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With a Sprint Cup Series regular hot on his heels, Johnny Sauter did not skip a beat.
The Daytona winner held strong, beating Chase Elliott to the line to grab his third Martinsville victory, second of the season and 12th of his Truck Series career
“To get a win here in extra special,” Sauter said. “Drove to the lead early, had some brake trouble and had to conserve. [I] thank Chase Elliott for racing me clean there at the end.”
Punching his ticket to the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Sauter will feel no pressure in the next two races at Texas and Phoenix.
“We’re not just going to hang out these next two races,” Sauter said. “We want to win races. We’re in a different, luxurious spot but a lot of emphasis on our homestead race.”
Finishing second, Elliott led 109 of 200 laps, however, losing the battle for the win with Sauter.
The first caution of the day fell on Lap 51 when two debut drivers of Josh White and Kyle Donahue crashed in Turn 1 in separate incident. The next multi-truck accident occurred with 23 laps to go when Ben Kennedy got tagged by Ben Rhodes, also swallowing up John Wes Townley.
The two Bens later confronted each other post-race, where Kennedy was furious at Rhodes for the contact.
Matt Crafton also found issues on the racetrack, as the No. 88 Chaser suffered blown seals in the left-rear caliber, causing a small fire that significantly impacted the truck’s performance.
Finishing 17th, Crafton, along with 18th-place Kennedy, finds himself in the negative space to make the final round in Homestead.
One driver who was not furious following 200 laps at Martinsville was Austin Hill, the 22-year-old part-time racer who grabbed his first career top-10 finish in the 10th spot.
“Small-budget team, they did a heck of a job,” Hill said. “To come out here and finish top 10, I think that shows that we belong.”