Johnny Sauter stayed clear of two late-race, multi-car incidents Friday night and went on to win the NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway, the season-opening race for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Sauter, driving the No. 21 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff Chevrolet, was followed by Ryan Truex (No 81 Toyota Osaka Parts Distributor Toyota), with Parker Kligerman (No. 92 Valvoline/Advance Auto Parts/BTS Tire Ford) finishing third.
Sauter first avoided a Lap 93 accident in Turn 3 involving 18 trucks in the 32-truck field. That brought out a red-flag period to clear the track of debris. A caution period followed the red flag, setting up a two-lap sprint to the finish when the green flag came out.
Running in front of the pack on the outside, Sauter got a huge push from the trailing Toyota driven by Christopher Bell on the next-to-last lap. Sauter was leading the race when he took the white flag signifying the 100th and final lap. Seconds later another multi-truck mishap was underway involving Bell’s truck and five others. The caution flag immediately waved again, giving Sauter the victory.
For Sauter, it was his second truck series win at Daytona, following his 2013 victory. It also was the first truck series at Daytona for Chevrolet, in 17 races.
“Man, I was so pumped up,” Sauter said. “I knew [Thursday] that this truck had speed. I knew we had raw speed.
“This was unbelievable. This is a hard race to win.”
* * * * *
On the heels of having the DAYTONA 500 starting grid set on Thursday night via the Can-Am Duel qualifying races, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers came right back out Friday for two more practice sessions. Two-time DAYTONA 500 champion – and six-time Sprint Cup champion – Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet) led the first session with a fast lap of 194.08 mph. Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota) led the second practice, at 199.658.
Johnson will start the DAYTONA 500 from the rear of the field because he has been forced to a back-up car, due to a last-lap crash of his primary Chevrolet in the second Can-Am Duel race.
A final DAYTONA 500 practice will be held Saturday from 12:15-1:55 p.m.
* * * * *
Three practice sessions for the PowerShares QQQ 300 were held on Friday. The race opens the NASCAR XFINITY Series season on Saturday; qualifying is at 10 a.m. followed by the race at 3:30.
The respective session leaders:
Ryan Reed (No. 16 Lilly Diabetes/American Diabetes Association Ford) is the defending champion. Continuing a long-standing tradition of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regulars in the event, Aric Almirola, Austin Dillon, Chase Elliott, Kasey Kahne, Bobby Labonte, Kyle Larson and Joey Logano are entered.
* * * * *
Tickets for Speedweeks 2016 events – including the 58th annual DAYTONA 500 on Sunday, (infield and Sprint FANZONE only remaining) the season-opening race for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series – can be purchased on-line at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP. Fans can stay connected with Daytona International Speedway on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube for the latest speedway news throughout the season.