Although he didn’t lead until Lap 117, Johnny Sauter still managed to gain his fourth victory of 2018, taking the win over polesitter Stewart Friesen by 0.092 seconds in the PPG 400. The margin of victory was the closest in Truck Series history at Texas Motor Speedway, besting the June 2006 event which had a margin of victory of 0.116 seconds.
Sauter’s victory came with a bit of a scare, as he ran out of fuel going into Turn 3 on the white flag lap. But as he hit the banking the engine managed to fire back up before sputtering coming to the finish line. Sauter blocked Friesen adequately enough to grab the checkered flag.
Friesen and rookie Todd Gilliland led the field to the green flag, with third-place qualifier Noah Gragson taking the lead on Lap 2. Caution soon came out on Lap 8 when the No. 45 of Justin Fontaine bounced off the fourth turn wall. The caution came out again on Lap 13 when the No. 83 of Bayley Currey snapped loose in Turn 3, hitting the wall with his right rear quarter panel. The third caution came when the 16 of Brett Moffitt, who was within reach of the points lead coming into Texas, crashed going into the second turn on Lap 29. Moffitt’s Toyota would finish 18th, keeping him third in points, 95 out of the lead.
Gilliland would go on to lead the most laps overall on the night (62), while Friesen and the No. 98 of Grant Enfinger won the first two stages, respectively. Sauter’s GMS Racing teammate Justin Hayley finished third while Enfinger finished fourth and Matt Crafton finished fifth. Gilliland would finish sixth while Tyler Young took seventh, Cody Coughlin finished eighth, Spencer Davis took home ninth, and Noah Gragson finished the top-10.
The win was especially emotional for Sauter’s Crew Chief Joe Shear, who lost his wife in December.
“Every time we come to Texas, it’s a big race,” said Shear. “My wife and her family were from Dallas, so this is always a big race for us. She was always such a supporter, so this win is big for me.”
Sauter joins Kyle Busch and Mike Skinner as the only Truck Series drivers to win four or more races in the first eight races of the season. When asked about being a lock for Homestead-Miami at the season’s finale, Sauter was blunt on his stance.
“We’d be crazy to think we’re a lock for anything,” said the 2016 Truck Series champion. “Anything can happen.”
The next race is June 16 at Iowa.