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Does Johnny Sauter’s Texas dominance continue?
It’s no secret that Johnny Sauter has pretty much made Texas Motor Speedway his personal playground in the last several years. He’s the active win leader at the mile-and-a-half oval with five victories (retired Todd Bodine has six), including three of the last five. Additionally, he set the track qualifying record last November with a blistering 188.758 mph lap and leads pretty much every statistical category at Texas.
Perhaps what’s even more impressive is that he’s second to only ThorSport Racing teammate Matt Crafton in green flag passes (715) and total laps run inside the top 15 (3146; 94.9 percent) since 2005. Keep in mind though that Crafton has seven more starts in that time frame than Sauter. Additionally, the driver of the No. 13 Ford has completed all but one lap at Texas in his Gander Outdoors Truck Series career.
Moving forward from a frustrating Martinsville Speedway race where Sauter was fortunate to pull out a ninth-place finish, despite multiple problems that plagued him throughout the race, Friday night (March 29) is a chance for him to score his first win since returning to ThorSport.
Interestingly enough, despite his four poles and five victories in Texas, Sauter has never won from the pole at the mile-and-a-half track.
Can anyone beat Kyle Busch?
While it’s not a topic most fans want to think about, the reality is that Kyle Busch has been outstanding in his three starts this season. In those three victories, the driver/owner of the No. 51 Toyota has led an astounding 376 of 625 laps (60.16 percent) in races he’s started. No matter your thoughts about Busch racing in the series, the fact of the matter remains that he’s been almost unbeatable across the board in NASCAR so far, and that’s been shown by seven wins in 12 races.
With that said, a trip to Victory Lane is far from guaranteed, especially when it comes to Busch at Texas Motor Speedway. Sure, he has three wins in his last six starts at the mile-and-a-half track, but there are also finishes of 33rd and 28th in that same timeframe. That’s not to say he can’t win Friday night — quite the opposite in fact, since his Kyle Busch Motorsports team has been on fire so far this year.
Let’s not hand the trophy to Busch just yet, but the odds are high for him to be able to go five-for-five in the Truck Series this season, especially given that he’s got a combined 10 victories at Texas and Charlotte Motor Speedway, site of Busch’s final scheduled Truck start of 2019.
“I’d like to think Texas is a good place,” Busch said. “I think our guys have a good baseline. Charlotte is always one of my best tracks, favorite tracks and enjoy running there with the trucks, especially. There’s a good opportunity.
“It’s kind of an expectation [to win every race]. We just go out, work hard and smart, and today, we let the race play itself out and come to us.”
Looking to Break Through
When it comes to drivers that have yet to find Victory Lane in their Truck Series careers that probably should have by now, Stewart Friesen‘s name tops that list. Heartbreak after heartbreak has seen the wins slip through his fingers, and he came incredibly close last June at Texas. Even Sauter made a comment post-race that he blocked Friesen all the way to the checkered flag.
Meanwhile, Todd Gilliland came tantalizingly close in the series’ November visit to Texas. But a fuel tank that ran dry just short of the scheduled distance cost him that shot at Victory Lane. It was yet another heartbreaking loss in his rookie season. Fast forward to this season where there’s obviously pressure for him to perform in KBM equipment that is more than capable of winning and this week just might be that time he finds his way to the top.
And while we’re on KBM drivers, Harrison Burton has impressed in the small number of starts he’s made on mile-and-a-half tracks. He finished sixth at TMS last season and put on quite the show to end up fifth at Las Vegas Motor Speedway a couple of races ago. In his rookie season, many are already pointing at Burton to grab his first career win sooner rather than later.
Obviously, these three drivers aren’t the only ones looking for their first career wins, but they’re definitely ones that stand out heading into the fifth race of the season.
- As of press time, 32 trucks are entered for Friday night’s Vankor 350. That means, the trend of the Truck Series putting full fields on the track will continue into the fifth race of the season. Angela Ruch moves over to the Niece Motorsports No. 44, while Bubba Wallace is listed behind the wheel of the No. 22 Chevrolet again this week.
- Last season, Justin Haley started on the pole for the June race at Texas, while Johnny Sauter won the race. When the series returned in November, it was the exact opposite with Haley taking the victory after Sauter started on the pole.
- Just seven of a potential 28 playoff points have been handed out in the Truck Series so far this season. Austin Hill grabbed five of those for his win in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway, while Johnny Sauter and Sheldon Creed have one apiece for stage wins at Daytona.
- Matt Crafton is the only full-time series driver to have completed 100 percent of the laps run so far this season. He has three top 10s, including a pair of top-five results, but sits eighth in the championship standings. The difference maker? Crafton has scored just 12 stage points so far out of a possible 80.
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