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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Tony Kanaan says his message of IndyCar-NASCAR unity aimed at fans

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Over a 22-year IndyCar career featuring its share of adversity, Tony Kanaan has learned to embrace trying to find the positives in a negative situation.

He believes NASCAR and IndyCar will find a tiny silver lining from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The series will race together at Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course in a July 4 doubleheader, which he believes sends a message of unity he’d like to see from the world during this dark period.

“It’s time to send that message (of unity),” Kanaan told “Happy Hours” hosts Kevin Harvick and Matt Yocum in a Wednesday afternoon interview on SiriusXM’s NASCAR Channel. “If we don’t come out of this situation as better people, globally, in every way, shape or form … it’s just being kind to people. Hopefully, we’ll be sending the right messages, doing radio shows together, doing live on Instagram together, doing races together.

ON NBCSN: IndyCar at virtual Barber Motorsports Park, Saturday, 2:30 p.m.

MORE: Jimmie Johnson wants to run IndyCar-NASCAR doubleheader

“I was bugging Jimmie Johnson to say, ‘Can I be a guest in NASCAR on iRacing?’ I think the misperception, and probably a little our fault as well, is that people don’t know how (IndyCar and NASCAR drivers) respect each and how we think each other’s jobs are so cool.”

It was Kanaan’s comment last week that “it’s not us and them. It is the motorsports world’ that prompted Harvick to ask the 2004 IndyCar champion and 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner about his views on past IndyCar and NASCAR divisions.

Harvick noted that “over the years, IndyCar and NASCAR have that separate stigma as far as the fans, but the racers in the middle, we talk with each other. We’re just racers. I think it’s absolutely great” the doubleheader will happen.

Kanaan said he felt it was the right message to send because of the fans. “For drivers, I don’t think we ever thought of it that way,” he said. “We always respected each other and thought each other’s jobs were cool. That tweet was for our fans who say, ‘Those cars are too fast. Those cars are too slow.’ It’s time for us to stop. It’s a racing family.

“For people who don’t understand about racing, any race car is cool. Doesn’t matter if it’s a go kart, a sprint car, a  Cup car, it doesn’t matter. … The situation, we’re in, we’re all equal. It doesn’t matter how much money you have. We’re all in the same boat now. We can’t do what we love. It just clicked. I said it’s time to send that message. Hopefully this will be the end for ‘you guys and us’ for the fans. For drivers, I don’t think we ever thought of it that way.”

The GMR IndyCar Grand Prix is scheduled to be run July 4 on the IMS road course ahead of the Xfinity race, which will mean that the NTT Series’ Firestone rubber will be on the asphalt before the Goodyears of NASCAR hit the track.

Recalling a NASCAR test many years ago at Nazareth Speedway when he turned laps a second faster because there’d been an IndyCar race the previous day, Harvick asked Kanaan whether the varying tire compounds might present a challenge.

“I don’t there is a solution for that,” Kanaan said. “It’s part of the job, and we need to realize that you guys run different tires. We run softer tires. It’s no different than (IndyCar) racing with the trucks at Texas. It’s probably harder on an oval than a road course.

“But I like it. It’s part of the challenge and makes the race weekend more interesting, the people who can manage that as well.”

Even though he is sidelined, Kanaan still will stay busy this weekend, racing in Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. IndyCar iRacing Challenge event at virtual Barber Motorsports Park on NBCSN. He will be tuning in Sunday at 1 p.m. on Fox and FS1 as NASCAR hits Bristol Motor Speedway.

“Last Sunday I had my alarm set for 12:40 p.m., because at 1 o’clock (NASCAR was) on,” Kanaan said with a laugh. “I told (wife) Lauren, ‘Let’s turn the TV on and watch the NASCAR race!’ I was excited, and it wasn’t even real. She’s like, ‘Man, look at you … I said, ‘That’s what we got.’ It’s been a weird year.”

Harvick also will be racing Sunday, having recently joined Kanaan in installing a new racing simulator at home.

“Let’s do this Kevin: Come do an IndyCar race on iRacing,” Kanaan said. “I’ll do NASCAR. Now that you have a sim. What do you think?”

“Well, I’ll have to go to my 7-year-old to figure out how to drive it fast,” Harvick said.

“He’s been practicing. I’m really good at crashing.”