Johnny Sauter dodged heavy rain, hail and a near collision with Ron Hornaday Jr. to win Sunday’s rain-delayed O’Reilly Auto Parts 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Kansas Speedway.
Hornaday was attempting to pass Sauter with 13 laps to go, when he lost it at the entrance to Turn 3, slid up into Sauter and turned both trucks at 45 degree angles. Remarkably, both drivers avoided the wall, and Sauter’s No. 13 ThorSport Chevrolet Silverado held on to prevail over the No. 33 Kevin Harvick Inc. Chevy driven by four-time NCWTS champ Hornaday.Todd Bodine was third, followed by Brian Ickler and Johnny Benson.
It was Sauter’s second career NCWTS victory, and it came just one day after his 32nd birthday.
All told, it was a wild afternoon in Kansas.
The first yellow flew on Lap 9, when Wes Burton blew a left-rear tire and his No. 16 Chevy got into the No. 60 of former F-1 racer Narain Karthikeyan, who spun and went nose-first into the outside wall at the start-finish line.
Just after the track went green on Lap 15, Jennifer Jo Cobb’s No. 10 Ford and Chris Eggleston’s No. 21 Chevy tangled in Turn 2 to bring out the second yellow on Lap 17.
Hornaday stayed out front on the Lap 21 restart, and it took just six laps before Terry Jones spun Danny Gill’s No. 46 Dodge on the backstretch, making it three yellows in just 28 laps.
That sent the full field down pit road for the first time, with David Starr’s No. 81 Toyota off first, followed by Hornaday, Rick Crawford and Sauter. On the Lap 32 restart, Hornaday immediately went back out front, as Starr had taken only two tires and was no match for the KHI Chevy.
But just three laps later, Crawford, Tayler Malsam and Brian Rose got wadded up on the frontstretch after Crawford got loose at the exit of Turn 4. Hornaday had to make an unscheduled pit stop to get his left-rear fender pulled out after some collateral contact.
When the race restarted on Lap 41, Crafton, Eggleston, Carl Long and Jack Smith crashed as Crafton tried to move up from below the bottom lane. He and Smith made contact — there was debate whether Crafton moved up or Smith moved down, or both — triggering a mini-melee in Turn 1.
Sauter and James Buescher led on the Lap 47 restart, the two briefly engaging in a fierce dice for the lead, with Sauter prevailing and Ickler moving his Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota into second.
Hornaday, meanwhile, was charging through the field, moving from 20th to fourth behind Sauter, Ickler and Peters in just 17 laps.
On Lap 83, NCWTS points leader Peters lost the fire in his Toyota, coasting into the pits for a battery change. Seven laps later, green-flag pit stops began, with Sauter surrendering the lead when he came in on Lap 91. Hornaday pitted one lap later.
After the pit stops cycled through, Sauter led Ickler and Hornaday.
The next caution came on Lap 97, as Cobb came down and struck Brett Butler in Turn 3, heavily damaging both trucks.
The race restarted on Lap 103, with rain moving into the area. Ickler briefly took the lead, with Hornaday and Buescher battling for second, ahead of Sauter and Almirola.
Hornaday ducked under Ickler on Lap 107 to take his first lead since being forced to pit early in the race. At Lap 110, the order was Hornaday, Ickler, Sauter, Almirola and Buescher.
Two laps later, the caution flew for rain, with a severe thunderstorm warning in the area. The red flag came out on Lap 114, and that appeared to possibly be the end of the race, as a hail storm quickly broke out.
After a lengthy red flag period, the race resumed on Lap 115, with the field hitting pit road upon the yellow flag coming out. Hornaday’s KHI crew had to pull the sheetmetal away from the left-rear tire.
The order out was Johnny Benson, Jason White, Ickler, Sauter and Todd Bodine, as Hornaday rejoined the battle in 12th place, at the tail end of the lead lap after his crew made repairs.
The race restarted on Lap 120, Hornaday moving all the way to sixth on the first lap of green, while Benson led Sauter and Ickler up front. On Lap 124, Sauter and Ickler dropped Benson to third, as Hornaday passed Bodine for fourth. Two laps later, Hornaday moved to third, though his fender rub returned.
On Lap 129, Hornaday dispatched Ickler and set off after leader Sauter, who was 1.5 seconds ahead. Slowly but surely, Hornaday started cutting into Sauter’s lead, which he reduced to 0.821 seconds with 31 laps to go.
With 13 laps to go, Hornaday got completely sideways and slid into Sauter in Turn 3, but both drivers somehow saved their trucks, despite being at 45 degree angles.
But after making contact, Sauter was able to pull away and drive to victory.
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEEDtv.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100 and e-mail him at Jensen is the author of “Cheating: The Bad Things Good NASCAR Nextel Cup Racers Do In Pursuit of Speed,” and has appeared on numerous television and radio shows. Jensen is the past President of the National Motorsports Press Association and an NMPA Writer of the Year.
The NASCAR Hall of Fame Grand Opening is set for May 11, 2010. Outdoor Opening Ceremonies are May 11th from 9 to 10 am ET free of charge, open to the public. Outdoor festivities including driver appearances and concerts May 11th from 10 am until 8 pm ET open to the public, free of charge. Tickets to enter the NASCAR Hall of Fame are on sale now at www.NASCARHall.com or by calling 877-231-2010. The countdown to the NASCAR Hall of Fame is on! Visit www.NASCARHall.com/50days for daily updates about the NASCAR Hall of Fame.