Sauter wins Daytona Truck Race, 100th for Toyota
Johnny Sauter was bound and determined not to let history repeat itself in the season-opening race for the Camping World Truck Series.
It was just one year ago in this race that Sauter found himself leading the race in a green-white-checkered shootout just a hundred feet from the white flag when he got turned into the wall by eventual winner John King.
This year, it was Sauter going to Victory Lane as a wreck broke out behind him on the last lap, allowing him to keep Kyle Busch at bay and secure his first career Daytona victory in Friday night’s NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway.
Busch was second, followed by Ron Hornaday, Jr., Justin Lofton and Jeb Burton.
The victory was the seventh career Truck Series win for Sauter and the 100th victory for Toyota since entering the truck series in 2004.
“I can't believe I'm in victory lane at Daytona,” said Sauter, who started in the rear of the 36-truck field. “We came so close a year ago and that was a tough one to swallow.
“I'm not going to lie, I was happy to see that caution come out at the end. Just a wild race. Speedway racing is just crazy. I'm just ecstatic to be in victory lane. My dad was here in 1978, the year I was born. Happy to have a Sauter back in victory lane at Daytona. This is cool for me personally.”
Friday night’s truck race was quite a departure from the single-file racing that dominated Thursday’s Budweiser Duel qualifying races for the Daytona 500, with plenty of three-wide and even four-wide pack racing from the start.
Lap 55 saw the first multi-car wreck of the weekend as Brendan Gaughan tried to thread the needle between the trucks of German Quiroga and Brennan Newberry and instead turned them both right into him, touching off a crash that collected a total of 13 trucks.
Sauter, running in 15th directly behind Gaughan, just barely got through the wreck unscathed, and joined the leaders on pit road, coming out fifth.
Back under green, Sauter pulled out on the high side and tucked in behind Lofton to race past Ty Dillon before cutting down low to take the lead, but his view from the front was short lived, as he got freight-trained by a pack of trucks led by Dillon, Busch and Hornaday just as Jason White pounded the wall to bring out the caution flag.
With 17 laps to go, Sauter blasted to back the head of the field with a push from teammate and two-time Daytona winner Todd Bodine, pulling up from his fifth place position in front of Bodine and the two powered their way past Busch to take the lead.
As Sauter and Bodine pulled out in front, another team mounted a challenge as the three-truck Turner Scott Motorsports stable of Ryan Truex, James Buescher and Miguel Paludo hooked up and powered their way to the front on the outside until Truex cut down a tire with nine laps to go, triggering a five-truck wreck that brought out the yellow flag.
Restarting with five laps to go, Sauter got away clean but Bodine struggled to get going on the outside, eventually falling all the way out of the top 20 as Busch tucked in behind Sauter, followed by Hornaday, Lofton and Burton.
Over the final laps, Busch stayed patiently behind the leader, as everyone expected him to make his move on the final laps, but moments after the leaders took the white flag, the truck of Jeff Agnew got turned off the bumper of Buescher, bringing out the sixth and final yellow flag, effectively ending the race.
Busch’s runner-up finish was his third in five starts in the truck series at Daytona – the only series where he doesn’t have a Daytona victory
“We'd have a really good day if it was a 100 lap race, but it was only 99 today,” said Busch. “Man, I hate how that happens. You get crashed here taking the white flag and you can't get a chance to bring it back. Wish we could pull off a win here in a Truck race. It's the only one I'm missing. I've got ARCA, Nationwide and Cup at Daytona -- have yet to get a Truck win, so try again next time.”
Dillon, Paludo, Ryan Blaney, Matt Crafton and Ryan Sieg rounded out the top ten finishers.
1. (25) Johnny Sauter, Toyota, 100, $73310.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 141.598 mph.
Winner's Press Conference
KERRY THARP: Let's hear from our race winner, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Our race winner was Johnny Sauter. He's joined by his crew chief Joe Shear, Jr. As we mentioned earlier, this is the 100th win in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for Toyota. They have also won seven straight times here at Daytona in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Congratulations to Toyota on those accomplishments.
Johnny, talk about this win here tonight. This is your seventh win in the Truck Series, your first win here at Daytona. It's got to be a thrill for you.
JOHNNY SAUTER: Oh, man. You know, it's a lot harder to win a restrictor race than you think. So proud of our effort. So proud of everybody. I'm speechless even to this point. After last year coming so close and getting taken out there towards the end of the race, you know, we did everything right tonight.
This was a different kind of race than I thought it was going to be. I was totally wrong. I thought it was going to be a lot more wrecks than that. I thought we could run three-wide, we couldn't do. We could only run two-wide. Depending where you were, the top or the of the bottom was the way to go.
Happy to get Carolina Nut Company, Curb Records, and Mike Curb, everybody with our new number, No. 98, out in Victory Lane. First time out. Pretty proud of everybody at ThorSport. Total team effort. You said Toyota's 100th win in the Truck Series, what a special place to get that than here at Toyota.
It's awesome. I can't believe we're here. All ThorSport trucks were great tonight. We were just in the right spot at the right time.
KERRY THARP: Joe Shear, Jr., talk about some things that the team did, whether it be on pit road, following practice today, to try to make this truck better so it could get to Victory Lane.
JOE SHEAR, JR.: Well, we really work hard. We don't only come down here for the speed. We see that in our qualifying effort. We really work hard on our drafting package and our handling and being really stable in the race, stuff like that.
