Johnny Sauter wins wreck-marred NCWTS race at Daytona
Johnny Sauter captured a wreck-filled NextEra Energy Resources 250 Friday night at Daytona International Speedway, kicking off the 2016 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season by scoring a victory with his new team, GMS Racing.
Ryan Truex and Parker Kligerman finished second and third, respectively.
Sauter, who competed for ThorSport Racing from 2009-2015, was jubilant in Victory Lane.
“I’m just so pumped up,” said Sauter, who captured his 11th series win. “I can’t thank the good Lord and everybody enough. This is awesome.”
Sauter took the checkered flag under caution after the truck of Christopher Bell went airborne, tumbling end over end more than 10 times. Remarkably, the 21-year-old Kyle Busch Motorsports driver climbed out of his No. 4 truck after it came to rest on all four wheels. Bell was later transported to a local hospital and released after a precautionary evaluation.
Timothy Peters and John Hunter Nemechek were also involved in the last-lap wreck, with Nemechek nailing the outside wall in the truck owned by his father, NASCAR veteran Joe Nemechek.
The race marked the debut of the series’ controversial new "Caution Clock" being used in all but one truck event this season.
Per NASCAR rules, the clock was set to 20 minutes and triggered at the start of each green-flag run. When the clock counted down to zero, a caution flag was displayed.
Unfortunately, the clock was at least partly to blame for an incident on Lap 42 involving three trucks.
With just 15 seconds left on the clock and drivers jockeying to get to pit road before the caution, Cody Coughlin and Spencer Gallagher tangled and collected Bell in the process.
A far more substantial incident, however, occurred on Lap 93 of 100 when a light tap from Peters sent Cameron Haley sliding into Nemechek in Turn 3.
While Nemechek kept going, Haley slid through the grass and back up the track, setting in motion "The Big One," as multi-car wrecks at Daytona are commonly known.
Other drivers incurring damage in the melee — which resulted in a red flag of 27 minutes, 54 seconds — were: Daniel Hemric, Cole Custer, Daniel Suarez, Ben Kennedy, Austin Theriault, Chris Fontaine, Tyler Reddick, Austin Wayne Self, Grant Enfinger, Matt Crafton, Rico Abreu, John Wes Townley, Scott Lagasse Jr., Brandon Brown and Ben Rhodes.
"I’m not quite sure what happened," Haley said on the FS1 broadcast. "It’s hard racing there. I guess we just caught bumpers the wrong way. Peters got in the back of me. … I guess that’s Daytona."
Sauter led 12 laps in the race but Truex led seven consecutive laps before Sauter snatched the lead away on the final trip around the high-banked tri-oval.
“I honestly believed that we could win,” said Sauter, who delivered Chevrolet’s first truck victory at Daytona and earned his second triumph at the 2.5-mile speedway. “Just all the people at the shop, everyone’s pumped up and positive. They welcomed me with open arms. I can’t say I’m surprised that we’re here.”