Johnny Sauter, who has had a year of wretched luck so far, passed his ThorSport Racing teammate Matt Crafton late to win Friday night’s WinStar World Casino 400 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Sauter came into the race with just one finish better than 24th on the season, but he had the dominant truck, winning his fifth race in 93 career Truck Series starts.
Crafton hung on second after a fierce duel with the Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Joey Coulter, with Brendan Gaughan and Nelson Piquet Jr. completing the top five.
“This is unbelievable,” said Sauter. “The year that we’ve had, the bad luck. And to come in here in the fashion that we had. ... This is big. A wise man once told me do all in the glory of God, and that’s what we did today.”
Sauter’s teammate Crafton was pleased with his run as well.
“All in all, the ThorSport organization, it’s awesome,” said Sauter.
Qualifying was rained out, which meant the field was set per the NASCAR rule book. That put Truck Series points leader Justin Lofton on the pole and Timothy Peters on the outside of Row 1. Sauter, who was fastest in practice, started 20th.
Lofton took the lead on the opening lap, but James Buescher quickly began to close and contend for the top spot. On Lap 28, Buescher went to the outside of Lofton in Turn 4 to take his first lead of the evening.
Five laps later, six-time Texas winner Todd Bodine blew an engine as his No. 11 Red Horse Racing Toyota crossed the start-finish line. “No warning at all,” said Bodine. “I think it broke a valve. ... We had a good truck. It was a shame.”
That sent the leaders to pit road for the first time on the night.
Ty Dillon won the race off pit road, ahead of Lofton and Buescher. When the race restarted on Lap 37, Dillon stayed out in the lead.
Buescher went back to the front on a Lap 51 restart, following a caution for a crash between Rick Crawford and Paulie Harraka. By this time, Sauter was up to third, and on Lap 53, he moved past Dillon for second. Two laps later, he went around Buescher and put the ThorSport Toyota on point.
On Lap 73, Max Gresham and Harraka crashed in Turn 1 just as Sauter was about to lap them. Sauter had to lift, allowing Buescher to go back in front.
Under caution, the leaders pitted, Sauter coming out ninth as several trucks ahead of him, including new leader Jason White, took just two tires.
Buescher passed White to go back out front on Lap 82, as Sauter starting to charge his way back through the field.
With Buescher out front, Dillon took over second on Lap 90. Most of the leaders pitted under a debris yellow on Lap 94, but Lofton stayed out and took the lead over Dillon.
On Lap 125, Lofton pitted from the lead, putting Buescher back on point with Sauter behind him. But just as Lofton was leaving, Bryan Silas spun on the backstretch to send the track yellow again on Lap 129.
The leaders pitted, Dillon coming out ahead of Buescher, Coulter and Matt Crafton, with Sauter fifth.
Buescher and Dillion waged a tremendous battle for the lead after the green came out. On Lap 137, Dillon got loose going into Turn 1, sending both he and Buescher into the wall, Buescher getting the worst of it.
On the restart on Lap 144, Crafton led, but Sauter blew by second-place Gaughan, the ThorSport trucks running 1-2. But on Lap 146, it was Sauter going into the top spot.
And once in the lead, Sauter held on for an easy victory.
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEED.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100.