NASCAR Truck: Johnny Sauter crowned 2016 champion
Johnny Sauter celebrates winning the 2016 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship after the Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 18, 2016 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR.
By AMANDA VINCENT
With a third-place finish in the Ford EcoBoost 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Friday night, Johnny Sauter claimed his first NASCAR national series driver championship, taking the crown as 2016 Camping World Truck Series champ.
“This championship means a lot to me, but it means a lot to my family,” Sauter said. “I just can’t thank these guys enough. They executed like they needed to, and I can’t thank the Gallagher family enough for giving me this opportunity. It was a leap of faith to come here over the off-season.”
Sauter was the lowest-qualifying among the Championship Four drivers, qualifying 19th earlier in the day, but on the final restart of the race with about 20 laps remaining, he lined-up third, beside fellow-championship competitor and former teammate, Matt Crafton. The two raced side-by-side for a time before Sauter was able to get in front of Crafton and drive on to the title.
“I just ran a smart race,” Sauter said. “I’m not going to lie; when we qualified as poorly as we did today, I thought this was going to be tough to do, because you’ve got to take tires here on every pit stop. There is not a real easy way to get track position, so I knew we were going to have to do it by pit stops and passing people.”
Sauter’s competition for the title — Crafton, Christopher Bell and Timothy Peters — finished the Homestead race seventh through ninth, respectively.
Sauter won three races throughout the course of the 2016 Camping World Truck Series season. He started the year winning at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway in February. He claimed his other two wins during the first-ever chase for the Truck Series, maiking two-consecutive trips to victory lane at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway near Fort Worth to kick off the three-race Round of Six. In the other Round of Six race at Phoenix International Raceway, he finished second.
Sauter’s other 2016 stats include 12 top-fives and 19 top-10 finishes in the 23 races that made up the season, his first with GMS Racing.
As Sauter celebrated his first driver championship in a NASCAR national series, Kyle Busch Motorsports celebrated winning the series owner championship with its No. 9 team of driver William Byron. Byron won the race at Homestead to wrap up the owner title for his KBM team. It was Byron’s seventh win of the season, a record for a rookie in the series.
“Overall, just a spectacular season by William Byron and the whole No. 9 team,” truck owner Kyle Busch said. “They were flawless all year up until Phoenix; I guess. We had a little problem, there, and knocked ourselves out of contention, but everyone at Kyle Busch Motorsports, they do such a great job.”
The 2016 Truck Series owner championship is the fifth for KBM in seven years and the fourth-straight.