No. 21 Allegiant Chevrolet Silverado
The defending NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Champion Johnny Sauter arrived in Dover hoping to find the win that had eluded the team for the first five races of the 2017 season. The Allegiant team, led by crew chief Joe Shear, Jr., worked through both Thursday practice sessions to make improvements on a tight-handling Chevrolet. Friday morning, Sauter qualified his Silverado in the 11th position for the 200-lap event after advancing to the final round of multi-vehicle qualifying.
The Necedah, Wisconsin native started the 200-mile race fighting a tight-on-exit condition but elected to stay on track through the first two cautions as leaders came to pit road. Sauter moved into the fifth position and advanced to fourth before the end of the first stage when he pitted for tires, fuel and chassis adjustment. Restarting mid-pack proved to be a test as working through traffic intensified the tight handling. Once again, Shear, Jr., decided to pit off-sequence from the leaders, just prior to the end of stage two, eventually allowing Sauter to move up to the ninth position prior to the conclusion. Sauter brought the No. 21 Allegiant Chevrolet to pit road for the final time on lap 117 while the leaders stayed out, needing to save fuel to make it to the end without pitting. Sauter patiently worked his way back into the top 10 as the front-runners began to pit for the final time with 40 laps remaining.
The 39-year-old took over the lead on lap 168, and fended off teammate Kaz Grala in the final laps, to secure his first win of the season and fifth consecutive top-three finish.
“I can’t say enough about the way this season has started and the work that Joe (Shear, Jr., crew chief), the 21 team and everyone at GMS have put in. The last four races I’ve sat here and talked about how good things have been and how I felt a win was coming, but when it actually happens there is a bit of weight taken off our shoulders. I’m happy to finally get a win here, I’ve done pretty good here over the years, but this is definitely a track I’ve always wanted to win at. It’s not an easy place to do that so it feels like a big accomplishment.”
– Sauter now holds a 52-point lead over Christopher Bell in the driver championship point standings.
JUSTIN HALEY No. 24 Fraternal Order of Eagles Chevrolet Silverado
Justin Haley, driver of the No. 24 Fraternal Order of Eagles Chevrolet Silverado for GMS Racing, made his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start at Dover International Speedway from the 21st position. Following limited time on track Thursday due to issues in first practice, Haley’s team, led by Ryan McKinney, made major changes before Friday’s qualifying session.
Haley maintained his position until the first caution of the race on lap 23 when he pitted for tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment to help with a tight condition. He reported to the team that the adjustments helped and was able to stay on track as the leaders pitted, advancing his position on track. He ended the first stage in the eighth position and stayed out while the leaders pitted and began the second stage from the second position. He continued to run in the top-five until he got loose, making contact with the inside wall on lap 75. The team was able to repair the minimal damage that occurred and Haley returned to the track one lap down.
The next caution came quickly allowing Haley to rejoin the lead lap cars. On lap 85 he reported to the team that the Fraternal Order of Eagles Chevy was handling much better and he was able to stay on track following the conclusion of stage two. Haley brought his Chevy to pit road for one final stop with 28 laps to go. Another swing to the tight-side on handling kept Haley from advancing into the top-five. He finished in the eighth position for his second top-10 finish of the season.
“This was definitely a tough day for our No. 24 team. I think we did a great job pushing through it and getting another top 10. Every week we learn a little more and I think we’re at least moving in the right direction. Now it’s time to refocus and get it done at Texas next week.”
– Haley advanced two positions in the driver point standings and is now 16th following his fourth race of the season.
KAZ GRALA No. 33 Outlaw Fasteners Chevrolet Silverado Dover Recap
Using both of Thursday’s NCWTS practice sessions to dial-in the No. 33 Outlaw Fasteners Chevrolet Silverado, Kaz was still fighting some balance woes heading into qualifying Friday, but managed to grab a 16th starting position for the Bar Harbor 200 at Dover International Speedway.
Walking across the driver intro stage before Friday’s race, Kaz received his high school diploma from Worcester Academy, then strapped in for 200 laps of racing. Settling into the top-15 during the first stage of the race, Kaz radioed to his team that he was fighting a loose-handling Silverado. When the caution came out on lap 37, crew chief Jerry Baxter elected to bring Kaz down pit road to tighten him up, as well as for four tires and fuel for the remaining five laps in stage one. Restarting fifth for stage two due to pit strategy, Kaz continued to fight loose conditions causing him to slip back to 10th by the completion of the second stage.
Hitting pit road under the stage break, Kaz got four fresh tires, fuel and another set of adjustments to tighten his No. 33 up. Restarting 14th for the final 110 laps, the Boston-native methodically worked his way back into the top-10 running order, happy with the way his Outlaw Fasteners Chevy was handling. As a long green flag run ensued, pit strategy began to take place among the leaders. Baxter elected to keep Kaz out for as long as possible, hoping for a caution to fall his way. On lap 172, just a couple laps before Kaz would be forced to pit, the caution flag waved for debris allowing Kaz to pit under caution for four tires, fuel and a minor chassis adjustment.
Lining up fourth for the final restart of the race, Kaz quickly made his move to jump to second with only 25 laps remaining. Putting pressure on GMS Racing teammate Johnny Sauter for the lead as the laps began to wind down, Kaz came up just short of the win, but captured a second-place finish in the Bar Harbor 200.
Quote “This was a big day for me, not only for my school life but for my racing life. We were close. The handling on my truck was pretty good at the end. These truck races are all about track position and clean air and we had both. Jerry (Baxter) called a great race that got me up front with clean air when it was important. He timed everything perfectly to give me a chance at the end, but we came up just short. Johnny Sauter is a veteran and a champion for a reason though. I could get to him, but he knew how to take my air away from me to keep me behind him. That’s experience.”
Additional Info – Kaz received his high school diploma from Worcester Academy prior to Friday’s Bar Harbor 200. – Kaz’s runner-up finish is his second top-5 and third top-10 finish of the 2017 NCWTS season. – After the sixth race of the season, Kaz is currently eighth in the NCWTS point standings, 116 points behind the leader, but has one win and five bonus points towards the playoffs.