Johnny Sauter Holds Off Chase Elliott At Martinsville To Advance To The Championship 4by Camille Jones October 29, 2016
RIDGEWAY, Va.– Johnny Sauter punched his ticket to the final round of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase with his victory at Martinsville Speedway in Saturday afternoon’s Texas Roadhouse 200 presented by Alpha Energy Solutions.
This is the second time that Sauter has driven his GMS Racing No. 21 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff Chevrolet Silverado to Victory Lane in 2016. The 38-year old is now a three-time winner at Martinsville Speedway. He led 50 laps en route to Saturday’s victory.
“I had brake trouble early in the race,” Sauter said. “I feel like this is one of the smartest races I’ve ever ran. People don’t accuse me of being smart a lot of the time. I just tried to take care of it and take care of it and just kept riding in third and just trying to save them, and I knew with 40 to go I could do what I needed to.”
Sauter added that the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship is “the ultimate goal” after claiming his spot in the final round of the Chase.
Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 71 NAPA Auto Parts/Valvoline Chevrolet Silverado, started on the pole and finished in the second position. Elliott says he entered the event in order to prepare for tomorrow’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. He led 109 of the 200 laps raced on Saturday afternoon. Elliott will roll off fifth in Sunday’s Goody’s Relief Shot 500.
John Hunter Nemechek led 18 laps in his No. 8 Fire Alarm Services Inc. Chevrolet Silverado before finishing in the third position.
Entering Saturday’s race, the Round of 6 drivers were all battling to lock themselves into the Championship 4 round at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The Round of 6 drivers include: Johnny Sauter, Christopher Bell, Matt Crafton, Timothy Peters, Ben Kennedy and William Byron.
Bell was the second-highest finishing Chase driver with a fourth-place finish in the 200-lap race at Martinsville Speedway. Peters finished in the fifth position, and William Byron was the last Chase driver to claim a top-10 finish with his eighth-place finish in the event.
Crafton suffered brake issues before a fire broke out in the left rear, sending him to the pits. He went a lap down, but he was able to return to the lead lap to finish in the 17th position.
“Probably about lap 15 we started having a ton of pedal fade and it made zero sense,” Crafton said. “Same truck we had at New Hampshire and put all new master cylinders and a bunch of stuff on it and I guess we didn’t find quite the gremlin that we thought we had at New Hampshire. All in all, we’ll just move on and go onto a really good track, Texas for us and Phoenix.”
Kennedy finished in the 18th position after being spun by Ben Rhodes on lap 177. While Kennedy was trying to get back going, he was then hit by John Wes Townley. Kennedy was able to recover for a lead-lap finish, but he was ultimately the lowest-finishing Chase contender.
“I was trying to move Ben Kennedy up a little bit to get past him, and I ended up getting into him too hard on the second time coming around the corner, and I spun him out,” Rhodes said. “I apologized that to him because I know he’s in the Chase and fighting for a championship, and that’s something that I would never do to him on purpose.”
Finishing behind Johnny Sauter, Chase Elliott, John Hunter Nemechek, Christopher Bell and Timothy Peters, was Daniel Suarez in sixth, followed by Cole Custer, William Byron, Daniel Hemric and Austin Hill.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers return to competition next weekend at Texas Motor Speedway for the Longhorn 350 on Friday, November 4. Live race coverage will broadcast on FOX Sports 1 (FS1) and Motor Racing Network (MRN) at 8:30 p.m. ET.
Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images