Sauter takes points lead in trucks with Michigan win

Brooklyn, MI ( - Johnny Sauter became the new points leader in the Camping World Truck Series by winning Saturday's Careers for Veterans 200 at Michigan International Speedway.

Sauter pitted from the lead for just a splash of gas with eight laps left around this fast two-mile oval. Matt Crafton, the defending series champion and Sauter's teammate at ThorSport Racing, grabbed the top position, but Crafton made his final stop for fuel with five laps to go, holding a 40-second advantage over Sauter before he pitted.

After Crafton had exited the pits and was up to full speed on the backstretch, Sauter managed to pull ahead of him. Sauter beat Crafton to the finish line by 0.4 seconds.

"That last stop, I just knew that I had to get onto pit road right and have no mistakes, and I hit it right," Sauter said. "I'm so proud of [crew chief] Jeff Hensley for coming over here [to ThorSport Racing]. This is just a great, great day."

Hensley joined ThorSport Racing earlier this season to serve as crew chief for Sauter's No. 98 team.

Sauter scored his first win of the season and the 10th of his Truck Series career. His last victory came in October 2013 at Talladega. Sauter has won at least one race in six consecutive seasons. The all-time record in the series is eight, set by Dennis Setzer.

Prior to his win, Sauter had finished no better than 11th in five truck starts at Michigan.

With 12 of the 22 races completed on this year's Truck Series schedule, Sauter holds a nine-point lead over Crafton. Ryan Blaney came to Michigan atop the standings, but Blaney, the pole sitter, finished nine laps behind in 21st after he experienced engine trouble late in the event. He is now 16 points behind.

"We're just now past halfway in the season, so this is great," Sauter said. "This is the momentum, and this is the thing we needed to swing it. Just so proud of this team. We've had a good year but not a great year. We've been consistent and finally got speed this weekend."

This race moved at an average speed of 161.110 mph and was completed in 1 hour, 14 minutes and 29 seconds, featuring only one caution for six laps. It was the fastest average speed in the 20-year history of this series. The previous record was 154.737 mph, set in November 2012 at Texas Motor Speedway (a race also won by Sauter).

Crafton rebounded after he had struggled in practice on Friday and qualified 14th for this race on Saturday morning.

"All in all, not a bad day," Crafton said. "It was a good day for ThorSport [1-2 finish]. These guys [No. 88 team] never give up. We blew a right-rear tire in practice. We spent that whole first practice working on the truck, trying to get that tire rub fixed."

Ron Hornaday Jr. finished third, and Tayler Malsam took the fourth spot. Kyle Busch, who had won in each of his five truck starts this season, placed fifth. Just before he pitted from the lead on lap 52, Busch ran out of fuel and coasted onto pit road. He had trouble re-firing his engine when he was exiting his stall, dropping him to 16th in the field at the time.

Darrell Wallace Jr., who is Busch's teammate, led the most laps with 48, but Wallace also ran out of gas just before he pitted and had trouble during his stop. He finished one lap down in 11th.

Hornaday is 19 points behind Sauter, while Wallace trails by 36.