Posted 11/4/16 | © Photo by Scott Tilley
Johnny Sauter overcame a dragging splitter on the final restart of the night to win his second straight NASCAR Truck Camping World Chase race not allowing any chase racers to qualify for Homestead with a win of their own. When I wrote earlier this week which non-Chase driver might be the fly in the ointment and dash the 5 Chasers' hopes of winning and advancing to Homestead in two weeks, Stephen Gallagher wasn't even on the radar. He won the first Keystone Light pole of his career earlier in the day and almost won his first Camping World truck race by leading 88 of 147 laps. He had one of the top three cars of the race; and if not for a stubborn right rear tire during a pit stop, Cinderella's story would have had a storybook ending.
There was great racing going on among the different drivers that are outside the Chase, but everyone pretty much minded their manners giving the Chasers plenty of room so as not to be the reason a driver didn't qualify for Homestead. In the end, the real fly in the ointment was a Chaser who is already qualified for Homestead; and his win kept another driver from qualifying which set up a five-driver shootout for three openings next week at Phoenix.
It appeared Matt Crafton and his DampRid/Meanards Chevy had been playing possum most of the night by hanging around the fifth spot; so when his pit crew got him out in second place for the final restart of the night, you had to wonder if it was go time for him. If you were here for the RattleSnake 400 race in June, you saw him have a pretty dominant truck; and then when Sauter dug his splitter into the asphalt in turn one during the final restart, you could pretty much assume the race was over ... except Sauter had other ideas.
Once Crafton got the lead, he went to the bottom and hugged the white line leaving the top line next to the wall wide open for Sauter to slowly reel Crafton in and eventually go by him never to be challenged again. Sauter only led six total laps of the race, two of which were the final laps of the race. Crafton finished second; but if there is a silver lining, he did move up from fourth place to second and now he's the one being chased.
Big Picture Racing
Sauter was asked about his weak burnout after the race, and he said he was applying some great advice he had received over and over from his dad (a former NASCAR driver) and a close friend of the family Dick Trickle (another former NASCAR driver). They always told him you have to take care of your equipment because you have to first finish the race to have a chance to win. So he didn't do a massive burnout because he is taking this winning Silverado to Homestead where, if he wins, he plans on doing a massive championship burnout.
When asked at the post-race interview where the speed came from to win the race (since he was only 14th fastest in practice and only qualified 16th), Crew Chief Joe Shear Jr. answered saying they had spent truck practice working only on race trim not even concerning themselves with qualifying. It's big picture thinking, and consistency has become a staple of this race team. If you look at what Sauter has done this year, it won't be a surprise because the Allegiant Chevy truck has finished in the top ten 17 times this season which is a NASCAR season record.
Hitting Stride at Right Time
There is a lot to cheer about around the Gallagher race shop. Spencer Gallagher won his first pole today, this was Sauter's second straight win, and this is the Gallagher race team's third straight win during one of the most stressful times of the season.
Rubbin' is Racing
With Johnny Sauter winning tonight, it creates an interesting scenario for the remaining truck Chasers. The positive takeaway for the fans from Sauter's win here at Texas is that next week's race will have three slots open for only five Chase drivers. That should create some desperation by the five Chase drivers which means there might be some local Friday banging and rubbin' for each spot because one or two spots either way will be big because the points race is so close. The positive for the drivers is that their future is in their hands, much like match play golf. All you have to do is run better than the other five drivers, and you qualify for Homestead.
The race next week marks the final Chase race for drivers to qualify for the winner-take-all race at Homestead. It reminds me of the story of two guys who are hiking in the woods and saw a bear. The first hiker stopped and put on his running shoes. The second hiker looked at him and said,
What are you doing? You can't out run that bear. The first hiker responded,
I don't have to out run the bear. I only have to outrun you.
That pretty much sums up next week's race at Phoenix International Raceway.
- Time of Race: 1 hour, 29 minutes, 13 seconds
- Caution Flags: 3 (caution clock expiration)
- Lead Changes: 7 among 4 drivers (Gallagher, Hemric, Sauter, Crafton)
- Keystone Light Pole Award: Spencer Gallagher | Allegiant Travel Chevy Silverado
- Sunoco Rookie of the Race: William Byran | Liberty University Toyota Tundra
- Next Race: Phoenix International Raceway
- There were 12 laps of caution mostly for competition yellows.
- No penalties by Chase Racers.
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