BROOKLYN, Mich. — Johnny Sauter’s unusually positive outlook turned out to be spot on.
“I told my wife when I went to bed last night, I said, `Man, I think I’m going to win tomorrow,”‘ he said. “For me to say something like that means something. I’m usually a pretty pessimistic person.”
Sauter won his first NASCAR Truck Series race of the season Saturday, holding off ThorSport Racing teammate Matt Crafton at Michigan International Speedway. Sauter also took over the points lead. Ryan Blaney finished 21st after winning the pole and dropped from first place to third, behind Sauter and Crafton.
Crafton gave up the lead with a late pit stop, but was still within striking distance when Sauter held him off in the final stretch.
“The team said after the race, ‘Sorry, we should have tried to make it,”‘ Crafton said. “But we were just on the order of making it or not making it and it was a tough call.”
Even with that stop, Crafton made it close at the end, with Sauter leading the final four laps and winning by only 0.433 seconds.
“As I was creeping toward the restart line, I saw him kind of light the tires up like he was leaving pit road,” Sauter said. “I knew once we go toward Turn 1 and he was still on the apron, I thought that I was going to have enough momentum to clear him, but by the time we got to Turn 2 I wasn’t so sure.”
It was the fastest race in series history, with an average speed of 161.110 mph. The previous record was 154.737 at Texas Motor Speedway on Nov. 2, 2012.
Sprint Cup drivers have routinely surpassed 200 mph at MIS since the track was repaved before the 2012 season. Jeff Gordon set the latest track qualifying record Friday at 206.558.
This was Sauter’s 10th career trucks victory, and he has now won at least one race in six consecutive seasons. The record is eight, by Dennis Setzer.
Saturday’s victory came under the guidance of crew chief Jeff Hensley, who took over recently as Sauter sought to end his winless drought.
“It was just a deal where we were really running decent this year. We were consistent, but we were just lacking, maybe just a little bit here and there,” Sauter said. “We hadn’t won. This is the latest into a season I think in the last four or five years that I hadn’t won a race.”
This was Hensley’s first race as Sauter’s crew chief.
“I feel like any minute I’m going to wake up and I’m going to be over in the garage area somewhere and we finished about fifth,” Hensley said. “I’m kind of like Johnny. I think we’ll get along really well. I don’t call it being pessimistic, we’re just realists. We know it’s hard to win these things.”
Ron Hornaday Jr. finished third, followed by Tayler Malsam and Kyle Busch.
Joey Logano was second in qualifying but finished 18th.