Johnny Sauter, new crew chief combine for big win at Michigan in fastest race in Trucks history

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Johnny Sauter held off ThorSport Racing teammate Matt Crafton in the closing laps to win Saturday’s Career for Veterans 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Michigan International Speedway.

It was the fastest race in Truck series history.

In a way, it was a trifecta for the Necedah, Wisc. native:

* He earned his first win of the season and it was the first race and win with Sauter for new crew chief Jeff Hensley, who just joined the team.

* It was his 10th career win in the Truck series and his first since winning 15 races ago at Talladega Superspeedway.

* He leaves Michigan as the points leader in the Camping World Truck Series standings, leading Crafton by nine points.

“This is just a great, great day,” Sauter said after the race on FoxSports 1. “I can’t thank the Good Lord and being blessed enough.

“We’re just now past halfway (in the season). This is great, this is the momentum we needed to swing it. We’ve had a good year, but not a great year. We’ve been consistent and finally got some speed this weekend.”

As for Hensley, his debut couldn’t have gone any better.

“It’s huge, it really is,” Hensley said. “To get this opportunity with ThorSport, it was a dream come true. It was a good career move for me to come up here and work with these guys. … It’s amazing, to win and leave here with the points lead is a big thing.”

Crafton gave it everything he had, but just couldn’t quite catch his teammate.

“I thought we were definitely a top-3, top-5 team,” Crafton said. “All in all, not a bad day.”

As for finishing behind his teammate and is also right behind Sauter in the standings, Crafton added, “1-2, it can’t get much better.”

Ron Hornaday Jr. finished a career-best third in the event, followed by Tayler Malsam with a career-best finish and Kyle Busch in fifth.

Busch, who led at halfway of the 100-lap event, made a great recovery after running out of gas on Lap 53 and falling back deep into the pack. He coasted onto pit road and into his pit stall, but lost valuable time when it took several attempts to re-fire the engine after his Toyota was refilled with fuel.

Sixth through 10th were German Quiroga Jr., Timothy Peters, Jeb Burton, Joey Coulter and Joe Nemechek.

Bubba Wallace finished 11th, followed by Jason White, Spencer Gallagher, Tyler Young, Bryan Silas, Mason Mingus in 16th, Austin Dillon, Joey Logano, Ben Kennedy and Jennifer Jo Cobb.

Rounding out the rest of the field were Ryan Blaney, Norm Benning, Justin Jennings, Jimmy Weller III, T.J. Bell, Travis Kvapil, Todd Peck, Adam Edwards and Caleb Roark.

As for the overall series points standings:

Former points leader Ryan Blaney dropped two spots in the standings to third after the race. He’ trails Sauter by 16 points, followed by Ron Hornaday Jr. (19 points back) and Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. in fifth place (36 points back).

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Mercedes, Ferrari go conservative on Austrian GP tire picks

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Pirelli has confirmed all 20 Formula 1 drivers’ tire picks for next weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, with most opting to stack up on ultra-softs.

As it does for every grand prix, Pirelli will bring three compounds to Austria next week, electing for the softest possible combination of ultra-soft, super-soft and soft tires.

In the regular pre-race release of each driver’s tire picks, Pirelli revealed that Force India, McLaren and Red Bull have gone down the most aggressive routes, stacking up on the ultra-soft tire.

Title contenders Mercedes and Ferrari have gone down a more conservative route, favoring additional sets of the super-soft compound.

Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen will take seven sets of ultra-softs to Spielberg, while Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas will have eight sets at their disposal through the weekend.

Graham Rahal survives Road America to finish eighth

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Graham Rahal and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing faced a roller coaster of a race during the Kohler Grand Prix at Road America on Sunday.

He was a rocket off the initial start, jumping from sixth on the grid up to fourth exiting turn 1, but was almost immediately ordered to surrender a position for blocking. He quickly slipped back to sixth, and then began plummeting down the order as he battled an oversteer condition that saw his car chew through its rear tires more quickly than others.

Forced to abandon the planned three-stop strategy, he and the No. 15 Gehl Honda team switched to a four-stop plan that saw him drop well outside the top ten at times.

However, they kept plugging away and rebounded nicely in the second half of the race to eventually finish in eighth. While he would have liked to finish higher up the order, Rahal knows that he and the team got everything they could out of it.

“The car was a handful today. I knew about five laps in that I didn’t have the pace for a three-stop strategy,” Rahal revealed post-race. “We tried as best we could to work with what we had during the race and overcome it. I would have obviously liked to have finished better, but eighth is about as good as we could do today. We struggled with a very loose race car all weekend and just couldn’t put a dent in the problem. We worked awfully hard but just missed it this weekend.”

The eighth-place finish keeps Rahal in the championship hunt. Rahal now sits seventh in the standings, 11 points behind fifth-place Josef Newgarden and 72 behind championship leader Scott Dixon.

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Ed Jones continues steady run with seventh at Road America

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Dale Coyne Racing’s Ed Jones has made waves in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season with a string of solid performances that belie his rookie status.

And Sunday’s Kohler Grand Prix at Road America was no different.

The 22-year-old battled an oversteering car most of the weekend at Road America, and had to navigate a little carnage late in the race as Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay both fell through the field with front wing problems.

However, Jones weathered all storms to finish an impressive seventh, his fifth finish inside the top 10 this year, and his best finish since his third place at the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade MotorOil.

“It was a really tough race,” Jones said of the effort. “We had a loose car yesterday. It was loose, but fast, for qualifying, and today again the car was really loose. I was hanging on the whole race, but the team had some good pit stops and we were able to move up.

“Obviously, the strategy was pretty similar to everyone else. Everyone was aggressive out there. It was hard racing but we came out with a seventh place and we moved up a little bit in the points.”

The seventh-place run sees Jones maintain his position in the top ten in the championship. He currently sits tenth in the standings, three points ahead of Chip Ganassi Racing’s Max Chilton.

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Vilander replaces Bird at AF Corse for Nurburgring WEC round

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AF Corse has confirmed that Toni Vilander will race the No. 71 Ferrari 488 GTE in next month’s FIA World Endurance Championship round at the Nürburgring in place of Sam Bird, who is tied up with Formula E commitments in New York.

Vilander currently races full-time in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with Risi Competizione, and appeared at the 24 Hours of Le Mans two weeks ago.

The Finn won the WEC GT drivers’ title in 2014 and last raced full-time in the series in 2015, but will return at the Nürburgring in place of Bird, who confirmed on Monday that he would be prioritizing his Formula E commitments on the July 16 weekend.

Vilander is relishing the opportunity to race alongside Davide Rigon in the No. 71 Ferrari, and is eager to bounce back from an early retirement at Le Mans.

“I’m happy to be able to return to the FIA WEC with the 488 GTE of AF Corse team. This is my chance to cancel the disappointment of the 24 Hours of Le Mans as soon as possible,” Vilander said.

“Car number 71 is in the top places of the championship standings, and I will give all I have to achieve the best possible result at Nürburgring, to help Ferrari in the manufacturers’ championship and Davide Rigon in the drivers’ ranking.”