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‘Pop’ Sauter Trucks To Texas Victory

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, November 4 2017

Johnny Sauter celebrates his victory at Texas on Friday night. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

FORT WORTH, Texas _ Reigning NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Johnny Sauter punched his ticket into the 2017 Championship 4 Playoffs for a second consecutive year Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway.

Next up, diaper duty?

“Oh yeah. I’m used to it,” said Sauter, who celebrated the birth of his fourth child and third daughter, Alice, on Wednesday. “I’ve now got four kids aged 7, 6, 2 and brand new. Everybody’s healthy, and I’ve been blessed.”

Sauter drove like a man possessed around TMS’ high-banked/1.5-mile oval, holding off Austin Cindric for victory in the 19th annual JAG Metals 350 Driving Hurricane Harvey Relief. Sauter scored his fourth career NCWTS victory here and second consecutive in the November race. Driver of the No. 21 ISMConnect Chevrolet Silverado, Sauter finished 0.170-seconds ahead of Cindric and his No. 19 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Ford F-150.

Rounding out the top-3 after 147 laps/220.5-miles was Oklahoma native Christopher Bell, driver of the No. 4 JBL Toyota who began the night three points ahead of Sauter. Bell exited his “home racetrack” four points (3,135-3,131) in front  of his title rival with two races remaining.

Next up, déjà vu?

“As much as I want to sit up here and tell you yes, I’m a realist and know that you have to execute,” said Sauter, who gave Hendrick Motorsports’ Engine Department its 400th victory. “So yes, this is looking a lot like it did last year, shaping up like it is. Honestly, this is our third win but I feel like we should have six or seven right now. We’ve got to be humble and stay nose to the grindstone, so to speak. You can’t let your guard down. We’re bringing our best piece, GMS as an organization is going to bring our best truck down there (HMS) but so is everyone else. You got to be prepared for that. I think if you sit back and say, ‘Oh, we’re in great shape here,’ that’s not the case.

“We need to go to Phoenix (next weekend) and try to win the race and go to Homestead with guns blazing and try to do what we did last year. But don’t think for a second everybody else isn’t thinking the same way we are.”

Cindric’s performance here left him fourth and at the cutoff line for HMS, 50 points behind Bell but only 19 behind two-time series champion Matt Crafton in third place. Crafton is 31 points behind Bell.

“Personally, it’s my best 1.5-mile race to-date,” said Cindric, who drives for Cup regular Brad Keselowski. “And how we worked through the weekend and adjusted the truck, I’m proud of my guys. I think it was youth vs. experience and experience won in more ways than one. Johnny taught me a few things. I’m just excited to try to get to the Championship 4 for BKR.”

TMS was completely repaved and Turns 1 and 2 were reprofiled from 24 to 20 degrees during the offseason, and that area also was widened from 58 to 78-feet to create opportunity for more passing. Turns 3 and 4 remain banked at 24 degrees, the strongpoint of Cindric’s game last night.

“I was trying to time my run for the second-last lap or the last lap because I knew he could hang on the outside of me,” said Cindric, who posted his first top-10 finish in two races at TMS. “I was hoping for lapped traffic so I could at least get a nose-up on him, but it’s very hard to figure out a way because it’s easy with that dogleg to block. If you watched how Johnny passed me for the lead at the beginning of Stage 3, that’s the only way you’re going to do it.”

Crafton finished eighth in his No. 88 Ideal Door/Menards Toyota after rallying from a pit road penalty during the Stage 2 break. The team’s gas-can man was ticketed for jumping onto pit road too soon on a Lap 76 stop, sending Crafton to the tail end of the lead lap.

“It definitely hurt us and that put us really far behind right there at the end,” Crafton said. “The truck was the best it was all night there on that last run. Just a guy came over the wall too soon and had to go to the back. Just can’t pass here, it’s next to impossible right now.

“Thank goodness we’re out of here and can move on to Phoenix and Homestead. I’m frustrated _ the pit stop and we just didn’t have what we needed to have tonight. Overall, we got out of here and we’re in decent shape heading to Phoenix.”

Playoff contender Ben Rhodes finished 18th in his No. 27 Safelite Auto Glass Toyota and is fifth in points, 55 behind Bell.

“Everything that I could control tonight, I feel like I did a good job on,” Rhodes said. “Our Safelite Tundra was fast tonight, all night long. ThorSport is giving me some of the fastest Tundras they’ve ever built and everything that we can control we’re doing right. The stuff that’s outside of our control seems to be hindering us on speed and tonight  we had a couple bad pit stops, we had a loose wheel and a pit gun broke and miscommunication on pit road. Just a tough night. Now we’re on the outside of the Playoffs looking in and we’ll just have to make something happen at Phoenix.”

