DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Johnny Sauter used veteran poise to make a late charge in Friday night’s NextEra Energy Resources 250, ultimately scoring his third NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win at Daytona Int’l Speedway.
Sauter made the definitive pass with nine laps to go, using a huge run of momentum to charge underneath polesitter David Gilliland on the backstretch and never looking back from there.
The 2016 Truck Series titlist ultimately stayed out in front of a three-wide battle for second on the final lap to capture his 18th career victory and replicate the feat he accomplished in that championship season — locking in to the playoff field by winning the first race of the year.
“This is the most unbelievable speedway truck I’ve driven,” said Sauter, who led a race-high 39 laps. “My teammates tonight, I felt like we executed flawlessly. At the end there, I wasn’t quite sure exactly I needed to where to go. I was looking in the mirror and I thought I saw them coming three-wide and I went to the middle. Thankfully it all worked out.”
“I don’t even remember the pass for the lead, to be honest. I felt like we had good track position and lost it a couple times. I’m just so thankful to be driving this thing. This is the best group of guys I’ve ever been around. I just felt comfortable today, I don’t even know why. I didn’t have one nerve; I just felt like this was our day. This was a team effort … all I did was hold the steering wheel.”
Friday night’s win was especially emotional for Sauter’s crew chief Joe Shear Jr., whose wife passed away during the offseason.
“This is very, very, very special,” said Shear as he choked back tears. “I know she’s looking (down from) above us. She was in love with racing just as much as I was. This is good. I know she helped us to this win tonight. I’m just thankful to be working with the people I’m working with here (at GMS Racing). I’ll never forget this one.”
After Gilliland and Sauter split the first two stages, racing in the final stage kicked off on the 47th round, featuring a torrid back-and-forth battle between Dalton Sargeant and Grant Enfinger for four straight laps before a huge shove from Sauter pushed John Hunter Nemechek clear of the field one lap past the halfway point of the race.
The first true incident of the race came with 55 to go, when Grant Enfinger lost a right rear tire and spun coming off turn four, sparking a multi-truck incident that collected Sargeant, Cody Coughlin, Scott Lagasse Jr., Parker Kligerman and Jennifer Jo Cobb, who took a hard shot into the inside wall at the entrance to pit road before her truck burst into flames.
Despite the violent look of the hit, Cobb and all other drivers involved were okay.
Sauter led the field back to green with 39 to go and took off with a push from Stewart Friesen, but it was only two laps before the yellow flag returned, this time for a spinning Bo Lemastus in turn four that ultimately saw Noah Gragson sock the outside wall in the aftermath.
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