DOVER, Del. — On an afternoon where pit strategy was king, Johnny Sauter ended up victorious in Friday’s Bar Harbor 200 at Dover Int’l Speedway.
Sauter went the final 83 laps on a tank of fuel and held off GMS Racing teammate Kaz Grala over a 25-lap shootout for his 14th career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win and first at the Monster Mile.
The defending series champion becomes the third driver locked into the Truck Series playoffs via a win, following Grala (Daytona) and Christopher Bell’s (Atlanta) triumphs early in the year.
“There’s just some days where you wake up and don’t feel like it’s going to be your day,” said Sauter, who led the final 33 laps en route to victory. “I felt like we were a little bit off all weekend, but I’m so proud of everybody at GMS for rallying and getting a one-two finish today.”
Friday’s race took a massive plot twist when Chase Briscoe lost his left-front tire with 30 laps to go, drawing the caution during a cycle of green-flag pit stops and shaking up the running order.
“What a great call by (crew chief) Joe Shear to try and make it on fuel,” Sauter added. “Our pit stops were great today, and we put it all together. It’s unbelievable … after three straight second-place finishes, to get a win. We struggled in traffic all day, but these guys executed and I’m so proud of them for that.”
Sauter stayed out under the caution for Briscoe’s wayward wheel, while a few drivers elected to pit for fresher tires, including Grala.
The Daytona winner was a few truck lengths back from the No. 21 truck for most of the final run, but simply could not get around his veteran teammate.
“We were close! I’d say, at the end, my handling was pretty good … but so was Johnny’s,” Grala said. “He had a little bit more air than I did, and I think that was the difference. I’m really happy for him, though, and glad to see him win. That means (as a team) we’ve got two in the playoffs, so now we’ve just got to get one more.”
“Overall, this was a solid day. Jerry Baxter called an unbelievable race from on top of the pit box. These Truck races are all about track position and all about clean air, and I had that today at the right time. We were fast at the end. This was a good points day for us.”
Seven trucks were able to stay on the lead lap, while the yellow put some of the early leaders out of contention for the win.
Last fall’s Talladega winner Grant Enfinger stayed out with Sauter and brought home a season-best third-place finish, while his ThorSport Racing teammate Ben Rhodes had the most dominant truck for much of the second half of the race but had to settle for fourth.
Rhodes had just pitted for the final time when Briscoe’s misfortune struck, and while the caution allowed the Kentucky native to get the free pass and regain the lead lap, he had to start at the tail-end of the lead lap as a result and just had too much traffic to navigate to get back up front.
Austin Cindric recorded a career-best fifth-place finish, after sitting on the sidelines one year ago in Dover when rain dashed his hopes of making the field.
Brandon Jones, Regan Smith and Justin Haley rounded out the trucks that finished on the lead lap, with Noah Gragson and Stage 1 winner Ryan Truex completing the top-10.
Truex and 11th-place finisher Matt Crafton combined to lead every lap in the first two segments on Friday, but both were buried in traffic after their pit stops during the second stage break and struggled to rally through the field in the second half.
Christopher Bell’s day ended on lap 36, when he lost a left-rear tire and spun in turn three, nosing into the outside wall and causing enough damage to retire his truck for the afternoon.
Bell was credited with 25th in the final rundown, his first finish outside the top 10 this season.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returns to action on June 9 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Full race results can be viewed on the next page…