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Johnny Sauter is a proven winner and a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion. But even as 40-year-old, he is still running up front at a clip he’s never seen before. The latest proof? Knocking a longtime nemesis, Charlotte Motor Speedway, off the bucket list.
Sauter took the lead and held on through a series of late restarts to pick up the victory in Friday’s (May 18) North Carolina Education Lottery 200. The driver of the GMS Racing No. 21 was relieved to end a winless drought at what’s been a tough place for him (just five top 10s in ten CWTS starts).
“This is a tough place,” said Sauter, who notched his series-best third win of 2018. “Everyone wants to win here. I never thought I’d win here. To win this race is just super special. I never thought 40 would be so good.”
After rain led NASCAR to cancel qualifying, Sauter started from the pole. But it was evident the veteran knew he didn’t have the strongest truck when the race began. Up and down throughout the event, he finally took control from Brett Moffitt on lap 87 and went untouched the rest of the way.
“This is the biggest race of my career, and I’ve won a lot of big races,” he explained. “We kept making adjustments on the truck all night and made it better and better.”
The evening was much less successful for runner-up Kyle Busch. Busch, with one more victory (he has 50), will tie Ron Hornaday for the all-time CWTS wins record. But a pair of penalties on pit road left his charge to the front feeling like too little, too late.
Needless to say, Busch was not pleased with the pit road miscues. When asked how he was able to drive back to the front despite the two penalties, the owner/driver turned around and trashed his team.
“Pure talent,” he said of what fueled his comeback. “That’s about it. My pit crew did absolutely nothing to help me out tonight. My truck drove like [crap]. But somehow, some way I was able to get back to the front. Had a blast.”
NASCAR XFINITY Series regular Brandon Jones finished third as a teammate to Kyle Busch. Brett Moffitt, who won the first stage, ran fourth, followed by Ben Rhodes. Stewart Friesen, Parker Kligerman, Noah Gragson, stage two winner John Hunter Nemechek and Todd Gilliland comprised the rest of the top 10.
Following his 20th career win, Sauter now leads the point standings by 59 over Gragson. Gragson, who drives for Busch, finished eighth after nearly getting turned sideways on a late restart by his car owner.
The trucks are back in action at Texas Motor Speedway on Friday, June 8 at 9 p.m. ET.