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Johnny Sauter wins Truck Series opener for third Daytona victory

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Johnny Sauter survived a wreckfest and led the final nine laps to win the Camping World Truck Series season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway.

The GMS Racing driver edged teammate Justin Haley and Joe Nemechek as a two-truck crash broke out in the tri-oval.

The victory is Sauter’s third at Daytona and his second in three years.

The top five was completed by Ben Rhodes and Scott Lagasse Jr.

The victory comes just weeks after the wife of Sauter’s crew chief, Joe Shear, Jr., passed away on Dec. 28.

“This is big, this is for Joe, obviously losing Chandra about a month-and-a-half ago,” Sauter told Fox Sports 1. “Couldn’t be more proud of him to overcome something like that.”

Shear told FS1: “This is very, very special here. … She’s looking above us and was in love with racing as much as I was. This is good. She was looking over us and helped us to this win.”

Sauter led 39 of the race’s 100 laps. He took the lead when he dove beneath David Gilliland in Turn 3 with nine to go.

“This is the most unbelievable speedway truck I’ve ever driven,” Sauter said. “My teammates tonight, I felt like we executed flawlessly. At the end there I wasn’t quite sure. I was looking in the mirror and I thought I saw them coming three-wide.”

STAGE 1 WINNER: David Gilliland

STAGE 2 WINNER: Johnny Sauter

WHO HAD A GOOD NIGHT: Justin Haley finished second in his first start on a restrictor-plate track … Joe Nemechek earned his best Truck Series finish since placing fifth in last season’s Daytona race … Pole-sitter David Gilliland led 30 laps but finished 21st after he got turned into the outside wall by Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate Spencer Davis with seven to go and suffered minor damage … Despite spinning as he came to the checkered flag, Jordan Anderson finished ninth for the first top 10 of his career.

WHO HAD A BAD NIGHT: The caution came out on Lap 56 when Grant Enfinger triggered a multi-car wreck when he got loose exiting Turn 4. That caused a chain reaction that collected Jennifer Jo Cobb, Cody Coughlin, Parker Kligerman, Noah Gragson and Dalton Sargeant. Cobb hit the inside wall on the driver’s side but was able to walk away. Enfinger went on to finish sixth … Gragson and Bo Le Mastus were involved in a wreck four laps after the ensuing restart while exiting Turn 4. Gragson finished 23rd, Le Mastus placed 30th in his Truck Series debut. … A caution was issued on Lap 74 when John Hunter Nemechek lost his right-rear tire to body damage. The ensuing crash collected Brett Moffitt, Myatt Snider and Stewart Friesen, Spencer Davis and Austin HillClay Greenfield got loose in Turn 4 with just under 20 to go and collected Matt Crafton, Bryan Dauzat, Korbin Forrister and Hill. The accident resulted in a four minute and 20 second red flag period.

NOTABLE: Sauter’s win is the third in a row for GMS Racing at Daytona. Kaz Grala claimed the victory last season. Sauter started the streak.

FAILED INSPECTION: NASCAR announced that the No. 41 truck of Ben Rhodes failed inspection after the race. The truck was found to be too low. It likely would be an L1 penalty and that carries a points deduction of 10-40 points, a suspension of one to two races for the crew chief and a fine of $5,000 to $20,000. Also the finish does not count toward playoff eligibility (if a tiebreaker is needed).

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “That was badass out there. Probably the most fun I’ve ever had in a truck.,” Justin Haley said.

WHAT’S NEXT: Active Pest Control 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway at 4:30 p.m. ET on Feb. 24 on Fox Sports 1.

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.”