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.
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.
Huge last-lap crash gives Kaz Grala historic win in NASCAR Truck Series opener
Kaz Grala escaped a huge crash on the last lap of the NextEra Energy Resources 250 to become the youngest winner in NASCAR national series history at Daytona International Speedway.
Grala, 18, was running near the front when a 12-truck crash broke out that saw Matt Crafton go airborne, flip and land on the back of Johnny Sauter‘s No. 21 truck.
Grala, who sat on the pole, managed to evade the mayhem in his No. 33 GMS Racing Truck and take the checkered flag. The native of Boston was the youngest Daytona pole-sitter in NASCAR history.
The win comes in Grala’s 10th Truck start and is his first top five.
“I wish you could tell me (how I won the race),” Grala told Fox Sports 1. “I didn’t know what I was doing out there. I don’t know how to go a donut. I don’t know how to do a victory lap like that. I just know that I’m Polish, so I figured I should drive backwards.”
Grala followed his teammate, Sauter, for most of the night until a two-lap shootout after a late caution. Grala said his radio chord came undone on Lap 79 and he wasn’t able to get it functioning again until right before the final restart of the 100-lap race.
“Honestly I got lucky coming out of (Turn) 2 there, I just didn’t lift and everything went crazy around me,” Grala said. “I can’t believe we won Daytona. This completely changes the season in a way we can play it.”
WHO HAD A GOOD NIGHT: Most of the drivers who were not involved in the two massive wrecks that marked the beginning and end of the race … Chase Briscoe was the driver the triggered a 14 car accident on Lap 2, but he finished third. Myatt Snider and JJ Yeley finished in the top 10 … Regan Smith was involved in the last-lap crash, but finished sixth … John Hunter Nemechek rebounded from a Lap 95 spin to finished fourth. He was followed by his father, Joe Nemechek.
The end of the first 20-lap stage saw a crash involving Brett Moffitt and Christopher Bell, with Bell going airborne. Bell continued, but Moffitt’s night ended with the expiration of the five-minute damage clock … Bell was involved in a second crash with Korbin Forrister with 29 to go. Bell finished eighth on the lead lap.
Twelve drivers were involved in the lap crash: Crafton (14th), Sauter (15th), Ben Rhodes (12th), Travis Kvapil (24th), Regan Smith (sixth), Bell (eighth), Self (second), Myatt Snider (10th), Cody Coughlin (11th), Timothy Peters (17th), Gallagher (13th) and Grant Enfinger (16th).
NOTABLE: GMS Racing has now won two straight season-opening races at Daytona. Sauter won last year’s race.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “It got wild. We all knew it was. The whole race was really wild. It was just a matter of being in the right place at the right time, and fortunately I was able to find the right place and be there at the right time, and that’s why we came home second.” – Austin Wayne Self, who finished second for his first top five in 17 Truck Series starts.
WHAT’S NEXT: Active Pest Control 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway at 4:30 p.m. ET on March 4 on Fox Sports 1.
Cole Custer wins Truck Series pole at Talladega Superspeedway
TALLADEGA, Ala. – Cole Custer will start from the pole in today’s fred’s 250 at Talladega Superspeedway after putting down a lap of 178.417 mph in the second round of qualifying.
It is Custer’s second pole of the season. He will lead the field to the green flag alongside Grant Enfinger (178.380 mph), who is in the No. 24 for GMS Racing. Enfinger’s teammates, Spencer Gallagher (178.168 mph), Ben Kennedy (178.145 mph), and Johhny Sauter (177.811 mph), rounded out the top five.
Kennedy and Sauter were the fastest Chase drivers.