The stars of NASCAR put it all on the line this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway to pull off some of the most important victories of the 2017 season.
In the final regular-season Camping World Truck Series race of the 2017 season, 2016 champion Johnny Sauter proved that he would do what it took to defend his crown after winning Friday night’s TheHouse.com 225.
Despite NASCAR young gun Ryan Truex obtaining the pole and Stage 1 win in this race, the brother of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Martin Truex, Jr. fell short of a race win after losing his lead to first regular season Camping World Truck Series champion Christopher Bell. Bell, who would also win Stage 2 of the 150-lap race, fell in turn to Truck Series veteran Sauter on Lap 123, freeing Sauter to drive his way to a first-time win at Chicagoland Speedway as well as his 15th win in 214 starts.
“This truck was unbelievable,” said Sauter, who stayed on the track during a caution late in the first stage and had to battle back through the field. “This is just what we needed: the shot in the arm for the upcoming playoffs.”
Thanks to his performance, Sauter will join Christopher Bell, John Hunter Nemecheck, Matt Crafton, Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric, Ben Rhodes and Kaz Grala in the hunt for the 2017 Camping World Truck Series Championship going into next weekend’s Playoff kickoff at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
While the 2017 Playoff field was decided for the Camping World Truck Series, the stars of NASCAR’s XFINITY Series took to Chicago’s 1.5-mile paved track for Saturday’s TheHouse.com 300 NASCAR XFINITY Series regular-season finale. The wave of the green flag, as well as the Stage 1 and 2 wins, would be dominated by pole-sitter Erik Jones, driver of the No. 20 NBA 2K18/GameStop Toyota.
Despite this, Jones lost the win at Chicago’s famed track as Illinois native Justin Allgaier received a push from regular-season champion and JR Motorsports teammate Elliott Sadler on lap 186 for the race win.
“This is incredible,” said Allgaier, who won for the second time this year. “I have been fortunate enough to go to Victory Lane at this track in the past, but that was based more on fuel mileage more than anything else. Today, my team did a great job. Coming down to the end, I didn’t think we had a shot. I thought we were going to be top five, maybe, but we got great restarts and a lot of good momentum, and now we have a chance to go to Homestead and fight for this championship.”
Along with the young JR Motorsports driver, the remaining field of XFINITY Series drivers vying for the 2017 Playoff championship include Daniel Hemric, Michael Annett, Brendan Gaughan, Blake Koch, Cole Kuster, William Byron, Brennan Poole, Jeremy Clements, Ryan Reed, Matt Tifft and regular series champion Elliott Sadler.
Tales of the Turtles 400
While competitors in two of NASCAR’s upper echelon Series completed their regular season, the stars of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series charged into Chicagoland on a mission for the 2017 Championship at this weekend’s Playoff opener. Led to the wave of the green flag in Sunday’s Tales of the Turtles 400 by the No. 18 of Kyle Busch, who also grabbed the Stage 1 win, this race quickly changed hands after Busch caught a double whammy at the start of Stage 2. Eight laps after a restart on Lap 88, Busch returned to pit road due to a loose wheel. On the stop, one of his crewman — from the crew he had acquired from Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Daniel Suarez’s team to start the Playoffs — was flagged for stepping over the wall too soon. Busch served a pass-through penalty under green, never got back to the lead lap and finished 15th in one of the fastest cars in the race.
Busch’s loss would be Chase Elliott’s gain. Elliot led 42 laps and picked up the Stage 2 win. While Elliott also picked up a few added Playoff points, the newest driver of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet was no match for the No. 78 of Martin Truex Jr.
Truex, who had to overcome a few problems of his own on pit road, marched to the front of the field shortly after Elliott’s Stage 2 win and quickly found his way to his fifth victory of the season and the top of the Cup Series Playoff Standings at the tail end of this opening Playoff race.
“Every time you go to Victory Lane it’s special, and even more so today,” said Truex. “There are just so many people to thank, including my team as well as everyone at Toyota Racing Development (TRD). It is all such a dream come true, and we are having the time of our lives.”
Along with Truex, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff drivers like Chase Elliot also claimed the top six positions in this race. Kevin Harvick was at or near the front all afternoon and ran third. Denny Hamlin was fourth, followed by Kyle Larson and Brad Keselowski.
Truex will have to continue this momentum going into next weekend’s action in New Hampshire if he wants to stay on top. Stay tuned to RacingJunk.com for all the latest in NASCAR news.