No. 21 Allegiant Chevrolet Silverado
Johnny Sauter and the No. 21 Allegiant Chevrolet team qualified in the second position for Saturday’s Fred’s 250 at Talladega Superspeedway, his ninth start at the 2.666-mile track. As the green flag waved, Sauter took the lead on the first lap and held on to the top position until the first caution of the day on lap 20. The first stage ended under yellow with Sauter being declared the stage winner before pitting for fuel only on lap 23.
Restarting in the second position, Sauter once again took the lead with help from teammate Justin Haley. An uneventful second stage saw no cautions as the Necedah, Wis., native claimed his second stage win of the day on lap 42.
At the break, Sauter came to pit road for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment, rejoining the field in the fourth position. Taking the green for the final 48 laps, Sauter and Haley once again worked together to move towards the front but a caution on lap 55 slowed their progress. Using pit strategy to ensure the No. 21 had enough fuel to finish the race, Sauter pitted for the final time under green on lap 61 for fuel only.
Riding in a smaller pack separate from the leaders, Sauter was able to stay on the lead lap as the yellow flag was shown for the fourth time. With the lead pack pitting under caution, Sauter lined up to restart in the fifth position, moving into the lead on lap 87 before dropping back to sixth.
Knowing a bold move would be needed to win, Sauter attempted to pass the leaders with two laps to go before being collected in an incident on the final lap. He was able to cross the line in the 12th position securing his spot in the NASCAR Playoffs Round of Six.
“We knew coming into this race that all of the GMS trucks would be fast and we’d have a good chance to make it to Victory Lane. Winning stages is great and certainly helps in The Playoffs, but it’s the race win that really matters. I knew I had to make a move at the end if I wanted a shot at the win but I guess I just went too early. All around it was a great GMS effort. (Justin) Haley did a great job in the 24 today, we wouldn’t have had the position to try anything at the end if we hadn’t worked together all day, and the effort everyone is putting in on these trucks at GMS and GMS Fabrication is what is going to keep us in this until Miami.”
– With points being reset following Talladega, Sauter is seeded second in the NCWTS Playoff standings, 20 points behind leader Christopher Bell.
No. 24 Fraternal Order of Eagles Chevrolet Silverado
Justin Haley made his NCWTS Talladega Superspeedway debut from the fourth position in the No. 24 Fraternal Order of Eagles Chevrolet in Saturday’s Fred’s 250. Working with teammate Johnny Sauter he moved into the second position on lap one and held that spot until the first caution of the day on lap 20. With the first stage ending under yellow, Haley picked up valuable stage points before pitting for fuel only. He returned to the field in the fourth position, lining up behind Sauter for the restart.
Teamwork prevailed once again as Haley retook second on the lap 27 restart. Stage Two stayed green for all 25 laps, with the Winamac, Ind., native finished the stage in second. He visited the Fraternal Order of Eagles team on pit road for four tires and fuel, lining up sixth for the start of the final stage.
Knowing fuel mileage would become a factor at the end of the event, the GMS trucks pitted together under green on lap 61, returning to the track before the fourth caution of the day occurred. Worried about having driven through debris, crew chief Kevin Bellicourt brought Haley back to pit road for tires and to top off on fuel. He rejoined the field in the 12th position and worked his way back to Sauter on the restart to make a move for the top two positions on lap 87.
A caution with five laps remaining placed Haley in the third position for the first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish. As the race went green for the final time, Haley made a move for the lead but dropped back without any help. He regrouped before falling too far back but made contact with another competitor creating a chain reaction. Not being able to continue to the finish line, Haley was scored with a 16th-place finish in his first NCWTS start at Talladega.
“The No. 24 team brought a great Fraternal Order of Eagles Chevrolet this weekend. We were fast and had the speed and teamwork needed to stay up front in this type of race. Coming down to the end, we felt we’d have to make a pretty big move to go for our first win but it just didn’t work out. Overall it was a really strong performance for our team and I’m happy we were able to run well for Fraternal Order of Eagles.”
– With a 16th-place finish at Talladega, the No. 24 team did not advance in the NCWTS Owners Playoffs, missing the cutoff by 15 points.
No. 33 STEALTH Chevrolet Silverado
Heading to Talladega Superspeedway for the first time in his NCWTS career, Kaz had confidence that his prior success at Daytona International Speedway would be a major asset to his weekend. Picking up where he left off the last time he was on a superspeedway, Kaz showed speed early on in practice and qualifying. After finishing the first round of qualifying with the third-fastest lap, Kaz looked poised to contend for the pole position in round two, but an issue with the engine was detected forcing the No. 33 STEALTH team to pull Kaz’s Chevy into the garage before qualifying was complete. With limited time before the race was set to begin, the No.33 team, with help from the rest of GMS Racing and Hendrick Engines, was able to successfully change engines before the start of the Fred’s 250.
Due to changing engines, Kaz was forced to start at the rear of the field for the 94-lap race. Charging his way through the field, Kaz had made his way up to the 12th position by lap 18 and was looking to score crucial stage points. Unfortunately before Kaz could make a move, a chain reaction began in the front of the field. Slowing down to avoid the wreck, the truck behind Kaz couldn’t get slowed down enough, spinning Kaz and ending his day early with a 29th-place finish.
“My No. 33 team, everyone at GMS Racing and at Hendrick Engines worked really hard to change that motor to get us out in time for the race. From what I could tell, it still felt like we were the fastest Chevy out there. Starting in the back, I made a lot of good moves to be in a position to get stage points at the end of the first stage. I’m not quite sure what happened but everyone checked up. I slowed down and thought I was going to miss it, but the truck behind me didn’t get slowed down fast enough and turned us up into the wall ending our day. That put an end to our championship hopes unfortunately, which is really a shame because I think this No. 33 team had really come alive in the later part of this season and I think we would have been a contender. We did our part in what we could control and I’m just super proud of my guys.”
– After the cutoff race for The Playoffs, Kaz was seeded eighth in the NCWTS Playoff Standings and will not advance to the Round of 6.