BROOKLYN, Mich. — Johnny Sauter started at Michigan International Speedway with a new crew chief and an uncharacteristic truck set-up. Yet less than 18 hours before the start of the Camping World truck series race he shared some optimism with his wife.
“I said, ‘man, I think I’m going to win tomorrow,’ ” Sauter said. “For me to say something like that means something. Usually, I’m a pretty pessimistic person.”
Sauter took the lead from ThorSport Racing teammate Matt Crafton with less than four laps left in the Careers for Veterans 200 and stayed at least half a second ahead of Crafton in the final stretch to win on Saturday at MIS. The race was the fastest in Camping World truck series history with an average speed of 161.087 miles an hour and lasted less than 75 minutes.
“We just had a great run,” said Sauter, who finished ahead of Matt Crafton and Ron Hornaday, Jr. “We were really strong on the long run.”
Sauter won a 100-lap race that had only one caution, which came out on the eighth lap when smoke rose from under the hood of Travis Kvapil’s truck — later diagnosed as engine failure. After the caution, only four drivers led until Crafton took over going into the 92nd lap, and he led until he headed to the pits with four laps left.
“If I had another lap, I think I could have gotten to his bumper and seen what we could do,” Crafton said.
Jeff Hensley, Sauter’s new crew chief, replaced Dennis Connor eight days before the Careers for Veterans 200. Sauter was second in the driver points standings but had yet to win a race before Saturday.
“It was just a deal where we were running decent this year,” Sauter said. “We were consistent, but we were just lacking a little bit here and there. This is the latest into the season in the last four or five years that I hadn’t won a race. It was tough. Dennis Connor did a great job. We talked a little bit about it. It was a thing that was going to make the whole organization stronger.”
POLE POSITIONING: Ryan Blaney won the pole for the Careers for Veterans 200 almost by default — he was the only driver to take the final qualifying lap.
The final 12 drivers in knockout qualifying waited through almost the entire course of the 10-minute session before taking off.
“Joey Meyer, my spotter, did a great job of letting me know what the time was, and I guess no one else was aware of that,” Blaney told Fox Sports after qualifying.
Only Blaney registered a complete lap as time expired, finishing in 41.582 seconds with a lap speed of 173.162 miles an hour — more than 14 miles an hour less than Joey Logano, who had the top qualifying speed of 187.647.
“If you figure that out, let me know, because it’s still confusing to me,” Hornaday said. “I can’t figure it out, but I’m sure the fans really liked that, to see one truck qualifying.”
TRUEX OUT: Ryan Truex will not drive in today’s Pure Michigan 400 after he was diagnosed with a concussion on Saturday.
Truex was taken to a local hospital Saturday morning after a crash in Turn 2 during Sprint Cup practice at MIS. Truex walked away from the crash but was transported to a local hospital after he reported shoulder pain and a headache. A BK Racing official told reporters that Truex was being monitored for a concussion, and the announcement of that official diagnosis came Saturday afternoon.
Truex did not start in the second Sprint Cup practice session in the morning at MIS, and when asked if he would drive for Truex, Crafton said no.
“I think they’re flying in JJ Yeley,” Crafton said. “I won’t fit in the seat. I’m not going to take a chance, especially where ThorSport [Racing] is, one and two in points. It’s not really worth it going out there and something happens, like blowing a tire and getting hurt, and you really don’t fit in the seat.”
Yeley drove Saturday in the Nationwide Children’s Hospital 200 in Lexington, Ohio, and will start at the back of the field for today’s Pure Michigan 400.
Truex's brother, Martin Truex, Jr., drove Saturday after missing Friday's practice and Pure Michigan 400 qualifying to be with his girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, who underwent surgery in North Carolina after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.