We can kind of go anywhere we want. Johnny just hit on it. This race was way different than what we thought it was going to be and even different from the past. If you got hooked up with the right people, you could make the outside groove work. Just didn't seem like it came in tonight. The bottom groove was where you had to be.
We just kind of worked ourself to that point, got us in the right position, and there we were.
KERRY THARP: We'll take questions for Johnny or Joe.
Q. Johnny, that last lap, what were you thinking before the caution came out? What did you think Kyle was going to do?
JOHNNY SAUTER: I was having flashbacks of last year. They always say you want to be second going into the last lap. It just didn't work out that way.
I knew Kyle was going to try to lay back ultimately and try to build momentum and make a pass on me late. I did everything I could. I was lifting, riding the brake trying to make sure I didn't get out too far in front of him.
I'm not going to lie, I was happy to see that caution come out at the end. Just a wild race. Speedway racing is just crazy. You got to pick and choose, pick and choose all night long, try to study other guys' trucks, not just your own, see who has speed, who doesn't.
I'm just ecstatic to be in Victory Lane. My dad was here in 1978, the year I was born. Happy to have a Sauter back in Victory Lane at Daytona. This is cool for me personally.
Q. Johnny, comment on the push that you got from Todd to get into the lead, then it appeared you were within a few inches of the big wreck. Tell me what happened.
JOHNNY SAUTER: We'll go to the wreck first. That was really, really close. It looked to me like Brendan just tried to clear himself and just wasn't clear. I don't know if I saw it right or not. At 109 miles an hour a lot of things are processing through your mind. It was really close. I don't know how Crafton got through there. To be honest, I think he was right behind me at that time.
Just lucky, doing the right things I guess, trying not to be jerking on the wheel so to speak.
All ThorSport trucks worked great together tonight. All trucks obviously were fast. Bodine was up there not taking fuel at the end. I knew he had a fast truck. He's obviously won this race twice. I think Crafton was fast, too. I think he got a flat tire there or something.
Todd and I worked really well together. I felt comfortable with Todd behind me. I didn't think he was going to do anything evasive or try to get around us. Maybe at the end of the race it's every many for himself. Just worked well together. It was fun. That's the way it's supposed to be. I wish it stayed that way till the end of the race and we had a better finish with all the ThorSport trucks. I think all finished in one piece and they're all in the top 10, so that's good.
Q. Johnny, you look at your track record here. You've had a great car, but it's been wreck, wreck, wreck. Do you feel like you got a monkey off your back at this point? With the championship, you've always started in such a big hole, now you come out in a shorter season than Nationwide or Cup and you're up front.
JOHNNY SAUTER: Yeah, I mean, you hit the nail on the head. We came down here a couple years ago and crashed before the first half lap was over. Couple guys got together and we were in it. Last year, we were leading coming to the white, we got wrecked.
You know, I was trying to forget about my past, but you just brought it up here (laughter).
The Truck Series has been a tough road to hoe for me here. Nonetheless, like you said, the momentum for the team and everybody. Like you said, every year we've been looking at being 25th to 35th in points depending where we finished going into the season and came close to winning the championship two years ago.
Hopefully we can get back to championship form. I think we can. I know the guys are working hard. We're going to Martinsville next, which is a great racetrack for us. We've won there. So I'm digging right now where we're sitting, that's for sure.
Q. You had a lot of discussion on your radio about which lane to start in on that restart, whether to start high or low. Talk about that process. Did you think the high line would typically be better than the low line for a restart?
JOHNNY SAUTER: Well, we had great restarts all night, whether it was top or bottom. The biggest thing we were trying to do, I was leading, Todd was second. We were working so well together, we were going to try to get back together. If I would have took the outside, he could have took the low line, and maybe jugged the brake a little bit, I could have snuck down in front of him and we could have had our trucks running 1-2 again.
I didn't feel that comfortable with Kyle right behind Todd. I feel he would have pushed him for all he was worth. I just relied on Joe and the spotter, Tad, to tell me what trucks were going to line up behind me. It was Kyle and the 3 truck. I figured that's pretty strong trucks.
Hated to do that to Todd, but I felt we had to do what we had to do to get to Victory Lane, and I think Todd understands that.
Q. Did you get lost on the way to Victory Lane?
JOHNNY SAUTER: Yes, I did (laughter). I didn't have a clue where it was. I did a burnout. I don't think it was a very good one. I was just kind of speechless at the time. Was it a good one?
JOHNNY SAUTER: Good. Good. I couldn't see. I was relying on the spotter to tell me where to go. He told me to turn into that entrance, it was the wrong one. Nobody was more confused than I was.
Q. You mentioned your dad with the ARCA race. Was he here tonight? Have you talked to him?
JOHNNY SAUTER: No, I haven't talked to him. I'm sure he's tried calling me a hundred times.
Yeah, it's just cool. He came down here as a young man and was able to win the ARCA race. This is just one of those racetracks that when you can win here, you feel like a huge feather is in your cap. This is a huge accomplishment, not only for me, but for the team.
Knowing that my dad did that, I always try to match what my dad did. Every race that I thought was a big race he won, I try to go back, whether it's a late model car or NASCAR, whatever it is.
Just all the respect in the world for him. But he's not here, but I'm sure I'll talk to him tonight before it's over.
KERRY THARP: Johnny and Joe, folks at ThorSport, congratulations. What a great way to start this season. Continued best wishes in 2013. Congratulations to Toyota, as well.
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