Johnny Sauter, denied a chance to win last year by a late-race wreck, gained some redemption Friday night by winning the NextEra Energy Resources 250 Camping World Truck Series race at Daytona International Raceway.
Unlike last year, when chaos near the end of the race cost Sauter a run at a win, late-race trouble helped the Toyota driver score Friday. He took the white flag in first place but had a rear-mirror full of Kyle Busch, who would have taken a shot at the win on the last lap. But Busch never got the chance.
A crash involving other cars at the end of the trioval after the leaders had taken the white flag forced a caution and ended the race without Busch and other challengers getting a shot at Sauter.
Sauter led Busch, Ron Hornaday Jr., Justin Lofton and Jeb Burton to the finish line.
“I came so close a year ago,” said Sauter, who scored Toyota’s seventh straight win at Daytona. “That was a tough one to swallow. It’s so much luck to be able to win here. It’s tough to put it together. I can’t believe I’m in victory lane at Daytona.”
The field was reset with five laps to go when Ryan Truex’s truck slid and spun after its left rear tire went down. That brought out the night’s fifth caution as Sauter, Todd Bodine and Busch wrestled for the lead.
The leaders ran in a line on the extreme inside of the track anticipating the last lap, but their run was interrupted when defending series champion James Buescher bumped Jeff Agnew on the trioval, sending Agnew into a slide and into the outside wall and causing two other trucks to spin. That brought out the caution that, in effect, ended the race.
“I thought I was in the perfect spot,” Busch said. “I was going to somehow make a move on the last lap, but unfortunately it was only a 99-lap race today. We didn’t get the full 100 in, and I wasn’t able to make a move.”
The second place was Busch’s third in the series at Daytona. He has won Sprint Cup and Nationwide races at Daytona but remains winless in trucks.
The trucks ran in tight packs all night, and the Big One was inevitable. From the green flag, the drivers raced side by side in long lines, and there was relentless bump drafting. With such dynamics at work, it was only a matter of time before there was mayhem.
On lap 55, chaos erupted on the backstretch as Brendan Gaughan tried to move between the trucks of German Quiroga and pole winner Brennan Newberry, and that move, decidedly, did not work. Contact sent Quiroga into a slide and into Newberry, and, with the field in a tight pack, trucks slid and spun behind them.
Before the smoke cleared, 13 trucks were involved in the crash, causing the second caution of the race.
Ty Dillon emerged as the leader after the wreck and subsequent pit stops.
Lofton, who started the race in second, led the event’s first six laps before giving way to Ty Dillon, who jumped in front of the outside line of trucks and used the momentum to move into first, where he stayed for 11 laps.
Dillon then led from lap 19 to lap 60.
The first caution appeared on lap 27 when Scott Riggs had apparent engine trouble. During the caution period, rookie Darrell Wallace Jr. overshot his pit and tapped the rear of Buescher’s truck. Buescher was entering his pit.
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 31 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.