Johnny Sauter and William Byron walked away — well, make that raced away — with the two championships attached to the Camping World Ford EcoBoost 200 Friday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Sauter won the coveted Truck season championship over fellow Final Four drivers Matt Crafton, Christopher Bell and Timothy Peters. All four drivers finished in the top 10 — Sauter third, Crafton seventh, Bell eighth and Peters ninth.
“It’s not just me, it’s my entire team,” Sauter said. “I’m just a small part of this. I just keep doing my deal. We had decent speed all year.”
Sauter, driving a Chevrolet, had three wins in the Truck series this season, including two in The Chase. In his past three races before Homestead, he had two firsts and one second.
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Homestead has been a good track for Sauter, 38, as he won the Truck race here in 2011. He has also had six top-10 finishes and two top-fives in nine starts at Homestead.
How close were the closing moments? The concluding laps featured some three-wide theatrics that left fans gaping.
The evening was much better than the afternoon for Sauter.
“I have to admit I was a little nervous when we qualified 19th,” Sauter said.
In the individual race, Byron, at age 18, won the championship in a Toyota with an average speed of 129.747 mph.
“It was just awesome,” said Byron, a rookie who recorded his seventh victory of the Truck season. “I’ve learned so much this season. Honestly, going into the season I was hoping for just one victory.” Apparently, the kid knows all-too-well how to over-achieve.
Going in, Byron and his racing team knew there was a good chance of winning Friday’s race.
“We had a great truck coming here and we executed throughout the day,” Byron said. “It was a solid day for us.”
Byron in the afternoon grabbed the pole for the Truck race with a 170.886 mph lap.
Capturing the pole and the race victory eased Byron’s disappointment that he wasn’t one of the four drivers racing for the season title. A week earlier, in Phoenix, Byron blew an engine with nine laps to go and he free-fell to 27th place in the race, and that also dropped him out of the Final Four drivers competing for the season title.
“We had been running a little hot,” Byron described his blown engine at Phoenix. “The car just started to vibrate and I thought it was the tires and didn’t think it was a big deal.”
Reality then set in for Byron when “. . . the car sputtered and it had flames coming out of the cowl.”
Obviously, Friday night at Homestead had a much better ending for Byron.