Johnny Sauter was the first driver to punch his ticket in the 2018 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season tonight at Daytona International Speedway.
This was Sauter’s 18th career victory, his third win at Daytona and his first win at the track since 2016. He led five times for 39 laps and earned six playoff points.
David Gilliland competed in his first truck race since 2015 for Kyle Busch Motorsports and was on the pole, alongside him was the eventual race winner, Johnny Sauter.
The stages were broken up into 20/40/100.
The race was off to a clean start without much incident aside from an early caution that saw fluid come from the back of the No. 50 truck of Travis Kvapil. After the caution on Lap 4, Stage 1 was clean and green until the end of the conclusion which took place on lap 20. Gilliland was able to win the first stage followed by Sauter.
Stage 2 resumed on lap 26. There were many lead changes that took place without incident. The field once again raced to the Stage 2 conclusion on lap 40. This time it was Sauter who collected the green-checkered flag to earn 10 championship playoff points.
However, after the first two stages of clean racing, all heck broke loose when the caution flag flew on Lap 56 with seven trucks involved. These included Cody Coughlin, Dalton Sargeant, Jennifer Jo Cobb, Grant Enfinger, Scott Lagasse Jr, Parker Kligerman and Noah Gragson. Cobb took a hard hit into the inside wall just before pit road. After the race, Cobb was evaluated and released from the infield care center.
Nine laps later, another incident took place on Lap 65 involving Gragson, Bo LeMastus and Kligerman. Kligerman and LeMastus were done for the night due to extensive damage. Gragson finished 23rd after the incident.
The race was restarted on Lap 70, but the term “cautions breed cautions” came into play as another melee took place on Lap 74, where six trucks were involved. Brett Moffitt of the No. 16, John Hunter Nemechek, Myatt Snider, Stewart Friesen, Spencer Davis and Austin Hill were all collected in the incident.
One more incident came about on Lap 83, where five trucks were wrecked out of the race. These included Clay Greenfield, Bryan Dauzat, Matt Crafton, Austin Hill and Korbin Forrister coming off Turn 4.
After the final caution of the night, the lead was swapped multiple times between Justin Haley, David Gilliland and Sauter. Sauter retook the lead on Lap 92 and held on for the final nine laps to win at Daytona International Speedway.
There were seven cautions for 35 laps, with 21 lead changes among 10 drivers.
“I like it,” Sauter said. “I like it a lot. Man, what a truck tonight. That Allegiant Chevrolet was just — man, yesterday in practice, you obviously try to feel things out. You don’t know what to expect coming down here with a new engine package, and unfortunately we only got in a pack of I think 10 or 12 trucks. You work the draft as best you can, but you know it’s going to be a little different when you get 30 of us or 32 of us out there running. Man, we qualified well, tried to keep track position all night, came from 10th, I think, a couple different times to get to the front, and I just felt so calm today. I just had all the faith in the world in the truck. It was fast.”
With Sauter scoring his second win at Daytona since 2016, the victory was especially emotional for his crew chief, Joe Shear Jr., who lost his wife in December of last year.
“Yeah, exactly,” Joe Shear Jr. said. “Getting back on the road and actually going back to work was the biggest thing that kept me going. It’s sad, and I think about her all the time. But working and racing is my passion. So I just got back to it and tried to do the best I could, but I had many friends and family that worked with me and that supported me and kept me sane. Thank you.”
This was the first win for Sauter since Phoenix of last year in the playoffs.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway next weekend with first practice kicking off at 2:05 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.NextEra Energy Resources 250 Truck Series race at Daytona 2-16-18 unofficial results