Johnny Sauter Hoists First NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Championship; William Byron Wins Seventh Race Of 2016by Hunter Thomas November 19, 2016 0 comments
HOMESTEAD, Fla. – William Byron won Friday night’s Ford EcoBoost 200, but it was Johnny Sauter hoisting the championship trophy at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Sauter has been competing full-time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series since 2009, but this year is the first time in his career that he has won the series title. On Friday, the driver of the GMS Racing No. 21 Allegiant Travel Chevrolet Silverado finished third and outran the other three Championship 4 contenders, Matt Crafton, Christopher Bell and Timothy Peters, who finished seventh, eighth and ninth respectively.
“You know, it’s not just me; it’s the whole team, everybody at GMS Racing,” Sauter said. “We qualified bad today, and I really was worried about it. It felt pretty good in race trim. I couldn’t be more proud of everybody on this Allegiant Travel Chevrolet.”
Sauter continued and said, “I was pretty conservative at the beginning of the race just trying to take care of it and not make any stupid mistakes, and there was about, probably 85 laps to go, I was like ‘Okay, I’m going to start picking them off here,’ and I just had a solid day in the pits. With about 50 or 60 to go, I was like ‘Ok, we got something here,’ and we were really catching the 88 (Matt Crafton), it looked like he was pushing real bad. It’s a surprise guys! I can’t thank everybody enough.”
With the title, Sauter became the eighth driver to win a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship while piloting a Chevrolet. In fact, Chevrolet now has 13 titles in the series. Throughout the 2016 season, the Wisconsin native captured three wins: The first came at Texas Motor Speedway in June, and then in the Round of 6 in the Chase, he won back-to-back races at Martinsville Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway. Sauter also amassed 12 top-five and 19 top-10 finishes in 23 starts this season.
As for the winner of the race, William Byron, he earned his seventh victory of the season. Byron started on the pole, led six times and was out in front of the field for 31 laps. Byron was so close to being a member of the Championship 4, but late in the race at Phoenix International Raceway last weekend, his Kyle Busch Motorsports No. 9 Liberty University Toyota Tundra had a mechanical failure. If Byron’s engine could have made it to the end of that race, then this weekend may have been even more exciting.
“It feels awesome,” Byron said. “It’s just – it’s incredible. I mean this team has worked so hard all year. We just had an unfortunate situation last week that we couldn’t control, but, man, they brought a good truck. Qualified on the pole. These guys just are awesome. God, I hate leaving this – I just hate this team not being together next year. It’s just insane how good they are and so many talented people on this race team. Can’t thank KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports) enough, Toyota, Kyle and Samantha (Busch), everyone at KBM, Liberty University – it’s just amazing.”
Kyle Busch Motorsports won its fifth owner’s championship on Friday night as well. William Byron’s team finished out the season just two points ahead of Johnny Sauter’s owner, Maurice Gallagher Jr. In 2017, William Byron will move up to the NASCAR XFINITY Series to compete full-time with Hendrick Motorsports and JR Motorsports, so Christopher Bell will lead the Kyle Busch Motorsports stable next season.
“Overall, just a spectacular season by William Byron and the whole No. 9 team,” team owner Kyle Busch said. “They were flawless all year up until Phoenix I guess. We had a little problem there and knocked ourselves out of contention, but everyone at Kyle Busch Motorsports, they do such a great job. They work so hard. This is our fifth owner’s championship and to celebrate with those guys and girls and everyone at the shop, they deserve it. It’s truly an honor to be able to accept this award on their behalf and we’ll come out next year swinging and seeing if we can’t get Christopher Bell back to this stage again.”
Finishing behind Byron in Friday night’s race was Tyler Reddick, Johnny Sauter, Kyle Larson and Daniel Hemric. Rounding out the top-10 was Daniel Suarez, Matt Crafton, Christopher Bell, Timothy Peters and Cole Custer.
There were 15 lead changes among five drivers. Kyle Larson led a race high of 76 laps. Throughout the night, there were only four cautions for 18 laps.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will be back in action on Friday, February 24 for the season opener at Daytona International Speedway.
Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images