Johnny Sauter made it two wins in a row in the inaugural Camping World Truck Series Chase playoffs by winning at Texas Motor Speedway on Friday night.
Sauter already had clinched his spot in the Camping World Truck Series championship race in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway by also winning a week earlier at Martinsville Speedway. But he wanted more, and he took the win away from Matt Crafton by passing the two-time series champion with three laps to go.
"Matt was content to keep running the bottom. … I’m like, ‘Well, I’m going to the top.’ I was pretty good coming off the top off (Turns) 3 and 4 all night and I had some great momentum," Sauter said.
He’s got great momentum now with only one race remaining before the winner-take-all, season finale that will determine the season’s champion at Homestead.
Spencer Gallagher dominated much of the night, leading a race-high 88 laps. But because of a terrible final pit stop that lasted a seemingly interminable 17.2 seconds, Gallagher had to watch Sauter, his GMS Racing teammate, go to Victory Lane for the second week in a row.
Gallagher headed to the pits with the lead on the final stop, but dropped six spots in the running order as Sauter came out with the lead.
But on the restart, Crafton surged ahead and looked as if he was in control until Sauter passed him decisively on the high side with three laps remaining.
Crafton ended up second, followed by Daniel Hemric, Tyler Reddick and Daniel Suarez.
Sauter, Crafton and William Byron, who finished sixth, were the only Chasers to finish in the top 10. The other three Chasers weren’t far behind, though, with Christopher Bell finishing 11th, Ben Kennedy 13th and Timothy Peters 14th.
Sauter’s victory means that at least two of the six remaining Chase drivers can now advance to the championship finale without winning next weeks final race in this Chase round at Phoenix, as two are guaranteed to make it in on points. A victory by any Chaser other than Sauter will secure advancement for that winning driver into the Championship 4.
Two of the current six Chase drivers will be eliminated after Phoenix. After Friday night, a mere five points separate the drivers second through fifth in the standings, with Byron (3,052 points) in second behind only Sauter and followed by Bell (3,051 points), Crafton (3,048) and Peters (3,047). Kennedy is in the most serious trouble, bringing up the rear with 3,035 points — 13 behind the current cut line.
Sauter’s win on Friday was his third of the season and the third of his career at Texas, including his second in a row. He also won there earlier this season in the spring.