Sunday, April 7, 2013

Veteran Johnny Sauter triumphs over rookie Jeb Burton

Johnny Sauter and the No. 98 in victory lane at Martinsville.
Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images
They say that old age and treachery will overcome youth and skill.

While that adage might be applied to Saturday's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Martinsville, perhaps it would be more appropriate to say, in this case at least, experience and patience overcame youth and enthusiasm.

The Kroger 250 started with the youngest front row in the history of the series. Jeb Burton set a record as the youngest to claim the Keystone "21 Means 21" Pole Award a full four months before his 21st birthday.
Jeb Burton in the No. 4 leads Darrell Wallace Jr. at the green flag.
Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images

Darrell "Bubba" Wallace Jr., who's more than a year younger than Burton - Wallace Jr. won't even turn 20 until October - came up just .023 short and started on the outside of the front row.

Burton also led the most laps with 154 and Wallace Jr. led second-most with 34.

Yet when the checkered flag flew after 250 laps of short-track beating and banging, it was 34-year-old Johnny Sauter in front of 36-year-old Matt Crafton for the win. Burton finished third, his second top five of the season. Wallace Jr. finished fifth, behind 32-year-old veteran Timothy Peters. With the exception of 54-year-old veteran Ron Hornaday, the remainder of the top ten were age 25 and under: Chase Elliott (17) in sixth, Dakoda Armstrong (21) in seventh, Ryan Seig (25) in eighth and the youngest competitor, Erik Jones, 16, in ninth.

Of the 36 starters, 17 were 25 or under with seven of those still in their teens. At the other end of the spectrum were Hornaday, 11th-13th place finishers Todd Bodine (49), David Starr (45) and Jeff Agnew (47).  Robert Bruce (49) finished 28th and 61-year-old Norm Benning, the oldest driver in the field, wound up in 33rd.

Ron Hornaday after Jeb Burton's bump
Credit: Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
Virginia native Burton drove an impressive race with the exception of one incident in which he carefully worked his way up from about seventh place after a restart, all the way to leader Ron Hornaday's rear bumper. Apparently a bit earlier in the race Mr. Hornaday didn't give the rookie the room he needed, so Burton wasn't as deferential to the veteran leader as perhaps he might otherwise have been. When Hornaday came down in front of Burton, Burton didn't lift and plowed into the four-time champion, spinning him into the wall and causing significant damage.

Though Burton apologized on the radio, saying he didn't mean to wreck Hornaday, he likely put a target on his back with his actions. Respect on the track must be earned, and Hornaday's teammate Kevin Harvick pulled up next to Burton under caution and pointed at him, reminding him of that fact. Later in the race Harvick deftly rode the bumper of the No. 4, applying enough pressure that the younger driver would know he was there, that he could have spun Burton out, but chose not to do so.

Despite a beat-up racetruck, Hornaday came back to finish tenth.

Post-race, Burton explained why he lost the lead with 17 to go.

"We just lost forward bite coming off the corner. We could kill them going in the middle, but coming off we just couldn't stay with them at the end. It was a good truck all day, from the beginning. We won the pole, got a new track record, won practice, finished third, we got nothing to hang our head about."

Second-place finisher Crafton said, "Just shows what this team, [the] ThorSport organization I mean, what we're going to have this year. We're going to be a championship-contending team, both of us, Johnny and I."

Sauter, who now has eight career wins in the Camping World Truck series, is running the No. 98 this season and was asked about his move to take the lead.

"I just tried to time it just right – that’s the key. So proud of everybody on this Carolina Nut Curb Racing Toyota. All of our sponsors, all of the guys at ThorSport. They’ve been working hard in the shop. It was a long day. Tire wear was amazing. We kind of had an idea it was going to be like that all day," Sauter said. “Two for two, starting out - this is unbelievable.”

For the full race results, click here.

Sauter retained the points lead but Burton climbed into second place, in front of Crafton, Hornaday, and Wallace Jr. The full points standings are here


The Camping World Truck Series visits the Rock on Sunday, April 14th. Tune in to see the sparks fly.



Janine, aka Lisa or LJ, Cloud, a fifth-generation Texan, lives in Houston and considers Texas Motor Speedway her home track.

She's been a part of the Skirts and Scuffs team since May 2011, going from contributor to media rep, photographer, and associate editor covering both NASCAR and IZOD IndyCar. Janine considers it a privilege to represent the site at the track and to share with readers the excitement of the world of motorsports.

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