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Patience pays off for Johnny Sauter at Phoenix, wins 2nd straight race

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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.

The defending Camping World Truck Series champ heads to Miami for Friday’s championship race. He’ll square off with two-time champ Matt Crafton, Christopher Bell and Austin Cindric.

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.

John Hunter Nemechek, who needed a win to advance to Miami, finished second and was eliminated. Cody Coughlin was third, followed by Chase Briscoe and Kaz Grala.

“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.”

MORE: Results of Friday’s Lucas Oil 150 Truck race at Phoenix

MORE: Truck championship field set for Miami — points report

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.

Truck Series practice report from Gateway Motorsports Park

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First practice

Rain canceled the practice session at Gateway that was scheduled to run from 3:35 – 4:25 p.m. Eastern time.

When they finally got on track, Christian Eckes posted the fastest single lap in the first practice session with a speed of 134.360 mph.

Eckes’ speed was .009 seconds faster than Noah Gragon (134.324 mph), who landed second on the speed chart.

Ben Rhodes (134.120), Brett Moffitt (133.817) and Matt Crafton (133.706) rounded out the top five.

With the first practice canceled at Gateway, NASCAR added a final practice session scheduled for Noon – 1 p.m.

 

 

Denny Hamlin offers advice on how to deal with critics on social media

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Denny Hamlin, who has been fined by NASCAR for comments on Twitter, and was vocal toward critics after this year’s Daytona 500, says he’s found peace on how to deal with those on social media who don’t agree with him.

“I’ve been very good this year about not replying to mean people, and you all should do the same,’’ Hamlin said Friday at Sonoma Raceway.

“I’m making a (request) right now to every driver, every team owner, every NASCAR executive and every media member, stop replying to people who make nonsense comments. They have 16 followers. Don’t give them your 100,000. Do not give them your 100,000 as their stage. No one will ever see their comment, just brush it by, talk about the positives and I’m not a positive person.”

Asked how does one ignore such divisive comments, Hamlin said: “You just scroll by it. Forget it. That person doesn’t exit. They’re an admirer that has lost their way.’’

Hamlin has been better at doing so since the Daytona 500. He faced negative reaction on social media to the contact he and Bubba Wallace had at the end of the Daytona 500.

They engaged in a brief shouting match in the garage area after Hamlin learned that Wallace had taken a dig at him on national TV about a recent comment about drivers using Adderall.

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Clint Bowyer leads opening Cup practice at Sonoma

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Clint Bowyer was the fastest in the first of two Cup practices Friday at Sonoma Raceway.

Bowyer, the winner of the most recent Cup race two weeks ago at Michigan, posted a lap of 93.590 mph. He was followed by Ryan Blaney (93.546 mph), Joey Logano (93.172), Jamie McMurray (93.049) and Daniel Suarez (92.746).

Sixth was Jimmie Johnson (92.661). He was followed by Michael McDowell (92.650), Martin Truex Jr. (92.614), AJ Allmendinger (92.596) and Ryan Newman (92.595).

Click here for full practice report

Final Cup practice will be from 5:40 – 6:55 p.m. ET. Qualifying will take place Saturday.

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Kyle Larson: ‘I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t love NASCAR racing’

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Kyle Larson‘s comment on Twitter earlier this week that he would like to run full-time in the World of Outlaws sprint car series “before I’m 40” might have riled some fans, but Larson says it was not meant as anything bad toward NASCAR.

“I don’t know, I think maybe some people aren’t quite as open-minded, maybe,” the 26-year-old Larson said Friday at Sonoma Raceway. “It’s like they read it as if I said in two years from now I wanted to do it. I mean 15 years from now that would put me 20 years in Cup. So, that is a long time. 

“I think Jeff Gordon spent about that much time in the sport (Gordon raced in Cup 23 full-time seasons), but I don’t know, maybe I don’t do the best job in the world of talking about how much I love NASCAR as much as I do sprint cars, but I do. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t love NASCAR racing.

“I enjoy sprint cars, and I feel like I talk about sprint cars a lot just to open people’s eyes to that style of racing because it’s a great form or racing and so is NASCAR. So, I don’t know, I just want fans to be fans of motorsports not just NASCAR and not just sprint cars. I would like to see everybody just enjoy all of racing and I think that is what I do. Maybe I don’t do a good job at it sometimes, but you know, I enjoy racing all types of vehicles. Most fans get it, but some fans aren’t quite open-minded enough.”

It was on the official World of Outlaws podcast in December where Larson expressed his desire to eventually transition to the World of Outlaws.

“NASCAR is where I wanted to make it, but I would have been perfectly fine if I didn’t make it either,” Larson said on that podcast in the offseason. “I’d probably be on the Outlaw (sprint car) tour probably right now, racing and loving life … I would say racing on the World of Outlaws tour full-time is my main goal.”

Larson just finished running five nights of Ohio Sprint Speedweek. He won two of those nights. Rain postponed a sixth event before the feature that Larson was to have run. Larson said he has the dirt track race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on his schedule. Indianapolis is building a quarter-mile dirt track inside Turn 3 to run during the NASCAR weekend there in September.

Larson is in his fifth full Cup season. He has five career series wins. Although winless this season, Larson has finished runner-up three times (Auto Club Speedway, Bristol and Pocono).

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