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NASCAR Truck: Johnny Sauter starts 2018 with Daytona win

Johnny Sauter celebrates in victory lane at Daytona International Speedway after winning the NextEra Energy Resources 250 on Feb. 16, 2018 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR)

Johnny Sauter celebrates in victory lane at Daytona International Speedway after winning the NextEra Energy Resources 250 on Feb. 16, 2018 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR)

By AMANDA VINCENT

Johnny Sauter kicked-off the 2018 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season Friday night with a win in the NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. He led 39 of the 100 laps that made up the race, including claiming a stage win in the second 20-lap stage.

“I didn’t have one nerve,” Sauter said. “I just felt like this was our day.”

The win was an emotional one for crew chief Joe Shear Jr., whose wife Chandra passed away unexpectedly in December.

“This is very, very, very special, here,” Shear said. “She was in love with racing as much as I was. She was looking over us and helped us to this win.”

GMS Racing was one-two at the finish, with Sauter’s teammate Justin Haley taking runner-up honors.

“Those final laps were crazy,” Haley said. “I finally got shuffled back a little bit there on the last lap, and there wasn’t that much energy on the high side.”

Joe Nemechek finished third, and Ben Rhodes was fourth after going a lap down early in the race because of an ill-timed pit stop.

Scott Lagasse Jr. rounded out the top-five.

Sauter and pole sitter David Gilliland combined to lead all 20 laps of the opening stage, with Gilliland up front to claim the first stage win of the season.  Sauter, then,  took the race lead on lap 27 and remained up front for the remainder of the second stage that ended on lap 40.

While the first half of the race was run relatively incident free with the yellow flag waving only once, other than the two cautions that separated the event into its three stages, for Travis Kvapil’s blown engine on lap three, the second half of the race was attrition-filled. Throughout the late-race rash of cautions, pit strategies varied, due, at least in part, to most teams running the NT1 spec engine but a few having their trucks powered by traditional engines, resulting in varying fuel mileage.

By the end of the 100 laps, the yellow flag waved seven times, and as Sauter tooked the checkered flag and the win, several trucks wrecked behind him.

Gilliland wasn’t immune to wrecking, either, but his incident didn’t result in a caution. Gilliland hit the wall while running third with about 6 laps remaining, but the race remained green. After trailing only Sauter in the laps-led category, running up front for 30 laps, Gilliland wound up outside the top-20 at the finish.

The only other driver to post double-digit laps led was John Hunter Nemechek, who ran up front for 13 laps before wrecking late in the race. A flat tire on lap 73 sent Nemechek into the wall, and he collected several other trucks in the process.

By the end of the race, 11 of the 32 trucks that started the race were in the garage.

Sauter took his final lead from Gilliland on lap 92 and led the final nine laps of the race.

Finishing sixth through 10th were Grant Enfinger, Spencer Davis, Dalton Sargeant, Jordan Anderson and Justin Fontaine.

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Posted by on February 17, 2018. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,NASCAR,NASCAR Camping World Truck. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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