Johnny Sauter steers clear of obstacles for Truck Series win

DOVER — There can be many obstacles thrown at a driver in his search for victory lane at Dover International Speedway.

It turned out Johnny Sauter had to dodge just about anything and everything the track known as the “Monster Mile” could throw at him in the Jegs 200 Camping World Truck Series race on Friday afternoon.

Sauter, who dominated much of the race, survived a spirited late-race battle with Noah Gragson and then drove past Matt Crafton in a green, white, checkered flag overtime finish to win the Truck Series race at Dover for the second-consecutive year.

Sauter and Gragson had a thrilling side-by-side battle over the final 15 circuits before Gragson spun his truck while trying to hold onto the lead with less than two laps to go entering the third turn. He slammed into the outside wall.

Crafton briefly passed Sauter on the ensuing restart in a two-lap overtime, but Sauter was able to reclaim the top spot and pull away to the triumph.

“You just never give up,” Sauter said. “We had to work for this one. I had a good run there and Noah (Gragson) squeezed me off and I just said, ‘OK, he just gave me the green light to be aggressive.’

“It was just hard racing. We had a really good truck on long runs and that was just racing right there.”

Crafton finished second, 0.533 seconds behind Sauter at the checkered flag, and was followed by Justin Haley in third, David Gilliland fourth while Harrison Burton rounded out the top five.

Gilliland’s son, Todd, finished 10th as they became the 10th father-son duo to compete against each other in a NASCAR touring series event.

“We just didn’t have short-run speed,” Crafton said. “For whatever reason it just wouldn’t fire off. I just didn’t have the speed. I had a really good restart at the end.”

Gragson, who started from the pole position, was dejected after finishing in 20th place.

“I’m definitely just disappointed in myself,” Gragson said “It’s just a racing deal. These things are just so hard to win and I was so close to getting my first win.

“I got beside him and kind of got pointed toward the inside wall and tried to side draft him again. It’s just a racing deal. It’s not the way I try to race people. I take full responsibility in that regard – it was 100 percent my fault. It’s just unacceptable on my part.”

Sauter definitely knew this was a victory that he had to earn.

“When you can tame this place you feel like you’ve done something. I’m pumped,” he said. “Not many people get this opportunity and I’m excited.

“When you’ve got a truck as fast as ours you’ve got to win the race. We had to find a way to win the race and we did.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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