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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Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds