Sauter Still Perfect with Martinsville Win
By: Jeff Wackerlin - @JWackerlin Twitter and Instagram | MRN.com on April 6, 2013 | 4:00 P.M. EST
Sauter celebrates his second career win at Martinsville. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)
MARTINSVILLE, Va. - Johnny Sauter remained perfect for the 2013 season as he drove to his second win in as many races on Saturday afternoon in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway.
Sauter passed pole sitter Jeb Burton on a restart from the outside lane with 17 laps to go and went on to become only the second driver in series history to open the season with back-to-back wins. Mark Martin in 2006 was the first.
"I knew it was important to get a good restart," Sauter said. "I rode it in third gear and he got ahead of me a little bit. I shifted to fourth, drove it down there good and hard, and the truck stuck. Now, I'm standing here with my second clock at Martinsville. This is unbelievable."
The celebration in Victory Lane was not only the second for the No. 98 Carolina Nut Co.-Curb Records team. It also came on crew chief Joe Shear's 45th birthday ... and on a day when ThorSport Racing scored a one-two finish with Matt Crafton grabbing second place.
Sauter's ability to manage his tires was a big key to Saturday's win.
"Tire wear was amazing," he said. "They were really falling off, so I wasn’t sure how hard to push it when we were sitting 18th with 80 laps to go after a pit stop."
Sauter also had to overcome a close call when he and Ross Chastain made contact on the back straightaway.
"Ross obviously has to use his head a little bit better than that," Sauter said. "I was clearly inside of him and I'm going to talk to him about that. Nonetheless, I'm proud of all these guys. This is Martinsville. You're going to have close-quarters racing."
Crafton rebounded from a tough start to equal his best Martinsville finish in second. It came in his 296th consecutive start, which ties Terry Cook for most all-time.
"We had a terrible truck on the very first run and we almost went a lap down," Crafton said. "That just shows the 'never-say-die' attitude this team has. We saved our set of tires (for) the end and it was go time."
On lap 208, Crafton got into the back of John Wes Townley while being pushed from behind in heavy traffic - sending Townley hard into the Turn 4 wall.
"I tried to back off of him and I think it was the '94' (Chase Elliott) behind me," Crafton said. "He piled into the back of me. I was on my brakes and off the gas, and it was like, 'I'm along for the ride now, dude.' I didn't mean to wreck him. I got into him in the middle of the corner, but I didn't finish him there at the end. Hopefully, he'll watch the replay and see (my) side of it."
Burton wound up third, his best career finish in seven starts after leading a race-high 154 laps.
"I guess I used it up a little bit too much," he said. "The 98 just saved his stuff better than I did earlier in the run. I'm a rookie so I guess I live and learn. I'm happy it was a good points day."
Timothy Peters and Darrell Wallace Jr., who led 34 laps, rounded out the top five.
"I can’t thank Jerry (Baxter, crew chief) enough for making great calls all race long," said Wallace, who was making just his second start. "I got the lead ate in the race, came in the pits and we stuck on brand new tires. It got tight on that last restart and I just really couldn't do anything with them. It was good, fun racing."
Elliott, Dakoda Armstrong, Ryan Sieg, Erik Jones and Ron Hornaday completed the top 10.
Both Elliott and Jones' top-10 runs came in their first starts at the respective ages of 17 and 16.
Hornaday rallied for his top-10 finish after hitting the wall hard on lap 104 following contact from Burton. The four-time champion was leading the race at the time.
"I ran in a little too hard, locked them up and got into him," Burton said. "I didn’t mean to wreck him."
Sauter now leads the standings by 12 points over Burton as the series now heads to Rockingham Speedway for next Sunday's North Carolina Education Lottery 200.