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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.

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Martin Truex Jr. wins at Kansas; Kenseth, Larson, McMurray, Stenhouse Jr. eliminated

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Given he already was locked into the upcoming Round of 8 in the NASCAR Cup playoffs, Martin Truex Jr. had nothing to lose in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 — so he went out and won his third race of the playoffs and seventh race of the season.

Truex led 89 laps to capture the win at Kansas Speedway, his second win there this season and an uncanny sixth win on a 1.5-mile track this season. His seventh win was on the road course at Watkins Glen.

Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch, who was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, finished second, followed by Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin.

Sunday’s race was a cut-off race for the Round of 12. The four drivers that were eliminated from advancing to the Round 8 semifinal round were Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kyle Larson.

Those advancing to the Round of 8 are Truex, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch.

STAGE WINNERS: Kyle Busch won Stage 1, Denny Hamlin won Stage 2.

Among incidents in the scheduled 167 laps of the final stage:

* Jimmie Johnson spun coming out of Turn 4 on Lap 187. He tore up a good chunk of the frontstretch grass but did not hit any other cars. He brought his car to pit road to fix some damage to the hood, strapped on four new tires and fuel and returned to the track. Shortly after the restart on Lap 192, Johnson spun again, clipping the Turn 3 wall and flatspotted all four of his tires.

* A big wreck on the restart on Lap 197 involved a number of cars, including playoff contenders Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray. The incident brought out a red flag race stoppage. The wreck occurred when Erik Jones got loose, turned right and head-on into the wall, and collected a number of other drivers including Daniel Suarez, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, Danica Patrick, Kasey Kahne, Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer.

* Kenseth suffered a huge penalty on the ensuing pit stop. Because he had seven crew men over the wall, violating the damaged vehicle policy, NASCAR ruled Kenseth was out of the race. As a result, he will not advance to the Round of 8 and has been eliminated from the playoffs in his final season with Joe Gibbs Racing.

* As for McMurray, his car could not be repaired and his championship hopes are done. “We just unfortunately had two bad races in a row and couldn’t do nothing about it,” McMurray told NBCSN. “You race all day to the end and we didn’t make it today.”

We’ll have more information, including full results and updated standings, shortly. Please check back soon.

Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray eliminated from race after massive Lap 198 crash

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Matt Kenseth and fellow playoff driver Jamie McMurray were involved in a 10-car crash on Lap 198 of the elimination race at Kansas Speedway.

The crash began when Erik Jones got loose, spun and began collecting cars.

The crash caused a red flag.

Kenseth was ruled out of the race after too many crew members went over the wall to repair his No. 20 Toyota. That effectively eliminates the Joe Gibbs Racing driver from contending for the championship. McMurray is also eliminated from contention.

“I don’t know what any of the rules are,” Kenseth told NBCSN. “It seems like we’ve got a lot of stuff that kind of gets changed so often I honestly can’t keep up with it. My head kind of spins, from putting lug nuts on out of pit boxes to one too many guys over the wall, you’re not allowed to race anymore. I just don’t get it to be honest with you. I really don’t have a lot good to say right now. I’m more than disappointed.”

The crash involved Jones, Kenseth, McMurray, Daniel Suarez, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, Aric Almirola, Danica Patrick, Clint Bowyer and Kasey Kahne.

Kenseth’s crew chief, Jason Ratcliffe, blamed the mistake on miscommunication and simply not counting the number of crew members who were over the wall.

“We missed a head count there. It’s a shame that that’s a rule that takes competitors out of an opportunity for the championship,” Ratcliffe said. “Somebody just missed the call there or I didn’t communicate properly. Typically it boils down to communication and I think that’s what happened there.”

Said McMurray: “I was really looking forward to just getting to the end of the race. Like I said earlier, we just needed the pit stops to go our way or the strategy to get shook up, and it was kind of happening right there. You just hope that you’re going to be on the right end of the strategy. And then if the race would have gone long, we had one of the best cars on the long runs. But, you just don’t know. You race all day to the end, and we just didn’t make it today.”

Jimmie Johnson spins twice early in final stage of Kansas elimination race

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In danger of not advancing to the third round of the playoffs, Jimmie Johnson spun on the front stretch on Lap 189 of the elimination race at Kansas Speedway.

The No. 48 slid down the track and into the infield grass, which had been drenched in rain overnight.

“I got loose,” Johnson told his team over the radio.

After undergoing repairs on pit road, Johnson returned to the track. But his misfortune continued on the ensuing restart when he again spun, this time in Turn 3 while running in the high lane.

Johnson pitted again and returned to the track before a large, multi-car wreck unfolded on the restart, which Johnson was able to avoid.

Johnson entered the race in the last transfer spot, seven points above ninth.

Denny Hamlin stays out on old tires in one-lap shootout, captures Stage 2 at Kansas

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In a one-lap shootout to wrap up Stage 2, Denny Hamlin on old tires held off the rest of the field to win the middle stage of Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kentucky Speedway.

Kevin Harvick (on new tires) was second, followed by Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch (also on new tires).

The younger Busch brother has dominated the race thus far, winning Stage 1, leading 57 laps in Stage 2 and a total of 94 laps of the first 180 laps in the scheduled 267-lap event.

Hamlin and Keselowski were both penalized for speeding on pit road after the stage ended.

Among incidents during Stage 2:

* Martin Truex Jr. came off Turn 4 and made an abrupt entry onto pit road on Lap 92 after complaining of a vibration in his Toyota, potentially from a loose wheel. Truex took four tires and fuel and returned to the track.

* Denny Hamlin misunderstood a command from crew chief Mike Wheeler on pit road during his stop on Lap 128. After the jack dropped, Hamlin hesitated because he thought he heard Wheeler say “hold up” on the team radio. Wheeler actually said “Hard out.” The miscue cost Hamlin a couple of seconds and returned to the track in 17th position.

* Brett Moffitt hit the outside wall for the second time in the race on Lap 156, bringing out the caution in the waning moments of Stage 2 to set up the one-lap shootout. He also hit the wall on Lap 46 in Stage 1.