Sauter Wins, But Dillon Is Champion

Austin Dillon celebrates winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship. (NASCAR photo)
Austin Dillon celebrates winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship. (NASCAR photo)

HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Austin Dillon withstood a strong challenge from race winner Johnny Sauter to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship in Friday night’s Ford 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

NASCAR called the event with 15 laps left with Sauter in the lead and Dillon in 10th place, giving Dillon, 21, the youngest champion in series history, a six-point edge in the series standings over Sauter.

“Really if you want to get down to it, it didn’t really matter where he was running,” Sauter said. “We knew what we had to do and that was lead the most laps to win the race. It’s a huge accomplishment to come out of here doing what we needed to do essentially, and six points is a bummer.  You can think back on the season and dominating Kentucky, broken axle, 20 to go, leading the race; ORP, leading the race, flat tire, ground sway bar off; just the lane violation at Texas, that’s 22 points; six points at Pocono.  You can go down the list, but everybody can.

“That’s just racing, and I’m just proud to be second in points.  I’m proud to finish the season with a win, and I do want to congratulate Austin and everybody at RCR.  What a phenomenal year, and they’ll be good champions.”

Denny Hamlin finished second in the No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports truck, followed by Kevin Harvick, Nelson Piquet, Jr. and Joey Coulter.“You know, strategy didn’t work out,” said Hamlin. “It probably cost us a win today, but they told me one lap before the rain came that it looks like rain is coming, so if I got anything, I’d better go. That was my last-ditch effort on the corner to try to get around him. He slid up and got into us and we got in the wall, and it was one of those things, it was — we were not in a position to really race him that hard anyway.”

Early in the race, patience was a virtue for Dillon, who steered clear of potential complications and found a comfortable place to run at or near the back of the top 10.

As the race progressed, so did Dillon, who had worked his way into the second position behind Sauter before Brent Raymer’s spin on Lap 96 caused the fourth caution of the evening. The subsequent restart, however, brought more stress than Dillon ever could have expected.

Dillon fell back to 15th, fearing that he had a tire going flat and then that there might be a problem with his engine. Shortly thereafter, Sauter clinched most laps led, putting Dillon in danger of losing the championship if he lost more positions by the end of the race.

But Dillon drove back to the 10th position before rain halted the race on Lap 119 of 134 with Sauter in the lead.