Finally, John Hunter Nemechek ran out of gas while leading on Lap 135 in an attempt to steal the victory. Nemechek, driver of the No. 8 ROMCO Equipment/Fire Alarm Services Chevy, finished 19th and is 89 points behind Bell and 34 in back of Rhodes.

Bell was ambivalent about his tenuous point lead after basically holding serve. “I mean, it was a good points day, but we don’t want to points race,” said Bell, of Kyle Busch Motorsports. “We did a good job points racing and accumulating all those bonus points throughout the regular-season and I feel like we could attack the Playoffs and try and win races and we were able to do that in the first round _ won Loudon (N.H.) and then we were close to winning the rest of them. So it was a nice points day, but we already have really good points; we really wanted to win.”

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NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race – JAG Metals 350 Driving Hurricane Harvey Relief

Texas Motor Speedway

Fort Worth, Texas

Friday, November 3, 2017

  1. (4) Johnny Sauter (P), Chevrolet, 147.
  2. (6) Austin Cindric # (P), Ford, 147.
  3. (3) Christopher Bell (P), Toyota, 147.
  4. (10) Chase Briscoe #, Ford, 147.
  5. (1) Justin Haley #, Chevrolet, 147.
  6. (7) Kaz Grala #, Chevrolet, 147.
  7. (19) Grant Enfinger #, Toyota, 147.
  8. (5) Ryan Truex, Toyota, 147.
  9. (8) Matt Crafton (P), Toyota, 147.
  10. (2) Noah Gragson #, Toyota, 147.
  11. (17) Austin Hill, Ford, 147.
  12. (12) Myatt Snider, Toyota, 147.
  13. (14) Regan Smith, Ford, 147.
  14. (16) Stewart Friesen #, Chevrolet, 147.
  15. (18) Austin Wayne Self, Chevrolet, 146.
  16. (15) Cody Coughlin #, Toyota, 145.
  17. (13) Tyler Young, Chevrolet, 145.
  18. (9) Ben Rhodes (P), Toyota, 145.
  19. (11) John H. Nemechek (P), Chevrolet, 145.
  20. (26) Josh Reaume, Chevrolet, 139.
  21. (21) Wendell Chavous #, Chevrolet, 138.
  22. (28) Jennifer Jo Cobb, Chevrolet, 130.
  23. (29) Norm Benning, Chevrolet, Brakes, 92.
  24. (24) Jordan Anderson, Chevrolet, Power Steering, 70.
  25. (30) Ted Minor, Chevrolet, Engine, 41.
  26. (23) Patrick Emerling, Chevrolet, Accident, 24.
  27. (20) Gray Gaulding(i), Chevrolet, Electrical, 23.
  28. (27) Ray Ciccarelli, Chevrolet, Electrical, 21.
  29. (25) JJ Yeley(i), Chevrolet, Electrical, 18.
  30. (31) Mike Senica, Chevrolet, Oil Pressure, 8.
  31. (22) Joe Nemechek, Chevrolet, Vibration, 7.
  32. (32) Tommy Joe Martins(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 3.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  131.38 mph.

Time of Race:  01 Hrs, 40 Mins, 42 Secs. Margin of Victory:  0.170 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  5 for 26 laps.

Lead Changes:  11 among 10 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   J. Haley # 1-25; C. Bell (P) 26-37; M. Crafton (P) 38-42; M. Snider 43-63; N. Gragson # 64-72; A. Cindric # (P) 73-108; J. Sauter (P) 109-116; C. Briscoe # 117; C. Bell (P) 118-125; G. Enfinger # 126; J. Nemechek (P) 127-134; J. Sauter (P) 135-147.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  A. Cindric # (P) 1 time for 36 laps; J. Haley # 1 time for 25 laps; J. Sauter (P) 2 times for 21 laps; M. Snider 1 time for 21 laps; C. Bell (P) 2 times for 20 laps; N. Gragson # 1 time for 9 laps; J. Nemechek (P) 1 time for 8 laps; M. Crafton (P) 1 time for 5 laps; G. Enfinger # 1 time for 1 lap; C. Briscoe # 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 4,21,19,27,8,88,51,33,02,18

Stage #2 Top Ten: 18,51,4,33,16,27,19,88,21,8

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, November 4 2017
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