Sauter notches first Dover triumph in ‘Bar Harbor 200’ | Dover International Speedway

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June 3, 2017

Sauter notches first Dover triumph in ‘Bar Harbor 200’

By Colton Wood

The Monster Mile has always been a special place for Johnny Sauter.

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series points leader was able to fulfill one of his racing goals on Friday, holding off his GMS Racing teammate Kaz Grala in the closing laps to win the “Bar Harbor 200” presented by Sea Watch International. The win was his first victory of the season, the 14th of his career, and his first at the Monster Mile.

Johnny Sauter, driver of the No. 21 Chevrolet, and crew chief Joe Shear Jr. celebrate after winning the “Bar Harbor 200” presented by Sea Watch International NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Friday at Dover International Speedway. GETTY IMAGES

“Today was probably not our best handling truck of the year, but we were able to get a win with it,” said Sauter, the driver of the No. 21 Chevrolet. “This is just one of those places — never won here before and it’s a place I’ve always, always enjoyed coming to. And I said earlier in the day, it’s a feather in your cap if you can win at a place like this just because it’s so demanding.”

Sauter, last year’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion, said he feels like he is in championship form again after his impressive start.

“We’ve had a phenomenal start to the season,” he said. “I felt like we had the dominant truck at Daytona — led a lot of that race and unfortunately we just got tore up at the end on that last green-white-checkered. But other than that, third and three second-place finishes and a win today, so I’d say we’re in championship form to say the least. It’s just a product of everybody at GMS Racing working their butts off.”

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“I saw it right away when people were trying to do some strategy stuff there that being out front was the answer,” added Joe Shear Jr., Sauter’s crew chief. “No matter what we did to the truck when we were in traffic, it didn’t make any difference, so we knew that we had to get up front. So as soon as I learned that, I turned my strategy around to get us up front at the end.”

Grala, a rookie who graduated from high school on Friday, was the biggest mover of the race, finishing second after starting 16th.

“Definitely takes your breath away,” Grala said of his battle with Sauter in the closing laps. “My heart was pounding there trying to catch him. For a while, he was running about a truck-width off the bottom and I could get some air and I’d close up to him and then Johnny, being as smart as he is, he’d close that back down and then took away my air and kind of held me at bay there. But really happy to see him and his team win.”

Grant Enfinger, Ben Rhodes and Austin Cindric rounded out the top 5.

Rhodes led a race-high 71 laps, but couldn’t come up with a win as he lost his lead on Lap 164.

Noah Gragson, who had the fastest truck in both practices on Thursday, finished ninth, while polesitter Chase Briscoe finished 12th.

Starting in second, Ryan Truex immediately overtook Briscoe’s lead on the first lap. Truex would go on to lead all 45 laps of Stage 1 and secure his first stage win of the season.

Christopher Bell entered Friday’s race second in points and started third, but his day would end early after a left rear tire became flat and sent his No. 4 Toyota crashing into the Turn 3 wall on Lap 35.

Defending race champion Matt Crafton started 13th, pitted early on Lap 25, and used that strategy to stay in front and lead the field at the beginning of Stage 2.

Crafton led the majority of the second stage to notch his first stage win of the year.

Rookie Justin Haley qualified 21st but steadily made his way through the field, getting as high as second before losing control in Turn 4 on Lap 73.

Parker Kligerman, John Hunter Nemechek and T.J. Bell also were involved in a crash following a midrace restart, ending their days early.

Rhodes then took control before having to make a green flag stop. Briscoe inherited the lead from there, before a tire miscue on pit road ended his chances.

Sauter then led the final 32 laps on his way to the checkered flag.

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