JOHNNY SAUTER No. 21 Allegiant Chevrolet Silverado
Johnny Sauter and the No. 21 Allegiant team started from the first position for the Buckle Up in Your Truck 225 at Kentucky Speedway after Thursday’s qualifying session was rained out. The Necedah, Wis., native led the first 26 laps, but lost the lead following the first caution period of the night when the rest of the field pitted for tires. Just two laps later, Sauter pitted for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment to fix a tight-handling condition. He was scored in the 18th position at the end of stage one and stayed on track under caution to restart within the top-10.
Sauter reported to the team on lap 66 that he was free in traffic, finished stage two on lap 70 in the eighth position. Crew chief Joe Shear, Jr., brought his driver to pit road for left-side tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. The Allegiant Chevrolet restarted just outside the top-five but slipped back to the 13th position following a quick caution on lap 79. He quickly regained his track position to run within the top-five as the team closed in on the final stop of the night.
Shear, Jr., called for the team to make their last pit stop under caution on lap 108, for right-side tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. Sauter ran as high as the fourth position before Sauter reported that he believed he had an issue with the engine with just over 20 laps remaining. The team stayed on track, ultimately finishing in the ninth position for their ninth top-10 finish of the season.
Quote “We had a decent Allegiant Chevrolet tonight. I think we all knew coming into the race that it would be tough to pass and track position would be important and I think we saw a lot of that tonight. Unfortunately we were faced with what I think was an engine issue right at the end. As much as I would have liked to have another top-five finish, I’m glad we were able to be there in the end and get a decent top-10 result.”
Additional Info – Sauter maintains a 28-point lead in the driver championship point standings following his ninth-place finish at Kentucky Speedway.
JUSTIN HALEY No. 24 Fraternal Order of Eagles Chevrolet
Making his first start at Kentucky Speedway, Justin Haley began the Buckle Up In Your Truck 225 from the 10th position after inclement weather led to the cancellation of qualifying. The 18-year-old driver maintained his position within the top-10 until the first caution of the race on lap 22 when he reported to crew chief Kevin Bellicourt that he was free on entry in turns three and four. He came to pit road for two tires and fuel and restarted in the ninth position, ultimately advancing to sixth-place by the end of stage one.
Under the caution at the conclusion of the first stage, Haley stayed on track to take over the lead, but dropped back to the second position as the race resumed. He continued to run within the top-three positions until the end of the second stage when he reported he was tight on exit. He visited the No. 24 Fraternal Order of Eagles team for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment, but restarted in the 13th position as several trucks took just two tires.
The Winimac, Ind., native worked his way back in to the top-five by lap 89. From the sixth position, he came to pit road for the final time on lap 108 for two tires and a slight air pressure adjustment, as the No. 24 Chevrolet was tight in the center. Haley restarted in the sixth position and jumped to fourth as the green flag was shown. He worked his way in the third position with 19 laps to go and held on for his career-best NASCAR Camping World Truck Series finish and first top-five finish of the season.
Quote “We had a really good night in the No. 24 Fraternal Order of Eagles Chevy. We knew track position was going to be key and Kevin (Bellicourt, crew chief) worked out a great strategy for us. I was able to be really aggressive on restarts and that allowed us to focus on just going for a win. I feel really good about the progress we’ve made and can’t think these guys and everyone at GMS for the work they’ve put in to get us here.”
Additional Info – Haley’s third-place finish was a career-best for the rookie driver and his fourth consecutive top-10 finish. – Following his first top-five finish of the year, Haley advanced to 12th in the driver championship point standings.
KAZ GRALA No. 33 15-40 Connection Chevrolet Silverado
With a condensed practice schedule Wednesday and the threat of rain on Thursday at Kentucky Speedway, Kaz and the No. 33 team wanted to get the most information out of the two NCWTS practice sessions as they could. Finishing 10th-fastest in first practice and third in final practice, Kaz was overall happy with his 15-40 Connection Chevrolet Silverado.
However, rain throughout the day Thursday cancelled qualifying and delayed the start of the Buckle Up in Your Truck 225 until late into the night. Starting 12th for the 150-lap event, Kaz was able to work his way through the field during the first stage, making his way up to seventh place just before the stage break on lap 35. Coming to pit road under caution, Kaz got four tires, fuel, and both a track bar and air pressure adjustment to try loosen up his 15-40 Connection Chevy. Restarting 18th for stage two, Kaz methodically worked the traffic in front of him while running his best laps of the race to finish the second stage ninth.
Crew chief Jerry Baxter made the call for two tires, fuel and another round of adjustments to aid in a now “plowing tight” Chevrolet. Restarting sixth, Kaz tried to continue his march to the front but had to avoid a couple of accidents, costing him track position. Scored back in 15th when the caution came out on lap 108, Kaz came down pit road one final time for four tires and fuel, lining him up ninth for the restart. Trying to make up track position as the laps began to wind down, Kaz went to make a pass on another competitor when his No. 33 15-40 Connection Chevrolet came out from underneath him, collecting the No. 16 as well on lap 115. With severe damage, Kaz was unable to finish the race and was credited with a 24th-place finish.
Quote “I just really hate how this night ended for us. Our 15-40 Connection Chevy was really fast tonight but unfortunately our night ended too early. I feel like I really learned a lot throughout the first stages of the race that I can apply to other mile-and-a-half tracks, at least. We just need to regroup and get ready for Eldora now.”
Additional Info – After the 10th race of the season, Kaz is currently 10th in the NCWTS point standings, but has one win and five bonus points towards the playoffs.