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