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Johnny Sauter starts new chapter with Daytona win for new Truck team

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Veteran driver Johnny Sauter kicked off the new chapter of his racing career with his new team, GMS Racing, by capturing Friday’s NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway.

Sauter, who joined GMS during the offseason, won his 11th career Truck Series race and second at Daytona, albeit under caution after a multi-truck wreck on the last lap.

“Man, I’m so pumped up,” Sauter told Fox Sports 1 in victory lane. “It all worked out. It’s unbelievable. I just had this feeling that our truck was so good yesterday that if we didn’t make any mistakes, we would have a shot at this.”

With the Truck series adopting a Chase format this season, Sauter’s win all but puts him in the championship race later this year.

Kyle Busch Motorsports driver Christopher Bell, who helped push Sauter to the win, was involved in the last-lap wreck and flipped 8.5 times according to NASCAR. He climbed out of his truck under his own power. Bell was taken to the infield care center and then transported to a local hospital for further evaluation.

Ryan Truex, who hadn’t been in a Truck since 2014, finished second, followed by NBC NASCAR analyst Parker Kligerman, Brandon Brown and Tyler Young.

“It feels good to be back,” Truex told Fox Sports 1. “Second sucks, but I’ll take it.”

Sixth through 10th were Travis Kvapil, Daniel Hemric, Ben Rhodes, Scott Lagasse Jr. and Matt Crafton.

The last-lap crash was preceded eight laps earlier by a wreck that involved 18 trucks, more than half of the 32-truck starting field.

HOW SAUTER WON: Sauter led just 12 laps, but none more important than the final one. When the race had previously been stopped eight laps from the finish due to an 18-truck wreck, Sauter said he plotted his strategy and it played out almost exactly how he anticipated. He got a big push near the end of the race from Christopher Bell, who then was involved in the last-lap wreck, turning a likely second- or third-place finish into a 16th-place finish.

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Ryan Truex, who was hired less than two weeks ago by Hattori Racing, had an outstanding run in his first Truck race in nearly two years. Truex deftly worked the draft through the latter part of the race, led 14 laps and wound up with a career-best finish in a Truck. … Austin Theriault led a race-high 31 laps, until he was involved in the big wreck with eight laps left. … French driver Michel Disdier avoided the two big wrecks in the closing laps and came away with an 11th-place finish, his best effort in two career Truck races at Daytona.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Tommy Joe Martins barely got started before suffering a setback. Martins appeared to lose a tire just five laps into the race, smacked the wall hard with the right side of his truck, sustaining significant damage. His team repaired the damage and got him back on-track, only to wreck again on Lap 11, ending his day. Martins finished last in the 32-truck field. … Rico Abreu, making his first start for ThorSport Racing and only his third in the series was involved in the big wreck and finished 29th.

NOTABLE: After nearly 10 laps of tight racing without incident, the biggest wreck of the night occurred in Turn 3 on Lap 92 (of the scheduled 100 laps) involving 18 trucks and bringing out a red flag. Drivers involved: Rico Abreu, John Wes Townley, polesitter Grant Enfinger, Cameron Hayley, Daniel Suarez, John Hunter Nemechek, Scott Lagasse Jr., Matt Crafton, Tyler Reddick, Ben Kennedy, Austin Theriault, Timothy Peters, Chris Fontaine, Brandon Brown, Austin Wayne Self, Daniel Hemric, Ben Rhodes and Cole Custer. … The red flag lasted 27 minutes and 54 seconds.

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “It was hard racing. I guess we just caught bumpers the wrong way. Peters got into the back of me. It’s just tight racing. It’s so hard there at the end, everyone’s bumping into each other and trying to hold a pretty wheel. I guess that’s Daytona, but it sucks for my guys because they worked so hard.” – Cameron Hayley, one of the 17 drivers involved in the late-race wreck.

WHAT’S NEXT: The series races Feb. 27, at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

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Winners and losers from Las Vegas

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WINNERS

Paul Wolfe — Great call to have Joey Logano not pit before the final restart. Of course it helped that six other cars stayed out. Still, the top two cars came down pit road and Logano, running third, stayed out and won.

Matt DiBenedettoFinishes second in his second race with the Wood Brothers.

Jimmie JohnsonScored his first top-five finish since last summer’s Daytona race.

Bubba Wallace Decision not to pit allowed him to finish sixth, giving him his best Cup finish on a 1.5-mile track.

LOSERS

Todd Gordon and Greg Ives— For every high, there is a low. Gordon apologized on the radio to Ryan Blaney for calling him to pit road while leading before the final restart. Blaney finished 11th. Ives called Bowman to pit road while running second before the final restart. Bowman finished 13th. Ives tweeted that he was “VERY frustrated with my call at the end not to game on old tires, especially in Vegas.”

19 pit crew — Martin Truex Jr.’s pit crew got him into the lead under caution after Stage 2 but he had to return to pit under that caution to tighten loose lug nuts. Said Truex after the race: “We just need to quit having mistakes on pit road.”

William ByronLined up second on the final restart but contact with Matt DiBenedetto led to a tire rub and Byron falling back before he was involved in the crash that ended race. He finished 22nd.

