RIDGEWAY, Va. – Johnny Sauter qualified directly for the Camping World Truck Series Championship 4 with a victory in the Texas Roadhouse 200 presented by Alpha Energy Solutions on Saturday afternoon.
Sauter will be one of four drivers racing the Camping World Truck Series Championship in the Ford EcoBoost 200 on Nov. 18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He won the race after holding off Chase Elliott in the final 18 laps of the race.
“I felt like I had a pretty good car in practice,” the GMS Racing driver said. “We focused really hard on the long run stuff, just making sure that we were turning in the center of the corner and keeping forward traction.”
Elliott had the chance to use his bumper and move Sauter for the win, but decided against it in the end. “I had to have a little respect for him, racing for a championship,” he said. “You don’t want to make a mistake and end his day and end his championship too.”
Sixteen-year-old Harrison Burton made his truck debut for Kyle Busch Motorsports in this race, having just hit the milestone – and thus become elgible to compete in the Camping World Truck Series – on Oct. 9. Burton was spun around by Timothy Peters late in the race, but recovered to finish in 22nd.
Elliott led the field to green from the pole and jumped out to a lead before Cole Custer rounded him up and passed him on lap 11. Custer would only hang on to the lead for seven laps before Sauter drove his Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff Chevrolet to the front on lap 28.
The race stayed green until lap 51, when the Nos. 1 and 63 both spun separately in Turn 1 to bring out the race’s first caution. Both drivers locked their brakes up, spun into the wall, and sustained enough damage to retire.
After pit stops during the yellow, the race went green again on lap 58 and stayed that way until lap 109, when Spencer Gallagher lost a right front tire going into Turn 1.
Racing resumed after the yellow until the No. 44 of Tommy Joe Martins spun in Turn 1 on lap 150. Martins officially brought out the yellow, but all eyes were on the No. 88 of Matt Crafton, who had melted a left rear brake caliper seal and was laps away from bringing out the caution himself. Crafton would finish 17th and is now nine points out of the cutoff for Homestead.
It was at this point in the race that pit strategy started to take shape. Daniel Hemric stayed out and assumed the lead, while John Hunter Nemechek and Cameron Hayley took two tires to leapfrog the field and restart second and third.
While Hemric and Hayley faded quickly after the restart, Nemechek was able to keep his No. 8 truck up near or at the front of the field until lap 175, when Sauter passed him in what would be the final lead change of the race.
Trouble would strike Chaser Ben Kennedy and bring out the sixth caution of the race two laps later. The Texas Roadhouse Toyota of Ben Rhodes got into the rear of the No. 33 upon the exit of Turn 2 and sent the No. 33 around. John Wes Townley followed up behind and had nowhere to go, running directly into the side of Kennedy’s truck.
Kennedy was able to continue, but finished in 18th. After the race, he went over to Rhodes and confronted the driver of the No. 44 in a heated exchange. Rhodes claimed that the contact was accidental and that he had planned to call Kennedy to apologize.
Kennedy now has two races to make up a 10-point gap to William Byron, who sits in the final cutoff position for the Championship 4 after finishing eighth.
Their incident set up the final run to the checkered flag, in which Sauter took home the win.
The trucks will resume action next Friday night when they travel to Texas Motor Speedway for the Longhorn 350 (8 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM).