FULL REPORT: Johnny Sauter snags first win this season at Dover International Speedway

Lucy Atkinson

The trucks were back for another week. This time all 32 of them were going to be furiously fighting for precious spots for the Monster Mile at Dover International Speedway for the Camping World Truck Series Bar Harbor 200. Chase Briscoe was sitting on the pole ahead of Ryan Truex and Christopher Bell. This concrete track was going to undergo a lot of changes as a result of many laps of practices and qualifiers leaving lots of rubber, but then the hot tyres running caution laps would pick that rubber right back up again.

Upon the green flag, Truex jumped out in front and lead the 1st lap ahead of Briscoe and Bell, just as someone got into the wall. Green flag racing continued. Truex continued to lead for the majority of this first Stage. With 28 laps to go, 5th place Kligerman took it three-wide in a daring move across the top of the track and running the high groove. With 24 to go, the first caution was out for Friesen, Chavous, Coughlin and Hill. Hill got loose and span around, causing a wreck as he ended up sideways on the track. Some drivers took this chance to pit in a gamble.

(Source/Zimbio)

The race was back on with 16 laps to go and Truex got another great start ahead of Briscoe and Little. It was three-wide into turn 3 and contact was made. A wreck was narrowly avoided by the fantastic driving of Chastain when Gragson got loose and up into Chastain. With 10 laps to go, Bell was into the wall with a blown left rear tyre. Other drivers headed to pit road, just 8 laps ahead of the end of Stage caution and lots of strategies were coming into play. Burton stalled his truck coming off pit road, and Kligerman had some issues with his pit stop as well. The green flag was back out with 5 to go and Truex jumped ahead of Little and Briscoe once again. He held onto this lead and, it was Ryan Truex who won the Stage ahead of Briscoe, Little, Sauter, Gragson, Crafton, Rhodes, Haley, JH Nemechek, Gilliland.

Stage 2 started with Crafton on the pole, followed by Haley and Gilliland. Haley went way down into the corner and he and Crafton were in a side-by-side drag race for 1 lap before veteran Crafton took the lead ahead of Haley and Cindric. Cindric wasn’t safe in his spot though as Gilliland gave him a run for his money and the pair, plus Chastain were locked in a tense battle for 3rd. With 20 laps to go, Crafton was leading ahead of Haley and Gilliland. Gilliland had done an amazing job of holding onto 3rd, and was even starting to put the pressure on 2nd place Haley.

With 17 laps to go, Haley got loose going into the corner just ahead of Gilliland, and Haley span out. The yellow flag was out for a lucky Haley who managed to avoid collecting any other drivers in his spin across the track. He headed to pit road, and was followed by a few other driver. These short Stages had really opened up the crew chiefs’ strategy books. It was great to see gambles being made. The green flag was waving with 12 to go and Crafton stormed ahead of Gilliland and Cindric who kept swapping positions for 2nd and 3rd. Truex was now in 5th and Briscoe in 6th as we saw those two trying to barge their way back up to the top.

With 6 laps to go, another caution was out for Anderson who had some issues with his truck and had stopped at the bottom of the track. Surprisingly, some drivers went in to pit ahead of the end of the Stage. The race restarted with 2 to go and Crafton got ahead of Truex and Gilliland. Truex very nearly cut Gilliland off just as Rhodes set his sights on Gilliland, who was ahead in 3rd. On the final lap, there was a huge wreck involving Kligerman and JH Nemechek. It was Nemechek who got loose and collected Kligerman on his way round. Crafton got the Stage win under caution following the wreck, ahead of Truex, Rhodes, Gilliland, Cindric, Little, Burton, Briscoe, Sauter and Grala in the top 10.

Stage 3 was underway with Rhodes to the point, ahead of Little and Briscoe. Further back and It was 3 wide as drivers ended lap 100 of 200. Little and Briscoe were locked into battle for 2nd, just as Coughlin and Burton were engaged in a close fight for 5th. Sauter was doing a fantastic job of defending his 7th spot from Gragson. Sauter then slipped up and gave Gragson a window of opportunity which he utilised to get 7th place. A few laps later and Gilliland had some issues potentially with his suspension and had to head down pit road with 82 laps to go in the race. Unfortunately for Gilliland, he was out of the race.

(Source/MRN)

Rhodes was on the pole for the restart and he would be ahead of Little and Briscoe. He continued this lead as he got out and ahead of Little and Briscoe who were fighting hard for 2nd. Further back and Grala bounced off the wall coming off turn 4 but fortunately didn’t wreck back in 9th. With 47 laps to go, Little started to pit from 2nd place. This was about 20 laps sooner than Rhodes’ team were planning on pitting. Other drivers followed suit and headed down pit road.

With 35 lap so to go, Rhodes left his position in 1st to get down pit road for his stop. His entry to the lane was flawless, and his exit was just as clean. Briscoe was now to the point, ahead of Sauter and Grala. Other drivers from the top 10 were also going in for their stops. With 31 laps to go, most drivers had pitted and the cycle was just about complete. 1 lap later, Briscoe brought the caution out when his front left wheel came off and rolled across the track. Sparks were flying as he dragged the front end of his car back down pit road. No lug nuts had been put on.

25 laps to go and the race was back on with Sauter ahead of Grala and Enfinger. Sauter was on older tyres, but those behind him had fresh sets on. It didn’t matter too much though because the clean air that Sauter was receiving, was also offsetting the age of his tyres. With 18 laps to go, Grala was coming up behind and chewing him up with pressure. Sauter had yet to make his way into the playoffs, like Grala had done through his Daytona win in February. But these team mates weren’t giving each other a single inch. There were 11 laps to go when Sauter had built up a lead of over half a second ahead of Grala. Rhodes was now up in 4th after starting way back in the pack with 8 laps left in the race.

Things heated up with just 4 laps to go when Sauter was desperately trying to hold Grala off – and he was doing an excellent job of doing so. Eventually, it was Sauter who won the Bay Harbor 200 race at Dover International Speedway in his first victory of the season. What a spectacular job he did of holding his teammate off for all that time. Also in the top 10 was Grala, Enfinger, Rhodes, Cindric, Br. Jones, Smith, Haley, Gragson and Ryan Truex.

Speaking afterwards, Sauter had this to say:

“I felt like in years past I had opportunities and I had trucks good enough to win here. This place here, as much as you can give, your race truck, it will take. This is just one of those places. I can’t explain to you how qualifying laps here are two of the most exhilarating laps you’ll run all season.”

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