Johnny Sauter and crew chief Jeff Hensley have only been working together for a few days. But they wasted little time in winning their first race Saturday in the NASCAR Truck Series Careers for Veterans 200 at Michigan International Speedway.
“I thought we could win, but didn’t think it would be the first time out,” said Hensley, who joined Sauter’s ThorSport Racing team earlier this week.
The victory pushed Sauter into the Truck points lead, nine ahead of ThorSport teammate Matt Crafton, who finished second. Pole-winner Ryan Blaney was 21st and fell from first to third in the standings.
The race’s average speed of 161.110 mph was fastest in Truck series history.
It was the first victory of the season for Sauter, who said he felt like he needed to replace former crew chief Dennis Connor despite having an otherwise solid season.
“It was a deal where we were running decent, consistent, but we were lacking just a little bit here and there,” said Sauter. “We hadn’t won. It was tough, but something that we needed to do.”
Sauter said Connor worked with a third ThorSport driver – Jeb Burton – on Saturday, helping Burton to an eighth-place finish.
Sauter took the lead on Lap 97 after Crafton went to the pits for gas. Sauter, who gambled that he would have enough fuel, finished .433 seconds ahead of Crafton.
“I was slowly reeling him in,” said Crafton. “If I had another lap, maybe I could have gotten to his bumper. Then we’d see if we could have gotten side-by-side at the finish.”
Ron Hornaday was third, Tayler Malsam fourth and Kyle Busch fifth. Busch had won the five previous Truck races he entered this season.