No. 21 ISM Connect Chevrolet Silverado
Looking for his second consecutive NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Championship, Johnny Sauter finished the first practice session in first and the final session of the morning in 14th. As trucks took to the track for qualifying, Sauter was fastest in the first round but after the ISM Connect Chevrolet swung loose on his second round lap, he qualified 11th for Friday night’s season finale.
Shortly after the green flag waved, Sauter reported he was fighting the same loose condition he battled inqualifying, but was running comparable lap times to the leaders. Finishing the first stage in the eighth position, he brought his Chevy to pit road for tires, fuel, and air pressure and chassis adjustments under caution. The race returned to green on lap 48 with Sauter immediately getting to work, entering the top five on lap 61. On the last stop of the night under the stage two break, crew chief Joe Shear, Jr., brought his driver to pit road for another round of adjustments for the continuing loose-handling condition.
The handling troubles continued for the No. 21 team as the race progressed, with Sauter sitting in the fourth position with 10 laps to go as fellow Championship contender Christopher Bell ran in third. Needing a caution to close a nearly 10-second gap, Sauter maintained his position within the top-five to earn his 13th top-five finish of the season and 19th top-10.
Sauter earned a runner-up finish in the NCWTS Championship in just his second season with GMS Racing. Headlined by four wins, the 2017 season marked the best season of his career.
“We started the race way too free, the loosest I’ve been in I don’t know how long. We made some good adjustments on the first stop, but it just eventually went away on me and was still way too free. I could never commit to the top, I’d have to drive in the corner shallow. I thought we had a little bit for the 4 toward the end but I just couldn’t touch the throttle on corner exit. We gave it everything we had, but I guess that’s what you get when it comes down to one race like this. I’m proud of everyone’s effort at GMS Racing, we did a good job, we’ve just got a lot of work to do.”
– It was announced Friday morning that Sauter will return to GMS Racing in the No. 21 truck for the 2018 NCWTS season.
No. 24 MyWhy Chevrolet Silverado
In his first start at the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway, Justin Haley qualified in the seventh position after finishing 10th in both morning practice sessions.
After falling back on the initial green flag for the 134 lap race, Haley reported he was fighting a loose condition while running just outside the top 10. As the first 40-lap stage progressed, he worked his way into the ninth position, searching for a line that would help with the handling troubles. Visiting pit road for the first time, Haley received four tires, fuel and air pressure and chassis adjustments and returns to the track in the 10th position. Once again struggling to gain ground on the restart, Haley fought to stay within the top-10 during the second stage of the race, battling a now tight MyWhy Chevrolet. On the last stop of the night, the team made a chassis adjustment to help Haley over the final 54 laps of the race.
As the race returned to green, Haley gradually made his way up to the seventh position but as the race went on he fell back to ninth. He held on to the ninth position in the final 10 laps to earn his 12th top-10 of the season.
“The 24 guys and I finished off the year well. It was a smooth night under the lights in Homestead. Mike Ford did a great job on the pit box calling the race for us. I can’t ask much more out of our rookie season together. Everyone that pitched in this year from the road crew, to the pit crew and the guys back home means the world to me.”
No. 33 STEALTH Chevrolet Silverado
After testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway earlier in the year, the No.33 STEALTH team unloaded fast, finishing Friday morning’s practice sessions second and third-fastest overall. With track conditions changing later in the day heading into qualifying, Kaz secured a 10th-place starting position for Friday night’s NCWTS 200.
When the green flag flew on the 134-lap race, Kaz immediately reported that his STEALTH Chevrolet Silverado was “wrecking loose.” Holding on to finish 15th in Stage One, crew chief Jerry Baxter called the No. 33 down pit road for four tires, fuel and major chassis adjustments. After a lengthy stop for changes, Kaz restarted 18th for Stage Two but still fought a STEALTH Chevy that was extremely loose. Finishing Stage Two in 17th, Kaz once again pitted for four tires, fuel and major adjustments to try to tighten up his Silverado. Restarting 18th for the final stage, Kaz used the remaining 47 laps to race his way to a 13th-place finish, one lap down to the leaders, in the NCWTS season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“The No.33 team fought hard tonight. The track was much more loose than originally anticipated and it was just hard to ever get comfortable with the lack of grip on the track. My STEALTH Chevy was fast at the end of a long run, but at that point track position was hard to get back. I can’t thank my guys enough for all their work, not only tonight but the entire season.”
– After the last race of the season, Kaz finished seventh in the NCWTS driver point standings and sixth in the owner point standings.