No. 21 ISM Connect Chevrolet Silverado
Johnny Sauter and the No. 21 ISM Connect team made a statement at Phoenix Raceway, earning their second consecutive win after starting 10th in the Lucas Oil 150. Sauter fought a tight condition throughout the first two stages of the event, but remained a fixture within the top-10.
Starting sixth for the final 70-lap stage, the No. 21 team opted to manage their equipment in preparation for a long run to the finish. Sauter patiently made his way into the top-five on lap 102 but was five seconds behind the leaders. The fifth caution of the night occurred on lap 123, giving Sauter a chance at taking over the lead. As the race returned to green, the field was immediately slowed by a wreck on the restart and placed under red flag conditions. With the same thing occurring on the next two restarts, Sauter found himself in the second position on lap 144. As leader Christopher Bell pitted for damage, Sauter took over the lead for a two-lap shootout to the checkered flag.
The veteran driver held off his fellow playoff contenders for his first win at Phoenix Raceway and fourth win of the 2017 season.
Recapping the night at Phoenix:
“We struggled during qualifying but once they dropped the green flag we had pretty good speed in our ISM Connect Chevy. Track position is so important here and we were just in the right place at the right time at the end of the race. A lot of red flags there at the end but it was good for me to just be able to sit there and gather my thoughts and think through how I wanted to handle those last restarts and those last two were perfect as far as I’m concerned. This is a team effort. We’ve been in position to win at least seven races this year and this is our fourth so we’re getting hot at the right time.”
On what to expect at Homestead-Miami Speedway:
“That track is really tricky. We go down there and we get one set of tires for practice and that place eats tires like a cheese grater. Your first couple of laps you’re going to feel like King Kong and then you’re going to think ‘what is wrong with this truck?’ I suspect you’re going to see everything next week. Unload decent, struggle a little then be good in the race. We’ve just got to be smart and make smart decisions and we’ll be okay.”
– Sauter was the only Championship 4 contender to win in the Round of Six and will head into the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway on a two-race winning streak.
No. 24 Fraternal Order of Eagles Chevrolet Silverado
Justin Haley returned to Phoenix Raceway, the site of his first NCWTS top-10, looking to use his experience at the one-mile track to earn his first win. After struggling early in the day during the only practice session, Haley qualified in the 16th position for the Lucas Oil 150.
As the sun set and track conditions changed for the start of the 150-lap race, Haley’s No. 24 Fraternal of Eagles Chevrolet fired off too tight center, a condition he would face throughout the first two stages of the event, and struggled to advance into the top-15. Knowing they would need to earn track position on the final pit stop of the night to compete for the lead, crew chief Kevin Bellicourt called his driver to pit road for two tires, fuel and one final adjustment to loosen up his Chevrolet Silverado. Haley restarted in the third position on lap 87 and maintained his position before falling back to fifth just before the third caution of the day and first of three red flag periods.
Haley reported to the team that the Fraternal Order of Eagles Chevy was good on short runs and he felt confident he could stay up front in the final laps. As the field returned to green on lap 140 following the second red flag, Haley was running fourth as the leaders made contact sending the 18 truck into his path. Heavy damage from the hard hit ended the 18-year-old’s night and what had looked to be another top-five finish for the rookie driver.
“That was definitely not the way we had hoped our night would end. We made a lot out of a little and were having another really solid run, a shot at another top five, but it just didn’t work out for us. Kevin made a great call to get us track position and we had good short run speed that I really thought was going to work out in our favor after the second red flag. This No. 24 team has really been on it the last few weeks and we’ve learned so much, so I think we’re for sure going to be a contender when we get to Miami.”
No. 33 NETTTS Chevrolet Silverado
Unloading at Phoenix Raceway Friday morning, the No. 33 GMS Racing team got to work tuning Kaz’s NETTTS Chevrolet Silverado after one practice session to start the day. Continuing to improve the handling on the No. 33, Kaz qualified 15th for the Lucas Oil 150 later that night.
Firing off loose for the start of Stage One, Kaz raced in the top-15 throughout the entire 40-lap stage, finishing 15th when the green-checkered flag waved. Kaz reported under the stage break that his NETTTS Chevy had begun to get tight during the long green-flag run. With that feedback, crew chief Jerry Baxter called the 18-year-old down pit road for four tires, fuel and both an air pressure and track bar adjustment. Restarting 14th for Stage Two, Kaz maintained his running position throughout the long run, once again fighting a Chevy Silverado that started off loose and swung to the tight side. Ending Stage Two in the 14th position, Baxter once again called Kaz down pit road under the stage break, but this time for two right side tires, fuel and another round of chassis adjustments.
Restarting sixth for the final leg of the race, Kaz worked to maneuver his way through traffic to reach the top-five. However, after avoiding multiple accidents in the closing laps, three lengthy red-flag periods slowed Kaz’s long-run momentum. Lining up for a two-lap sprint to the finish, Kaz fought his way to a fifth-place finish, his best NCWTS finish at Phoenix Raceway.
“Tonight’s race is a perfect example of what I’ve been saying all year about my No. 33 team. When we unloaded this morning for practice, we weren’t where we needed to be. They worked all day to get my NETTTS Chevy race-ready. Even at the beginning of the race we were still fighting some handling issues, but by the end, we were making our way to the front. The long red flag breaks didn’t help our momentum, but I’ll take a top-five finish after how the day started. I couldn’t be more proud of my team.”
– Kaz’s fifth-place finish is his seventh top-10 finish in the last eight races
– After the 22nd race of the season, Kaz is currently seventh in the NCWTS point standings