Sauter wins first Trucks cham­pi­onship

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Jenna Fryer

HOMESTEAD, FLA. >> The fourth time, in a field of four, was the charm for Johnny Sauter.

Sauter won the in­au­gu­ral Chase in the Camp­ing World Truck Se­ries with a strong third-place fin­ish at Homestead-Mi­ami Speed­way. He beat Matt Crafton, Christo­pher Bell and Timothy Peters in a race in which the high­est-fin­isher among the four driv­ers would win the cham­pi­onship.

For Sauter, who fin­ished fourth in the stand­ings the last three years, the for­mat pro­duced his first ca­reer NASCAR cham­pi­onship. He did it in his first year with GMS Rac­ing af­ter leav­ing Thor­sport Rac­ing.

“I think a lot of peo­ple ques­tioned that move,” Sauter said of his move to the young race team.

He wasn’t sure he had a strong enough truck to get to the front un­til the last seg­ment of the race.

“With 50, 60 (laps) to go, I was like ‘We re­ally got some­thing here’ and I started pick­ing peo­ple off,” he said. “I’m just a small part of this deal. The whole team ex­e­cuted flaw­lessly tonight.”

The 38-year-old has had a ca­reer year driv­ing the No. 21 Chevro­let for GMS Rac­ing. He won three races, had 12 top-five fin­ishes and a dom­i­nant run in the Chase. Sauter won back-to-back races at Martinsville and Texas, and was run­ner-up at Phoenix last week. Sauter’s 13 ca­reer NASCAR Camp­ing World Truck Se­ries vic­to­ries tie him for 11th most all-time in se­ries his­tory.

Crew chief Joe Shear Jr. moved to GMS Rac­ing to work with Sauter and the pair­ing de­liv­ered a ti­tle.

“I knew they had all the pieces in the puz­zle, I knew it was a great fit or I wouldn’t have done it,” Shear said. “It’s just un­be­liev­able. This is the great­est thing in the world.”

Wil­liam By­ron won the race — his sev­enth vic­tory of the sea­son — to wrap up the owner cham­pi­onship for Kyle Busch Mo­tor­sports. It was bit­ter­sweet be­cause it likely should have been By­ron cel­e­brat­ing the driver ti­tle.

By­ron was headed to­ward the win last week­end at Phoenix that would have put him in the fi­nal four, but his en­gine blew in the clos­ing laps. He was elim­i­nated from ti­tle con­tention af­ter the fail­ure.

“It feels awe­some. It’s in­cred­i­ble,” By­ron said of the win. “This team has worked hard all year. Just had an un­for­tu­nate sit­u­a­tion last week that we couldn’t con­trol.”

Busch col­lected the cham­pi­onship trophy for the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive year and fifth over­all.

“Such a spec­tac­u­lar sea­son by Wil­liam Bryon, they were flaw­less, all the way up un­til Phoenix,” Busch said.

Tyler Red­dick, driv­ing his fi­nal race for Brad Ke­selowski, fin­ished sec­ond. He’s mov­ing to an Xfin­ity Se­ries ride next year for Chip Ganassi.

Kyle Lar­son fin­ished fourth, but led a race-high

“With 50, 60 (laps) to go, I was like ‘We re­ally got some­thing here’ and I started pick­ing peo­ple off. I’m just a small part of this deal. The whole team ex­e­cuted flaw­lessly tonight.”

76 laps.

Crafton, a two-time Truck Se­ries cham­pion, was de­nied a third ti­tle af­ter fin­ish­ing sev­enth. He and Sauter waged a de­cent bat­tle for po­si­tion dur­ing the race, but a poor fi­nal run cost Crafton.

“I kind of fig­ured it was a mat­ter of time. We were just re­ally bad on that last run for what­ever rea­son,” he said.

Bell fin­ished eighth in try­ing to win the driver ti­tle for Busch.

“Over­all, it wasn’t re­ally our year,” he said. “Just wasn’t quite good enough all year long.”

Timothy Peters was ninth and the low­est-fin­ish­ing driver of the ti­tle con­tenders.

“Hey, all in all, we said in the be­gin­ning of Day­tona that we wanted a shot,” Peters said. “We had that down here, and we came up just a lit­tle bit short. We know what we need to do over the off sea­son, and can’t wait for Day­tona.”

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