Johnny Sauter takes Truck win in wild Daytona opener
Johnny Sauter kicked off the 2018 Camping World Truck Series season with this third win in the season opener.
Sauter powered to the lead with eight of 100 laps remaining and fended off several challengers to claim the victory in the NextEra 250 at Daytona International Speedway.
Justin Haley was the last challenger, trying to reign on Sauter on the final lap before ending up second.
Joe Nemechek finished third, Ben Rhodes was fourth and Scott Lagasse Jr. completed the top-five.
“This is big. This is the most unbelievable speedway truck I’ve ever driven,” Sauter said in Victory Lane. “I felt like we executed flawlessly.
“We had good track position and we lost it a couple times. I’m just so thankful to be driving this truck. This is best group of guys I’ve ever been around and it’s great to start the season off like this.
“I just felt comfortable today and I don’t even know why. I didn’t have one nerve. I just felt like this was our day.”
The win is the 18th in Sauter’s Truck career. He also won the season opener at Daytona in 2013 and 2016.
The win all but ensures Sauter, 39, will advance to this season’s playoffs. He’s finished no lower than fourth in the standings the past five seasons, including winning the championship in 2016.
Sauter’s top competition in the race, pole-winner David Gililland, hit the wall in Turn 1 on Lap 94, fell off the pace and was forced to pit.
The race was marred by seven cautions that covered 35 laps. There were 21 trucks running at the finish of the 32 entered.
After the race, NASCAR announced Rhodes' No. 41 truck failed post-race inspection and was too low. Typically, that is an L1 penalty which results in fine up of to $20,000, loss of up to 40 points and crew chief suspension of up to two races. Rhodes also will not be able to use the finish toward playoff eligibility.
Sauter got around Noah Gragson on the second green-flag lap and held on to claim the victory in the second 20-lap stage.
Gilliland finished third, Cody Coughlin was fourth and Matt Crafton completed the top-five.
Crafton spun while coming down pit road during the stage break and ended up coming out 27th. Joe Nemechek was penalized for running over equipment while Robby Lyons was penalized for having a pit crew member over the wall too soon.
Korbin Forrister elected not to pit and led the way when the green flag waved for the start of the second stage, followed by Sauter and Gragson.
Gragson powered by both two claim the lead for the first time before the start of Lap 27. Sauter got back around and into the lead by the start of Lap 28.
With seven laps remaining in the stage, Sauter continued to lead as Stewart Friesen made his way up to second followed by John Hunter Nemechek.
With three laps remaining, Gilliland had made his way back up to third as Sauter continued to lead the way out front.
Gilliland held off Sauter to claim the victory in the 20-lap opening stage. They were the only two drivers to lead a lap in the first segment.
Dalton Sargeant was third, Clay Greenfield fourth and Grant Enfinger completed the top-five.
“What an opportunity and I’m having a lot of fun,” Gilliland said during the break on his team radio.
Following pit stops during the stage break, Sauter exited pit road first and Greenfield stalled his truck on pit road before rejoining the field in 30th.
The first caution appeared on Lap 3 when the engine let go on Travis Kvapil’s No. 50 Chevrolet. The race restarted on Lap 7 with Sauter leading the way followed by Gilliland.
With six laps remaining in the stage, Gilliland had assumed control of the lead thanks to a push from Sauter, who helped Gilliland clear Greenfield.
Sauter grabbed the lead back on Lap 16 but the side-by-side battle with Gilliland continued.
Rhodes elected to pit early with three laps remaining in the stage and worked feverishly to remain on the lead lap. He fell a lap down with less than a lap remaining.
|16||7||Korbin Forrister||Toyota||99||1 lap||1|
|17||2||Cody Coughlin||Chevrolet||99||1 lap|
|18||28||Bryan Dauzat||Chevrolet||99||1 lap|
|19||88||Matt Crafton||Ford||97||3 laps|
|20||22||Austin Wayne Self||Chevrolet||97||3 laps|
|21||4||David Gilliland||Toyota||95||5 laps||25|
|22||68||Clay Greenfield||Chevrolet||81||19 laps|
|23||18||Noah Gragson||Toyota||79||21 laps||1|
|24||13||Myatt Snider||Ford||73||27 laps|
|25||8||John Hunter Nemechek||Chevrolet||72||28 laps||11|
|26||16||Brett Moffitt||Toyota||72||28 laps|
|27||52||Stewart Friesen||Chevrolet||72||28 laps||1|
|28||75||Parker Kligerman||Chevrolet||66||34 laps|
|29||47||Chris Fontaine||Chevrolet||65||35 laps|
|30||54||Bo Lemastus||Toyota||63||37 laps|
|31||10||Jennifer Jo Cobb||Chevrolet||54||46 laps|
|32||50||Travis Kvapil||Chevrolet||2||98 laps|
David Gilliland takes pole position for NASCAR Truck opener at Daytona
Japanese driver Akinori Ogata to compete in Atlanta Truck race