Associated Press 407d

Johnny Sauter wins Truck series race at Texas, first to clinch spot in championship

NASCAR, AutoRacing

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Johnny Sauter and wife Cortney welcomed their fourth child, Alice, on Wednesday morning.

"It was a crazy week," Sauter said. "But it's cool. I'm blessed to have the wife that I do and having our fourth child into the world was pretty awesome, so I'm a lucky, lucky man."

On Friday night, Sauter had more to celebrate when he won the NASCAR Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway. The defending series champion became the first driver to earn a spot in the series championship finale in two weeks.

"Texas is becoming one of my favorite places on earth," Sauter said. "Just pumped up. I haven't been pumped up this much in a long, long time. This is a big win, obviously a big week."

The 39-year-old Sauter held off 19-year-old Austin Cindric for his third victory of the season and fourth at Texas.

"I think it was youth versus experience tonight and experience won in more ways than one," Cindric said. "Johnny taught me a few things. Definitely a few things to keep in the notebook."

On Friday, the veteran driver may have taught the younger racer a thing or two about flexibility and not being married to your prerace plans.

"Everything we had planned about strategy out there went out the window in the first 20 laps," Sauter said. "It was pretty much calling an audible every time ... usually takes me 10 laps to get going, so I never felt like I was in the track like I wanted to be. But as the night progressed it just got better."

The top three spots were claimed by drivers still in the chase for the four-man championship showdown at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 17. Christopher Bell finished third -- he is second behind Sauter in the playoff standings.

Two of the playoff drivers made critical mistakes in the race.

John Hunter Nemechek was leading with 13 laps to go, but he ran out of gas and was required to pit. He was then given a penalty for speeding out of pit road and ended up finishing 19th.

"We gambled it and it didn't work out," Nemechek said.

Ben Rhodes was in the top 10 for much of the race, but a faulty pit stop with 17 laps to go dropped him into the back of the pack and he finished 18th.

Matt Crafton, another playoff contender, finished ninth.

Chase Briscoe, a rookie out of the playoff hunt, finished fourth.

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