NASCAR Notebook: Sauter makes it three truck wins in a row at Dover

Johnny Sauter celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series JEGS 200 at Dover International Speedway on Friday. (Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

DOVER — It was all about being in the right place at the right time for Johnny Sauter.

Sauter didn’t dominate, but he remained near the front of the pack throughout the day and managed to hold off Brett Moffitt following a restart with five laps remaining in recording his third-consecutive victory at Dover International Speedway in the Jegs 200 Gander Outdoors Truck Series race on Friday evening.

Sauter, a 41-year-old veteran driver from Necedah, Wisconsin, did lead the lap he wanted to the most — the last one.

Sauter had a five-truck length advantage over Moffitt when the checkered flag flew at Dover’s high-banked, one-mile oval.

Harrison Burton, son of former Cup driver Jeff Burton, finished third, followed by Grant Enfinger and Matt Crafton.

Sauter was ecstatic after earning the victory, especially considering Moffitt drives for GMS Racing, a team that let Sauter go just before this season started. He now drives the No. 13 Ford for ThorSport Racing.

“When you get kicked to the curb you feel like you’ve got a lot to prove,” Sauter said. “A couple of months ago I didn’t know if I would be racing, so to win three in a row (at Dover) is really special. You can say I was highly motivated. Experience paid off going to the top.

“It’s just so special. This ranks right up there with one of the best wins of my career.”

As for a close encounter with a crashing Sheldon Creed with 41 laps left and holding off Moffitt on the restart with five miles to go, Sauter said, “That’s easy stuff. You’ve just got to relax and take it all in stride.”

Moffitt, who started from the pole position after averaging 161.413 mph around the Monster Mile, dominated the first half of the event, leading two times for 80 laps during the first two stages.

“It was just clean air,” said Moffitt. “It’s all about track position here at Dover now. Restarting on the outside is key. When we were out front we could lead it. The wins are coming.”

Almirola’s car chief ejected

NASCAR officials ejected Aric Almirola’s car chief for the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 10 team after they found issues in Friday’s pre-qualifying inspection at Dover International Speedway.

Almirola’s Ford failed inspection twice before Friday’s Busch Pole qualifying session at Dover. As a result, competition officials ejected car chief Chad Haney, sidelining him for the rest of the race weekend.

Despite the issues, Almirola went on to qualify seventh for Sunday’s Gander RV 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.

Bowyer, Hamlin seek to slay the Monster

Clint Bowyer and Denny Hamlin arrived at Dover International Speedway with a statistic they would like to erase following Sunday’s Gander RV 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race — the two perennial championship contenders have made the most starts (26) at Dover with a victory.

Half the current members of the Championship Top 16 are still looking for their first victory at the Monster Mile, but none of the other active competitors has gone this long without a trophy.

Bowyer, the driver of the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, has 14 top-10 finishes at Dover, but only three top-five showings — his best finish, however, came in this race last year — runner-up to SHR teammate Kevin Harvick. Bowyer’s 13.3 average finish is fourth best among the top-16 ranked drivers. Bowyer has a pair of Xfinity Series wins at the track as well.

Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, has won three poles at the track (second-most among active drivers), but his average finish of 17.385 is only 13th best in the field. His best showing (runner-up) came in last season’s Dover playoff race. He has five top-10 finishes in the last six Dover races. Plus, he owns a pair of Xfinity trophies at Dover, winning back-to-back races in 2007-’08.

“Ever since I’ve been at SHR, we’ve seemed to have some really good cars at Dover,” Bowyer said. “We’ve been so close to taking home that Miles The Monster (a replica of the track’s 46-foot mascot) trophy. I hope we are just as good this weekend. If we are, then we have as good of a chance as anyone. You’ve got to fight this ‘monster’ every lap. I won a couple of Xfinity races there — haven’t won a Cup race — but love this racetrack.”

Rookies coming off big efforts at ’Dega

Ryan Preece and Daniel Hemric, a pair of Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidates in the Cup Series, have both endured a difficult learning curve over recent races.

However, last week’s race at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama, left both rookies with smiles on their faces as they posted the best showings of their careers so far in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

JTG-Daugherty Racing’s Preece answered a top-10 in the season-opening Daytona 500 with a third-place finish at Talladega, just off the bumpers of fellow Chevrolets, race winner Chase Elliott and runner-up Alex Bowman. Richard Childress Racing driver Hemric finished a career-best fifth for the first top-10 of his career. His previous best showing in 2019 was 18th at Phoenix.

Both Preece and Hemric have reason to be optimistic about Dover’s tough “Monster Mile.”

Preece had a Dover-best showing of fourth-place in last year’s Fall Xfinity race. Hemric has three previous top-10s in the Xfinity Series there, including a career-best third-place finish in the spring race last year and a pole position for the fall 2018 race. He also scored a pair of top-10s competing in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series – fourth in 2015 and ninth in 2016.

Cindric paces Xfinity practice

Austin Cindric posted the quickest lap in the final Xfinity Series practice at Dover on Friday by touring the high-banked, one-mile oval at a speed of 152.749 mph. Riley Herby was second at 152.698, followed by Justin Haley at 152.659.

The 38th annual Allied Steel Buildings 200 Xfinity Series race is scheduled to take the green flag at 1:30 (FS1) this afternoon.

Tyler Reddick, Chase Briscoe, Christopher Bell and Gray Gaulding are set to battle it out for the $100,00 NASCAR Xfinity Series Dash 4 Cash program at Dover today. It all comes down to which driver finishes the highest in today’s race.

NASCAR, Genius Sports form betting data partnership

NASCAR and Genius Sports, the global leader in sports data solutions, announced a landmark deal on Friday morning that will see Genius Sports develop an official NASCAR gaming offering for legal sportsbooks. The new agreement is the first step toward creating an advanced live betting product that NASCAR hopes will drive fan interest and deepen engagement around races.

Genius Sports will utilize NASCAR’s official data feed to build a high-end live betting product to be sold to legal sportsbooks around the world. Exclusive access to NASCAR’s official data will allow Genius Sports to create a real-time gaming platform that provides up-to-the-minute odds and a suite of traditional wagers and prop bets. The new initiative will enhance the race day experience and keep fans engaged with the sport for longer periods of time.

“Partnering with Genius Sports allows us to deliver a dynamic fan engagement platform in the rapidly-growing world of legalized sports gaming,” said Brian Herbst, NASCAR’s senior vice president of broadcasting and innovation. “This new relationship will provide another entry point to the sport and complements our strategy to create a more immersive experience for fans.”

As a result of the agreement, Genius Sports becomes the exclusive provider of NASCAR data to licensed sportsbooks. The new data partnership marks NASCAR’s first in the growing U.S. sports betting sector.

“NASCAR fans are some of the most devoted in the world, and we look forward to helping them to create a deeper, more connected experience that is both safe and secure as the business of sports betting continues to evolve in the U.S.,” said Mark Locke, Genius Sports CEO. “Furthermore, our global relationships will help bring the excitement of NASCAR racing to new audiences both within the U.S. and in new territories around the world.”

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

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