Frontstretch’s Truck Series content is presented by American Trucks
In A Nutshell: William Byron won the battle while Johnny Sauter won the war. Byron, after watching his title hopes go up in smoke at Phoenix International Raceway, made up for it Friday night. He was half a second faster than the field in practice, fell back in race trim but fought back after Kyle Larson lost track position in the closing laps. Pushing by Tyler Reddick, who inherited the lead through a two-tire stop, he cruised to a series-leading seventh win.
In the title race, Matt Crafton led for much of the night but it was Sauter who kept improving. After the fourth and final caution, Sauter surged on the final restart while Crafton got increasingly tight. Pushing past the No. 88 with 20 laps to go, it was Sauter and GMS Racing who held on for their first Truck Series title together.
Who Should Have Won: Kyle Larson. For most of the race, Larson was halfway to Cuba, building a lead of 10 seconds at one point before one of the early cautions. But on the final yellow, Larson’s crew struggled on pit road, dropping his No. 24 Chevy from first to ninth. That was too much traffic to overcome; he made it back to third but then hit the wall, and the handling of the truck was clearly affected after that. He wound up finishing fourth despite leading a race-high 76 of 134 laps.
Championship Battle Back-and-Forth Affair
Early on, the title appeared Crafton’s to lose. The ThorSport Racing driver was a solid second through most of the first 100 laps and was comfortably in front of the competition. Christopher Bell hit the wall multiple times; Timothy Peters struggled with handling issues of his own and lost track position on pit road. Sauter, meanwhile, had a fast truck, but was stuck in midpack after starting 19th. By lap 90, he had made it up to sixth but still needed a break to catch up to Crafton.
He got it in the form of a fourth and final caution, a spin with 23 laps remaining that shuffled the field, closed the gap and gave Sauter one final opportunity. Crafton’s truck saw its handling deteriorate, and for a bit all four trucks were within shouting distance of each other. Sauter’s pass of Crafton was as thrilling as it was clean, and it also allowed Bell and Peters to briefly stay in the mix. This one wasn’t decided until the final few moments, and that’s all you can ask for under NASCAR’s current format.
Who Is Patrick Staropoli?
He’s a med student, a Harvard grad, a driver making his Truck Series debut Friday night… and the man who caused three of the race’s four cautions. Patrick Staropoli, who had a K&N Pro Series West win in 2014 but limited experience overall, seemed overmatched for Homestead driving the No. 07 truck. He wound up nine laps down in 31st, wrecking three times and in doing so altering the outcome of the race. It was only his 10th career start in a NASCAR series and his first within the top three divisions.
In fairness, what Staropoli did is indicative of how SS-Green Light Racing’s handled its pay-to-play No. 07 ride since Ray Black, Jr. moved up to XFINITY Series, though this was fielded in a joint effort with Young’s Motorsports. The roster of drivers this season reads like a “Who’s Who of Who’s That?” Michel Disdier, Sheldon Creed, CJ Faison, Kevin Donahue, Ryan Lynch and Casey Smith are among those who made a brief appearance in this truck.
Homestead, You Never Disappoint
One of the sport’s most competitive 1.5-mile ovals showed why it’s considered such once again Friday night. Multiple grooves led to side-by-side action all night, involving most of the field. Despite Larson’s dominance early, the race ended up with 15 lead changes, tied for fourth most on the year, and did so despite a limited number of cautions to shake up the field. There was never a dull moment at this oval, with variable banking that’s become the model for other cookie-cutter ovals seeking to renovate their racing.
Truck Rookie Report
2016 Rookie of the Year Candidates
No. 00 Cole Custer
No. 4 Christopher Bell
No. 9 William Byron
No. 11 Matt Tifft
No. 22 Austin Wayne Self
No. 41 Ben Rhodes
No. 92 Grant Enfinger
No. 98 Rico Abreu
Number of Rookies in the Race: 14 (Add Noah Gragson, Jesse Little, Brady Boswell, Alon Day, Stewart Friesen, Patrick Staropoli)
Number of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 3 (Byron, Bell, Custer)
Rookie of the Race (and Year): Byron
Sauter wins the title, his first in eight full-time season of Truck Series competition. It took a total of 488 starts across NASCAR’s top three series for Sauter to earn a championship trophy.
Crafton wound up second, followed by Bell and Peters. Byron, on the strength of his series-leading seven victories, captured the owner’s championship for Kyle Busch Motorsports (Peters’ No. 17 didn’t make that Chase). Unfortunately, the Phoenix blown engine left him fifth in the points.
Daniel Hemric wound up sixth in the standings, followed by Ben Kennedy and John Hunter Nemechek. Tyler Reddick, who missed the Chase altogether, wound up ninth, while Cole Custer rounded out the top 10 in points.
Quotes & Tweets
“Really good at the beginning and then was terrible there on the last run and came up short. It was juat a matter of time. We were just really bad on that last run for whatever reason. It just got really tight.” – Matt Crafton
“We ran out of laps. We had a little miscue in the pits, lost some track position, but we were able to gain it back. Hey, all in all, we said in the beginning at Daytona that we wanted a shot. We had that down here, and we came up just a little bit short.” – Timothy Peters
Blowed up. One of these days my luck will change
— ryan truex (@Ryan_Truex) November 19, 2016
Absolutely hate it for the whole team. I really wanted to send them off with a win. The future is bright for BKR. Smart people=championships
— Tyler Reddick (@TylerReddick) November 19, 2016
Up Next: The Truck Series takes some hard-earned time off after another competitive season. It’s now a nearly three-month break before the engines fire again for the NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona. Mark your calendars to watch on Friday, Feb. 24, 2017 at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1.
About the author
The author of Did You Notice? (Wednesdays) Tom spends his time overseeing Frontstretch’s 40+ staff members as its majority owner and Editor-in-Chief. Based outside Philadelphia, Bowles is a two-time Emmy winner in NASCAR television and has worked in racing production with FOX, TNT, and ESPN while appearing on-air for SIRIUS XM Radio and FOX Sports 1's former show, the Crowd Goes Wild. He most recently consulted with SRX Racing, helping manage cutting-edge technology and graphics that appeared on their CBS broadcasts during 2021 and 2022.
You can find Tom’s writing here, at CBSSports.com and Athlonsports.com, where he’s been an editorial consultant for the annual racing magazine for 15 years.
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