Johnny Sauter won the NextEra Energy Resources 250 on Friday night at Daytona International Speedway, his third victory in the season-opening event for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Sauter, driving the No. 21 Allegiant Airlines Chevrolet, emerged from a late-race battle among front-runners, taking the lead for good with eight laps remaining in the 100-lap/250-mile race on the 2.5-mile tri-oval. Sauter, whose previous victories in the event came in 2013 and ’16, outraced Justin Haley (No. 24 Fraternal Order of Eagles Chevrolet) and veteran Joe Nemechek (No. 87 D.A.B. Constructors Inc./Fleetwing Chevrolet) to the finish.
The race was run in three stages: 20, 20 and 60 laps. Pole winner David Gilliland (No. 4 Pedigree Toyota) won the first stage, with Sauter taking the second stage.
It was an emotional victory for Sauter’s team. The wife of his crew chief Joe Shear Jr., Chandra Shear, passed away in December.
“This is big … this is for Joe,” Sauter said. “I couldn’t be more proud of him to overcome something like that [and be here].
“This is the most unbelievable superspeedway truck I’ve ever driven. I felt like we executed flawlessly.”
There were two practice sessions on Friday for the 60th annual DAYTONA 500, set for Sunday at 3 p.m. (TV – FOX; Radio – MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Daniel Suarez (No. 19 Arris Toyota) led both sessions. In the first session, Suarez had a fast lap of 199.840 mph; in the second session, he posted a 203.179. Suarez will start 17th, on the inside of the ninth row, in the DAYTONA 500 – the season-opening event for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Pole winner Alex Bowman (No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet) and 2016 DAYTONA 500 champion Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota) will lead the 40-car DAYTONA 500 field to the green on Sunday. The race is rich in storylines, starting with Bowman who has replaced Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Hendrick Motorsports. Bowman, 24, is part of an undeniable youth movement in the Monster Energy Series, a movement that includes drivers like 22-year-old Chase Elliott, 20-year-old William Byron and another 24-year-old, Ryan Blaney. Blaney and Elliott won Thursday night’s respective Can-Am Duel qualifying races and will make up the second row on Sunday.
Also Friday, there were a pair of practices for the PowerShares QQQ 300, which opens the NASCAR Xfinity Series season on Saturday. Rookie Tyler Reddick (No. 9 BurgerFi Chevrolet) led the first practice, at 196.190. Daniel Hemric (No. 21 South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet) led the second, at 191.322. PowerShares QQQ 300 qualifying is set for 9:35 a.m. Saturday, with the race at 2:50 p.m. (TV – FS1; Radio – MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.)
Tickets for the 60th annual DAYTONA 500 and other Speedweeks events can be purchased online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP. Fans can stay connected with Daytona International Speedway on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and Snapchat, and by downloading Daytona International Speedway’s mobile app, for the latest Speedway news throughout the season.