FORT WORTH (Sports Network) – Johnny Sauter put his 2012 Camping World Truck Series season back on track Friday night by winning the WinStar World Casino 400.
Sauter had struggled in the series prior to Texas. He came into this race 17th in the point standings, with only one top-10 finish for the season.
Since qualifying at Texas was rained out on Thursday, Sauter had to start the 250.5-mile (400-kilometer) race from the 20th starting position. He quickly moved through the field and grabbed the lead for the first time on lap 55.
On lap 73, Sauter came up on the slower trucks of Paulie Harraka and Max Gresham but could not get ahead of them. Harraka and Gresham made contact and crashed into the wall, while Sauter nearly escaped the wreck and continued to lead.
During the caution, Sauter had a lengthy pit stop before Parker Kligerman ran him off into the infield grass while they were exiting pit road. Sauter fell back to 10th in the field.
But Sauter once again worked his way to the top and passed his ThorSport Racing teammate, Matt Crafton, in the late going. He beat Crafton to the finish line by 2.1 seconds to become the seventh different winner in as many truck races this season.
“This is unbelievable,” said Sauter, who claimed his fifth career victory in the series. “The year that we’ve had and the bad luck and then to come here in the fashion that we did is big.”
The 34-year-old Sauter had finished 24th or worse in five of the first six races this season. He placed fourth in April at Rockingham, NC.
Sauter ran in third for the final restart with 24 laps to go but made a bold three-wide pass for the lead on Crafton and Joey Coulter. Crafton kept the lead for another lap before Sauter took the top spot for good with 22 laps remaining.
“I wasn’t exactly sure what was going on with that restart,” Sauter said. “I was fourth and then they (race officials) said I was third. The outside groove is a pretty good groove on the restarts.”
Sauter and Crafton gave ThorSport its second 1-2 finish in a truck race. ThorSport took the top-two positions in the September 2009 event at Las Vegas.
“I got into clean air there but had Johnny up there behind me, and I was sideways loose,” Crafton said.
Coulter ended up finishing third, while Brendan Gaughan and Nelson Piquet Jr. rounded out the top-five.
Jason Leffler placed sixth, followed by rookies Ty Dillon and Cale Gale. Justin Lofton, the pole sitter, finished ninth, and Kligerman was 10th. Lofton led the most laps with 55. He pitted out of sequence in the late-going, which put him out of contention to win.
Dillon and James Buescher battled hard for the lead following a restart with 33 laps left. The two made contact, with Buescher scraping the wall and Dillon managing not to hit anything.
Buescher, who wound up finishing 15th, chased down Dillon during the cool-down lap after the checkered flag had waved. He bumped into Dillon on pit road to express his displeasure over their contact. The two then calmly discussed the incident after they climbed out of their trucks.
Todd Bodine, who won last week’s rain-shortened race at Dover, suffered engine failure on lap 32, which put him out of the event. A broken oil pump was to blame for the expired motor.
“We had a good truck, and it’s a shame,” Bodine said. “It’s a part of racing, and it’s nothing to be mad about. It was a part failure, plain and simple.”
Lofton widened his points lead to five over Timothy Peters, who finished 11th. Dillon moved to within 12 points of the leader. Sauter jumped up two spots to 15th in the standings (-90).
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