FORT WORTH, Tex. – You might say Johnny Sauter is on a roll.
Then again, that might be an understatement.
Passing Matt Crafton near the start/finish line with two laps left in Friday night’s Striping Technology 350 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway, Sauter pulled away to win his second straight race in the inaugural NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase.
In the process, he deprived Crafton of a chance to clinch a spot in the Championship 4 finale, set for Nov. 18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Crafton won a drag race to the stripe against Daniel Hemric to secure the runner-up spot, .836 seconds behind Sauter.
“This is amazing,” said Sauter, who started 16th in his No. 21 Chevrolet and won for the third time this season, the third time at Texas (having swept the 2012 races) and the 13th time in his career. “Matt was content to keep running the bottom, and I made a couple of runs on that restart (on Lap 130 of 147, after the third and final caution).
“They got me great track position on the pit stop, and I just kept bottoming the splitter out on the short run, and I could just not fire off. … Matt just kept running the bottom, and I was like, ‘I’m going to the top.’ And I was pretty successful on the top down in (Turns) 3 and 4 all night long—just big momentum.”
About the only low point of Sauter’s night was his post-race burnout—but that was by design.
“I’ve got to apologize to the fans for the burnout,” Sauter said. “I know it was lame, but I’ve got to have this truck for Homestead.”
Crafton, a two-time series champion, overcame a scrape against the outside wall and a suspect battery to run second.
“We were just off all night,” Crafton said. “I got drove into the fence off Turn 2, and the right-rear tail is moved over quite a bit and we got really free up off the corner. I was trying to manage, and with about four (laps) to go I just got really free and I was like, ‘Oh, boy.’
“I was hoping that Johnny and the 19 (Hemric) raced each other a lot longer than they did.”
Polesitter Spencer Gallagher, Sauter’s teammate at GMS Racing, led a race-high 88 laps but lost six positions on pit road before the final restart, thanks to a slow tire change on the right rear of his No. 23 Chevrolet.
Chase drivers Ben Kennedy and Timothy Peters finished 13th and 14th, respectively, and are currently below the Chase cut line. Peters is fifth in the standings, one point behind Crafton in fourth. Kennedy is sixth, 13 points behind Crafton heading to Phoenix, where the Chase field will be cut from six drivers to the final four next Friday.
Sauter is the only driver guaranteed to race for the championship at Homestead. William Byron, who leads the series with six victories, finished sixth on Friday and held second place in the Chase standings.
Christopher Bell came home 11th after late contact with the Toyota of Cameron Hayley and is third in points, but the gap between the second- and fifth-place Chase drivers is a mere five points.
The only three cautions of the night resulted from the expiration of the caution clock, which runs in 20-minute increments from the drop of a green flag. The previous high number for caution clocks in a single race was two.