Johnny Sauter won for the second week in a row – and earned his first win at Phoenix Raceway – capturing Friday night’s Lucas Oil 150.
Sauter, who won last week at Texas, came from behind, helped out by three big wrecks in the final 21 laps, that allowed him to go to the front and take the lead on the final restart with two laps to go.
This could be one of the most compelling Truck championship battles, as it pits veterans and former champions Sauter and Crafton vs. 22-year-old Bell and 19-year-old Cindric.
“It stinks to be that close,” Nemechek told Fox Sports 1. “We definitely have to keep our head held high. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
With seven laps to go, leaders and Kyle Busch Racing teammates Noah Gragson and Christopher Bell got together and took each other out. Bell tried to stay on the track, but the damage on his truck proved to be too much and he came to pit road for repairs with four laps to go.
With 21 laps to go, contact between Austin Cindric and Ben Rhodes sent Rhodes crashing. Matt Crafton was unable to avoid his Thor Sport Racing teammate, putting Rhodes and Crafton out of the race.
“They took a cheap shot,” Rhodes’ crew chief, Eddie Troconis told Fox Sports 1 of Cindric. “If they want to go to Homestead and race like that, they’re not going to make it past Lap 1.
“We raced the clean and were better than them all year long. We deserve to be at Homestead. It sucks that they’re going to go. I believe NASCAR should park then and penalize them. … He doesn’t know how to race. It’s unfortunate it comes to this.”
Troconis and Crafton both had bitter predictions for Cindric at Homestead.
Said Troconis, “Obviously, they’re not going to out clean in Homestead.”
Crafton told FS1: “Just wrong place, wrong time. I told Ben (Rhodes), the 19 (Cindric) better not finish Homestead.”
Rhodes told FS1: “(Cindric) put me in a bad place and I was trying to do everything I could to keep the spot, but once we filed into Turn 1, we were all going to wreck. I don’t know if that was the right move on his part. … It looked like a desperation move. I guess if I was in his position, I can’t blame him, but it’s not the move I would have liked to see. … Just driving over his head, I guess.”
STAGE WINNERS: Stage 1 (Christopher Bell), Stage 2 (Christopher Bell)
WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Austin Cindric not only reached the Championship 4 round, he also recorded his 13th top-10 finish in the last 14 races. … Bayley Curry finished a career-best 10th.
WHO HAD A BAD RACE: On the restart following the Cindric/Rhodes/Crafton wreck with 15 to go, Dalton Sargent, Jesse Little and Ryan Truex were involved in a wreck that brought out another red flag. As soon as it happened, Truex said over his team radio, “What the hell just happened?”
NOTABLE: The race was red-flagged three times due to wrecks in the final 21 laps for over 37 minutes in total.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I’m a lucky man, what can I tell you?” – Race winner Johnny Sauter.
WHAT’S NEXT: The 2017 season wraps up Nov. 17 with the Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.