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 Hill … Clay 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.