NASCAR & Auto Racing

Sauter captures Chase trucks title; Byron wins final race

Johnny Sauter finished 3rd in the Ford EcoBoost 200 and won the 2016 Camping World Truck Series championship.
Johnny Sauter finished 3rd in the Ford EcoBoost 200 and won the 2016 Camping World Truck Series championship.

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.

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.

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