Ross Chastain says his finish ‘unacceptable’ in place of Newman

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He scored a 10th-place finish in the first stage and ran as high as fifth Sunday in a car he never raced before.

Ross Chastain still had a harsh evaluation of his 27th-place finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the No. 6 Ford, which he drove in place of an injured Ryan Newman.

Chastain finished two laps down after causing the final caution on a Lap 262 spin, which he judged “unacceptable,” along with his restart performance (“guys kind of ate me alive”) as a substitute for Roush Fenway Racing.

“It’s hard to get out of the car after you have a top-10 car, and you go and run into people and pick the wrong lanes on restarts and then spin it out at the end,” Chastain said. “That’s pretty silly. Just a lot of mistakes on my end and then at the end just overdriving and for one position to be the first car a lap down. That’s unacceptable.”

Chastain had an average running position of 16.87 over the 400-mile race, which went south after he pitted under green from 15th on Lap 217 of 267. The yellow flag flew five laps later, and Chastain took a wavearound to restart 21st.

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On the restart, he made contact with Kurt Busch and pitted under green to fix a tire rub, which left him a lap down when he spun with five laps remaining.

“There were a lot of small mistakes on my end, but I learned a ton,” he said. “The car deserved a lot better finish.  Obviously, we showed that early and I just didn’t have great restarts. I just have to be better.

“RFR and everybody puts so much into these cars, and ultimately I’m the one holding the wheel.  We had such a good first stage and had so much confidence and from there I just started making mistakes.”

Chastain, who finished 10th in Sunday night’s rain-delayed Xfinity race, will be driving the No. 6 for Roush while Newman recovers from his Daytona 500 crash. In a statement from the team Sunday morning, Newman indicated he plans to drive again this season, but no timetable has been provided for his return.

Chase Briscoe wins rain-delayed Xfinity race in Las Vegas

Chase Briscoe
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Chase Briscoe won Sunday’s rain-delayed Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, beating fellow Ford driver Austin Cindric by almost three seconds to claim his third career Xfinity win.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver led 89 laps in the race, which began late Saturday afternoon but was red flagged on Lap 51 due to rain.

Briscoe and Cindric were the only Ford drivers in the field.

Ryan Sieg placed third to earn his sixth career top-five finish and his first on a 1.5-mile track.

The top five was completed by Daytona winner Noah Gragson and Harrison Burton.

“That was really a team win,” Briscoe told Fox Sports. “We were really good, then as soon as the sun went down when we were in dirty air, we just weren’t really good. In clean air, obviously there at the end we were really good. … This is something I feel we can do all year long.”

STAGE 1 WINNER: Chase Briscoe

STAGE 2 WINNER: Justin Allgaier

More: Click here for race results.

More: Click here for the point standings.

WHAT’S NEXT: Production Alliance Group 300 at Auto Club Speedway at 4 p.m. ET Feb. 29 on FS1.

Chevy drivers positive about new Camaro body after Las Vegas

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Positive reviews are in from a few Chevrolet Cup drivers after their first race on an intermediate track with the updated Camaro ZL1 1LE body, which was introduced this year in an effort to improve the manufacturer’s performance after two lackluster seasons.

Those reviews are backed by the final results for Sunday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

After the chaos created by a last-lap crash, six Chevrolets finished in the top 10. They were led by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Austin Dillon and Jimmie Johnson placing in the top five.

That followed Chase Elliott leading 70 laps and winning both stages before his one-car incident in the middle of the final stage.

In last year’s spring race on the 1.5-mile track, only two Chevys – Kurt Busch (fifth) and Elliott (ninth) – finished in the top 10. Three Chevy drivers combined to lead 23 of the race’s 267 laps.

“We’re trying to just understand this new Camaro body and the setup that needs to go with it,” said Johnson. “We’re close, but there’s still a little bit more work for us to do on our car to get the balance between the clean air and the traffic closer. But for the first try on a downforce track, the guys did a really nice job.”

Johnson earned his first top five since last July’s race at Daytona. He placed 19th in this race last year.

“It’s really rewarding to see,” Johnson said. “Last year when we left here, we had quite the opposite feeling and were pretty worried about what the year was going to hold for us. So, it’s really nice to have that change of perspective now. There’s a lot of Chevys up front, one of our Hendrick cars led for a while. So, we’re going the right way.”

Johnson’s teammate, Alex Bowman, was running in second when the final caution came out inside 10 laps to go. After his team chose to pit, Bowman placed 13th.

“This new Camaro, for its first time on a downforce track, I’m just really pleased with it so far,” Bowman said. “I think it’s going to be really good for us. Obviously, I’m bummed out to finish 13th after staring at a second place or a win. But it’s part of it; it’s how racing goes. We win as a team and lose as a team. It just didn’t go our way there at the end.”

Last year, Chevrolet only earned seven wins, with two coming on 1.5-mile tracks. Bowman claimed one of those at Chicagoland Speedway.

Added Bowman: “Compared to how we started the last two seasons, I think we’ve got something for them this year.”

One Chevrolet driver said it was “still early” for assessing the new bodies.

“I think the Hendrick cars were really good,” said Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson, who placed ninth. “I felt about the same as last year. So, we just have to continue to get better.”