, Chevrolet, 250.

3. (6) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 250.

4. (9) Noah Gragson #, Toyota, 250.

5. (16) Ty Dillon(i), Chevrolet, 250.

6. (15) Brett Moffitt, Toyota, 250.

7. (5) Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 250.

8. (3) Timothy Peters, Toyota, 250.

9. (4) Matt Crafton, Toyota, 250.

10. (19) Ryan Truex, Toyota, 250.

11. (8) Chase Briscoe #, Ford, 250.

12. (20) Regan Smith, Ford, 250.

13. (7) Harrison Burton, Toyota, 250.

14. (22) Austin Hill, Ford, 250.

15. (11) Kaz Grala #, Chevrolet, 250.

16. (14) Kyle Donahue, Chevrolet, 250.

17. (10) Grant Enfinger #, Toyota, 250.

18. (21) Joe Nemechek, Chevrolet, 250.

19. (27) Cody Coughlin #, Toyota, 250.

20. (17) Ben Rhodes, Toyota, 249.

21. (13) Austin Cindric #, Ford, 249.

22. (25) Caleb Holman, Chevrolet, 249.

23. (31) Wendell Chavous #, Chevrolet, 248.

24. (26) TJ Bell, Chevrolet, 247.

25. (18) Stewart Friesen #, Chevrolet, 247.

26. (24) Justin Haley #, Chevrolet, 246.

27. (23) Brandon Brown(i), Chevrolet, 242.

28. (12) John H Nemechek, Chevrolet, 226.

29. (28) Travis Kvapil, Chevrolet, Engine, 186.

30. (30) Donnie Levister, Chevrolet, Brakes, 100.

31. (32) Jordan Anderson, Chevrolet, Brakes, 24.

32. (29) Bryce Napier, Chevrolet, Parked, 3.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  64.867 mph.

Time of Race:  02 Hrs, 01 Mins, 38 Secs. Margin of Victory:  1.865 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  10 for 63 laps.

Lead Changes:  4 among 3 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   C. Elliott(i) 1-75; C. Bell 76-81; J. Sauter 82-143; C. Bell 144-233; C. Elliott(i) 234-250.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  C. Bell 2 times for 96 laps; C. Elliott(i) 2 times for 92 laps; J. Sauter 1 time for 62 laps.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 23,21,88,4,98,29,17,18,99,8

Stage #2 Top Ten: 21,88,29,17,98,24,51,33,4,02

Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 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 Examiner.com 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.