Johnny Sauter Wins At Texas To Advance To Final Four

Johnny Sauter wins at Texas
Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

It was a case of déjà vu for Johnny Sauter on Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway.

Now the defending NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion hopes history repeats itself two weeks hence, when he races for his second straight title at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

After taking over the lead on Lap 135 of 147 of the JAG Metals 350 Driving Hurricane Harvey Relief, when John Hunter Nemechek ran out of gas while leading at the end of a cycle of green-flag pit stops, Sauter kept fellow Round of 6 Playoff driver Austin Cindric behind him and crossed the finish line .170 seconds ahead of his closest pursuer.

Sauter had passed Cindric for the lead on Lap 109, charging around the outside of the No. 19 Ford into Turn 1. The drivers ran 1-2 until they pitted on Lap 117 to start the pit stop cycle. Attempting to stretch fuel mileage, Nemechek ran out of gas 12 laps short and saw his championship hopes dim considerably.

Sauter won the Playoff race at Texas for the second year in a row and the fourth time overall. With his third win of the season, he raised his career victory total to 16 in the series and guaranteed a run for the title at Homestead.

"It's unbelievable," said Sauter, who celebrated the birth of a daughter, his third child, earlier in the week. "I was actually pretty worried about our truck after qualifying – it was pretty loose. And all we did was lower the track bar a half-round."

Series leader Christopher Bell ran third, followed by Chase Briscoe and polesitter Justin Haley.

Johnny Sauter (21) leads the field at Texas Motor Speedway
Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images

Sauter said after the race he would like to think the season is following the same course as last year, but he'd prefer to stay in the moment.

"I'm a realist, and I know you have to execute," Sauter said. "Yes, this is looking a lot like it did last year, shaping up like it is. Honestly, this is our third win this year. I think 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."

The 19-year-old Cindric felt he ran the best race of his career on a mile-and-a-half track, but he couldn't find a way around the 39-year-old Sauter at the end.

"I think it was youth versus experience tonight, and experience won, in more ways than one," said Cindric, who moved into fourth place in the standings with the cut to four Championship 4 drivers looming next Friday at Phoenix.

"Johnny taught me a few things, but he basically taught me while he passed me for the race win."

Bell owns a four-point lead over Sauter in the series standings, with two-time champion Matt Crafton 31 points back in third.

Trouble on a late pit stop dropped Ben Rhodes to 18th at the finish and out of the top four in the standings. Nemechek ran 19th and, for practical purposes, must win next Friday at Phoenix to advance to the Championship 4 race.

RACE RESULTS

Pos. # Driver Make Start Laps Led Status Points Playoff Points
1 21 Johnny Sauter Chevy 4 147 21 Running 51 32
2 19 Austin Cindric Ford 6 147 36 Running 47 7
3 4 Christopher Bell Toyota 3 147 20 Running 52 48
4 29 Chase Briscoe Ford 10 147 1 Running 33 0
5 24 Justin Haley Chevy 1 147 25 Running 32 0
6 33 Kaz Grala Chevy 7 147 0 Running 41 0
7 98 Grant Enfinger Toyota 19 147 1 Running 30 0
8 16 Ryan Truex Toyota 5 147 0 Running 35 0
9 88 Matt Crafton Toyota 8 147 5 Running 36 14
10 18 Noah Gragson Toyota 2 147 9 Running 38 0
11 02 Austin Hill Ford 17 147 0 Running 28 0
12 51 Myatt Snider Toyota 12 147 21 Running 38 0
13 92 Regan Smith Ford 14 147 0 Running 24 0
14 52 Stewart Friesen Chevy 16 147 0 Running 23 0
15 45 Austin Wayne Self Chevy 18 146 0 Running 22 0
16 13 Cody Coughlin Toyota 15 145 0 Running 21 0
17 20 Tyler Young Chevy 13 145 0 Running 20 0
18 27 Ben Rhodes Toyota 9 145 0 Running 31 13
19 8 John Hunter Nemechek Chevy 11 145 8 Running 25 14
20 50 Josh Reaume Chevy 26 139 0 Running 17 0
21 49 Wendell Chavous Chevy 21 138 0 Running 16 0
22 10 Jennifer Jo Cobb Chevy 28 130 0 Running 15 0
23 6 Norm Benning Chevy 29 92 0 Brakes 14 0
24 1 Jordan Anderson Chevy 24 70 0 Power Steering 13 0
25 44 Ted Minor Chevy 30 41 0 Engine 12 0
26 83 Patrick Emerling Chevy 23 24 0 Accident 11 0
27 15 Gray Gaulding Chevy 20 23 0 Electrical 0 0
28 0 Ray Ciccarelli Chevy 27 21 0 Electrical 9 0
29 63 JJ Yeley Chevy 25 18 0 Electrical 0 0
30 57 Mike Senica Chevy 31 8 0 Oil Pressure 7 0
31 87 Joe Nemechek Chevy 22 7 0 Vibration 6 0
32 42 Tommy Joe Martins Chevy 32 3 0 Accident 0 0

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