MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Johnny Sauter’s hot start to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season continued Saturday afternoon with a win in the Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway.
The win gave Sauter a sweep of the first two races of the season. He won the opener at Daytona five weeks ago and with Saturday’s win he became only the second driver in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series history to win the first two races of the season. Mark Martin won the first two races of the 2006 season.
“We typically run well here, so our expectations are high. Yesterday (Friday practice) was no different. The truck was really fast off the hauler,” Sauter said after his second Martinsville Speedway victory. “We knew today was going to be about tire management, more so than I ever remember here. So the first part of the race we ran about 80 percent and tried not to lose too much track position.
“Later on after our first pit stop, we were around eighth and still riding. After the next pit stop with 100 to go we were 18th and I was wondering how I could be patient and aggressive. With 40 or 50 to go we put the hammer down and let her go. It was an amazing day.”
Sauter took the lead with 17 laps to go and really wasn’t challenged, taking a 1.888-second victory over ThorSport Racing teammate Matt Crafton.
Polesitter and rookie Jeb Burton finished third, followed by former Martinsville winner Timothy Peters and rookie Darrell Wallace Jr.
Burton, who set a track record in qualifying Friday, had the dominant truck for most of the day, leading 154 laps at the .526-mile track before losing the lead to Sauter.
“I really wanted to win and had them covered for half of the race,” said Burton. “I was really good at the beginning and we adjusted to the track at half way and we still had them covered. I just used up too much of the truck late. But we’ve got nothing to hang our head about. We had a good truck all day.”
The day finished much better than it began for Crafton. He started eighth, fell back through the field and was involved in a little beating and banging two or three times.
“I thought we were going to go down a lap on the first run. They dropped the green and I was good for about five laps and then I was about done,” said Crafton. “But this bunch of mine never gave up. They kept making adjustments. I can’t thank those guys behind the wall enough … they were using their heads and making methodical changes to the truck.”