Photos: Courtesy of NASCAR
In a wild NASCAR Camping World Truck series finish, Johnny Sauter evaded a 16-car pileup with eight laps to go just after taking the white flag to drive his Chevrolet Truck to victory in the NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway. The win snagged the Bowtie Brigade’s first Truck series victory at the 2.5-mile superspeedway.
It was lap 92 when the first ‘Big One’ happened just as the tight-packed field was entering turn three caused by Timothy Peters pushing Cameron Hayley out of control and into the outside line hitting John Hunter Nemechek first and then scattering Trucks everywhere. That 16-car fracas caused enough carnage spilling so much liquid on the track surface that it took a 28-minute red flag period to clean everything up. Once the race resumed with three laps to go, the crowded racing of two wide up to three-wide at times kept fans on the edge of their seats anticipating a great finish between Ryan Truex, Sauter and Timothy Peters, but in the close quarter style of racing, it was inevitable that fenders would touch again.
Sauter will have to thank Christopher Bell for a final push that put him in the front to stay taking the lead just as he was crossing under the waving white flag as havoc was occurring directly behind him again. Bell was following right in line only to be collected by a spinning Timothy Peters after he was shoved by William Byron and Brandon Brown sending Bell flipping high into the air sending the other trucks in the race scurrying in all directions to avoid the 10-truck melee.
Bell landed and continued to roll for 13 more times before coming to rest just shy of turn one and very fortunately was able to unbuckle and climb out of his destroyed Toyota Tundra. By then the yellow flag was out and Sauter was announced the clear winner by a car length.
Bell was taken to a local medical facility for observation and kept overnight being released Saturday morning after an all clear from the medical staff on his condition.
“The 4 truck, thanks for the push,” Sauter said. “He was pushing me so hard, I was sideways. We lost momentum there, and I thought we were all going to crash. The next thing I knew he was pushing me again and bumping me, and it all worked out.
“I just had this feeling that our truck was so good yesterday that, if I didn’t make any mistakes, we were going to have a shot at this. Marcus (Richmond, crew chief) did a phenomenal job calling the race… This is unbelievable. I’m so pumped to be the first guy to get to Victory Lane here for Chevrolet. This is the opportunity of a lifetime.”
It was Sauter’s second Daytona Truck victory winning previously in 2013 and his 11th overall career win in the Truck series. He also becomes the first contender for the new Truck series championship chase automatically advancing to the Round of 8 for the championship.
The top five that survived all the crashes and spins were Sauter, followed by Ryan Truex, Parker Kligerman, Brandon Brown and Travis Kvapil.
The average speed of the NextEra Energy Resources was 129.032 mph after recording seven caution flags for 29 laps. There were 26 lead changes among 10 drivers with Austin Theriault leading the most at 31 circuits.
The next NASCAR Camping World Truck series event will be on Saturday, February 27 for the Georgia 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.