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Hornaday Steals Truck Series Victory At Texas

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, June 11 2011

Ron Hornaday Jr. takes checkered flag at Texas Motor Speedway on Friday night. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Fort Worth, Texas –  Ron Hornaday Jr. was handed victory in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series WinStar World Casino 400k Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway when race-leader Johnny Sauter was black-flagged for illegally changing lanes on the night’s final restart.

Sauter, who had passed Hornaday for the lead with a powerful run through Turn 4 on Lap 130, was penalized for moving from the outside lane in front of Hornaday before crossing the start/finish line on Lap 167 under NASCAR’s green-white-checker flag rules.

“Good way to steal one,” Hornaday said post-race, accompanied by crew chief Jeff Hensley. “I think we had a third or a fifth-place truck but it worked out for us. As long as we had clean air we were halfway decent. On that restart, Johnny came down…he was the leader but he kind of blocked, basically. So I’ll take it any way we can get it. Some of the calls Jeff made in the pits  –  just incredible.”

Sauter, runnerup in his last two Truck Series starts here, appeared headed to an easy victory as he built a 2.7-second lead over Hornaday with just over five laps remaining on the 1.5-mile TMS quadoval. But when Clay Rogers wrecked in Turn 2, the caution flew for a record 10th time.

Sauter had the lead on the final restart but dipped down low in front of Hornaday before reaching the start/finish line. Sauter, who mistakenly radioed into crew chief Joe Shear Jr. that he might have a right rear tire going flat under caution on Lap 140, confirmed that both he and Hornaday spun their tires on the restart.

Sauter quickly regained control of his No. 13 Safe Auto/Curb Records Chevrolet Silverado, and moved

Ron Hornaday Jr. celebrates Texas style. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

back up but not before officials ruled the damage had been done.

“Like Ron said, we had worked our way up to fifth or sixth and needed to get tires on it to see what we could do with air pressures,” Hensley said. “I think we helped it but we just weren’t really crisp. We got lucky there and caught the cautions when we needed them and tried to read the race, tried to stay a stop ahead.”

Asked at what point he realized Sauter had broken the restart rule, Hornaday said, “Soon as the green dropped he turned in my lane and I was yelling, ‘He’s in my lane! Better stick by the rules, he’s in my lane.’ If they didn’t black-flag him and gave it to him, I would have been fine either way. At that time we had a second-place truck, but they (NASCAR) stuck to their guns and that was a (good) call.

“Johnny spun his tires, I spun my tires and his spotter must have said ‘Clear’ because he shot hard to the left. And when he figured out he was in front of the line he shot back to the right real quick. He knows what he did wrong and he was hoping he didn’t see the number (posted). I drove by and didn’t see his number posted. But the second time, I made sure I stared at it and it was posted.”

The black flag call was made by NCWTS director Wayne Auton, who Hornaday said specifically addressed the issue during Friday’s driver’s meeting. “He told us, ‘This is your last warning.’ I think he said it three times,” Hornaday said. “ ‘If you go into another guy’s lane, better give it back before you get to Turn 1.’ Sticky call. But you can’t change lanes until you pass the start/finish line. And I hate that rule because that’s where I used to make all the time up when everybody else was sleeping. I’d pass five or six on the outside before we got there.”

Sauter exited his truck after being placed 22nd, last vehicle on the lead lap. “He’s got a lane to race down there,” Sauter said as he walked to his hauler after what would have been his first NCWTS victory at TMS. “We both spun the tires.” Asked if he would confront NASCAR officials over the decision, Sauter said, “It’s official, isn’t it?”

Sauter, who led three times for a race-high 56 laps, began the night with a 12-point lead over rookie Cole Whitt. Sauter exited Texas with a 20-point lead (326-306) over Whitt. Hornaday, sixth as the night began, moved to third with 293 points.

Hornaday, a four-time series champion who will turn 53 on June 20, earned his 48th career victory in the No. 33 Kroger/AMS Chevrolet Silverado fielded by Kevin Harvick Inc. It was his third victory on

Johnny Sauter spun and lost on Friday night. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Erik J. Perel)

TMS’ 1.5-mile quadoval. Rookie Parker Kligerman was posted as runnerup and credited with his second top-10 finish in two starts at TMS. It also was his third top-10 finish of 2011 in the No. 29 Penske Truck Rental Dodge.

“Overall a great job by this team,” said Kligerman, who started sixth in the 35-truck field. “We don’t do wind-tunnel testing, we don’t any of the stuff the big teams do. So it’s kind of David vs. Goliath at this point. Taking down these top teams is pretty cool. We’re going to take this and run with it.”

David Mayhew’s third-place run in the No. 2 MMI Services Chevy fielded by KHI easily eclipsed his previous best series finish of 14th. “We’ve run a few times in our own truck and it was hit-and-miss,” Mayhew said. “Having the whole package is super important. We were really good on the longer runs – it seemed to take our truck 10 or 15 laps, or might just be me with the inexperience on the restarts. But once we got rolling it seemed like we were as good as anybody and could start running people back down. Definitely didn’t want to see those restarts at the end but no better people to learn from than the three guys that were in front of us.”

Hornaday earned his third victory and 11th top-10 finish in 17 starts at TMS during a race that reset the NCWTS record book for most leaders (11), most lead changes (19 ) and most cautions (10 for 46 laps).

Earlier, two-time and reigning NCWTS champion Todd Bodine of Germain Racing saw his shot at a seventh victory end via contact and a crash with local favorite David Starr of Green Light Racing. Their crash on Lap 68 in Turn 2 was the second of the night involving Bodine, who was caught up in another Turn 2 incident with Brian Ickler of Kyle Busch Motorsports on Lap 52. Bodine, driver of the No. 30 NTB/Service Central/Valvoline Toyota Tundra, won this event in 2009 and 2010 but finished 31st Friday night.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, June 11 2011
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