Sauter books ticket to Homestead with win at Martinsville

by Tucker White On Sat, Oct. 29, 2016

Johnny Sauter celebrates victory in the Texas Roadhouse 200 at Martinsville Speedway. Photo: Jerry Markland/Getty Images

MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Johnny Sauter, elder statesman of the Truck Series who was the first to get his spot in the Chase with a win at Daytona, will get a chance to win his first series championship in three weeks after taking the checkered flag at Martinsville.

Chase Elliott led the field to the green flag at 1:43 p.m. He led the first 10 laps before Cole Custer got under him in turn 2 and took the lead. Sauter took the lead for the first time on lap 28 after Custer got loose going into turn 1. The first caution flew on lap 50 for a two-truck wreck in turn 1 involving Josh Wise and Kyle Donahue.

After returning to green with Elliott back in command, the race settled into a follow the leader routine. Although Custer and Sauter tried to get up to Elliott to make things interesting, he held the lead all the way to the final quarter of the race Spencer Gallagher brought out the second caution on lap 107 after slamming the wall in turn 2.

The next two cautions flew on lap 149 when Tommy Joe Martins went for a spin in turn 2 and with 37 laps to go for a four-truck wreck in turn 2 involving Ben Kennedy, John Wes Townley, Matt Tifft and Ben Rhodes.

In the final quarter, Daniel Hemric led six laps, handed the lead to John Hunter Nemechek for 18 and lost it to Sauter who held off Elliott in the closing laps to score the victory in the Texas Roadhouse 200.

“Well, the race kind of started yesterday so to speak with practice and all that,” Sauter said going through his race in his post-race media availability. “To be honest with you, I felt like we had a really good Smoky Mountain Herbal Snuff Chevrolet yesterday in practice. Didn’t necessarily focus on single lap speed or having a fast truck on a short run. We focused really hard on the long run stuff. Just making sure that the typical thing you face here is turning in the center of the corner and keeping forward traction. Just proud of everybody at GMS (Racing) and GMS Fabrication. This is an all GMS truck. You know, to be able to come to a place like this, that’s been pretty kind to me over the years, to get a win here was extra special. Obviously, we all know what’s on the line here as far as a championship at the beginning of the year. That’s your ultimate goal is to at least have a chance at Homestead to race for a championship. All in all, a great day. I drove to the lead early, had some brake trouble there. I had to kind of conserve for 100 laps. Knew I had a little bit better handling truck than what I was showing, but I just had to take care of it a little bit. When that last caution came out, I think it was 40 laps to go, I was like ‘Pretty sure I got enough brakes to race to the end. So we’re going to use them as hard as I need it to.’ I thank Chase Elliott for racing clean there at the end. Thought we had a very methodical day. Took care of the truck. Ran into the wall a couple of times off the corner just cause I got loose. Hopefully, they ain’t too mad at me for tearing up the truck. But all in all, I’m proud of everyone’s effort at GMS Racing.”

It’s his 12th career victory in 195 Camping World Truck Series starts, second of 2016 and third in 18 races at Martinsville Speedway.

Elliott came home second after leading a race high of 109 laps, Nemecheck rounded out the podium, Christopher Bell finished fourth and Timothy Peters rounded out the top-five.

Daniel Suarez finished sixth, Custer finished seventh, William Byron finished eighth, Hemric finished ninth and Austin Hill rounded out the top-10.

Matt Crafton, dealing with brake issues all day, finished 17th and Kennedy rallied from his wreck to maintain a lead lap finish in 18th.

Twenty-one cars finished the race on the lead lap and 29 were running at the finish.

The race lasted one hour, 25 minutes and 29 seconds at an average speed of 73.839 mph. There were six lead changes among five different drivers and five cautions for 33 laps.

Sauter leaves Martinsville with a seven-point lead over Bell.

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