Martinsville, Virginia — The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series regulars had to wait a month for another opportunity at victory lane, Chase Elliott robbed them of that sweet taste of victory.
Coming to twenty laps to go the Alpha Energy Solutions 250 was shaping into a classic short track showdown. Christopher Bell was holding onto first while Elliott bumped and banged his rear fender in each and every corner for a considerable stretch of racing. Right behind them was Johnny Sauter.
As the leaders raced under a virtual blanket Austin Cindric was scrambling to retain his position, and also remain on the lead lap. After impeding Bell’s progress for a few turns the chrome horn was used. Cindric rose up the track, spinning, but Bell slipped up as well. As the yellow flag waved Chase Elliott and Johnny Sauter drove underneath the pair of trucks, securing their position on the front row for the final restart.
With 12 laps to go pit strategies had merged. Elliott had pitted for the final time during the second to last caution of the second stage while Sauter waited until the conclusion of the stage to pit for tires. Track position was key all afternoon, Matt Crafton, who pitted in the same sequence as Sauter finished ninth and was never able to return to the front of the field.
The restart reset everything. Sauter looked like the car to beat on the long run, he’d worked his way through the field but when he needed a flash of speed at the end he was second to Elliott.
Throughout the race Sauter fought a tight truck through the center of the corner but also complained of being loose off and not having enough forward grip. Even so, he believes it to be “one of the fastest trucks (he’s) ever had here.”
“Chase did what he needed to do to win the race. … he was very aggressive and there in victory lane.”
Did Elliott race Sauter like a teammate? “Hell he’s doing what he’s got to do to win the race, I’d do the same thing. … He raced me fine, all day long, I have no problems. He ultimately did what he needed to do to win the race.”
Bell managed to still finish third with his lightly damaged Tundra, Noah Gragson earn his first career top-five with a fourth place result, and Ty Dillon rounded the top-five to put it both of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regulars in the top-five.
Ross Chastain wound up seventh, even after getting spun by Chase Elliott on lap 137 of the 250 lap event. Chastain believes his finish “says a lot. Jeff (Bolens, team owner) puts his heart and soul into this. It’s nothing compared to a lot of guys, but with two full time employees somehow they’re making it work. I’m just the monkey holding the wheel man.”T1703_UNOFFRES