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Johnny Sauter wins at Martinsville, advances to Truck championship race

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Johnny Sauter punched his ticket to the Camping World Truck Series championship round by winning Saturday’s Texas Roadhouse 200 at Martinsville Speedway.

It was Sauter’s second victory of the year – he also won the season-opening race at Daytona. The victory also was Sauter’s third on Martinsville’s .526-mile paper-clip track.

Sauter, who has 16 top-10 finishes this season, takes over the Truck Series points lead with the 12th win of his Truck Series career.

MORE: Results of Texas Roadhouse 250 at Martinsville

MORE: Sauter takes lead in Truck Series standings

Ironically, Sauter finished last in this year’s spring race at Martinsville. He came full circle Saturday, holding off runner-up Chase Elliott. John Hunter Nemechek was third, Christopher Bell fourth and Timothy Peters ffith. Bell and Peters are Chase drivers.

The other Round of 6 Chase drivers placed in the top 20: William Byron (eighth), Matt Crafton (17th) and Ben Kennedy (18th).

Elliott led the most laps (109) in the 200-lap event; Sauter led 50.

Two-time Truck Series champion Crafton battled brake issues all day, but pass some trucks late to earn what could potentially be valuable points to reach the championship round.

“We just have to have a little luck on our side,” Crafton told Fox Sports 1. “I just had to try and manage what I had. All of a sudden, I felt something pop and the pedal went to the floor. To do what we did at the end, to have three brake calipers and pass a few trucks to salvage a few extra points, I guess we had the best day we could.”

HOW SAUTER WON THE RACE: He paced himself while Chase Elliott dominated. Sauter took the lead for good on the Lap 176 restart. Elliott appeared as if he might catch Sauter in the closing laps, but Sauter held Elliott off.

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Chase Elliott finished second in his first start in the Truck Series since 2013. … Christopher Bell and Timothy Peters helped their respective Chase with top-five showings. … John Hunter Nemechek had a strong race, leading 18 laps en route to his third-place finish.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Brothers Kevin and Kyle Donahue both had a rough day. Kevin finished 30th, while Kyle was involved in a wreck with Josh White on Lap 50 and finished 31st. … Chase driver Ben Kennedy spun after behing hit from behind by Ben Rhodes on Lap 174. John Wes Townley couldn’t stop and slammed into Kennedy. Townley’s front end was heavily damaged, while Kennedy had to have repairs to his right rear fender area. After the race, Kennedy also had a post-race confrontation with Rhodes that was quickly broken up.

NOTABLE: Harrison Burton, son of former Sprint Cup driver and current NBC NASCAR analyst Jeff Burton, had a decent debut going in the Truck Series until he spun on Lap 161, finishing 22nd.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I feel like it’s one of the smartest races I’ve ever ran – and people don’t accuse me of being very smart a lot of times.” – Race winner Johnny Sauter.

WHAT’S NEXT: The middle race of the Round of 6, the Longhorn 350, is Friday, Nov. 4, at Texas Motor Speedway.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

NASCAR America: Kyle Busch questions Xfinity rules package at Indy

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Kyle Busch isn’t afraid to speak his mind, and he certainly did so after Saturday’s  Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

NASCAR implemented a number of changes to make the racing closer, tighter and more exciting — including restrictor plates, a larger rear spoiler, aero ducts, and a smaller splitter — and achieved all that on many fronts.

But not for the younger Busch brother, who wasn’t pleased with the rules package. Was it actually designed to specifically slow him down rather than to even out things for the entire field?

Or was he just simply upset because he didn’t win a third Xfinity race in a row at IMS?

Check out how our NASCAR America analysts gauged the Xfinity changes in the above video.

 

TriStar Motorsports team owner Mark Smith passes away

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Mark Smith, owner of TriStar Motorsports, died Saturday at his home, after a long battle with cancer, the team announced Monday. He was 63.

He began his racing career building engines for his brother Jack’s drag car in the 1970s. He moved his family from the West Coast in the early 1990s to pursue a career in NASCAR. He was the owner of TriStar Motorsports and Pro Motor Engines.

TriStar Motorsports fields the No. 14 in the Xfinty Series with JJ Yeley and the No. 72 in the Cup Series with Cole Whitt. The team stated the team will continue operations under the management of Bryan Smith, son of Mark Smith.

“It was dad’s dream to own and operate a NASCAR team,” Bryan Smith said. “He devoted his life to that dream and his family plans to honor his wishes by continuing our efforts in his memory.”

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Victory Junction Gang victoryjunction.org or NOVA (National Organization for Vehicle Access, part of the BraunAbility) novafunding.org.

The family will receive friends from 5-8 p.m. ET, Aug. 1 at Cavin-Cook Funeral Home, Mooresville, North Carolina. They have created a Facebook page where you are encouraged to leave a story for the family to enjoy. (facebook.com/Remembering-Mark-Smith-301261653675224)

NASCAR America: Analysts break down Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. wreck (video)

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Given how wild the Brickyard 400 played out, the big wreck between race leaders Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. wasn’t exactly surprising.

Rather, with the way the race transpired from the opening lap, was the Busch/Truex wreck almost inevitable?

Truex got loose and washed up into the left rear of Busch’s car, sending both drivers and their respective cars into the outside retaining walls, hitting hard and ending their respective days.

Check out what our NASCAR America analysts had to say about the wreck from Monday’s show in the above video.

NASCAR America: Dale Earnhardt Jr. recaps wild Brickyard 400 (video)

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On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, Dale Earnhardt Jr. — who will become part of our NBC Sports Group in 2018 — looked back on a wild and intense Brickyard 400.

Earnhardt was one of several drivers whose day came to an early ending — in Junior’s case when he ran into the back of Trevor Bayne‘s car, destroying his radiator in the process.

All the mayhem and mishaps could be linked to over-aggressive driving, Earnhardt said, saying that every driver was in “attack mode,” especially on restarts.

Check out Junior in the video above.