News & Media


Sauter does his best, but Dillon claims Truck title

November 20, 2011, Sporting News Wire Service, NASCAR.com

Austin Dillon is the youngest Truck Series champion and just the third previous rookie of the year to win the title. (Autostock)

HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Austin Dillon withstood a strong challenge from race winner Johnny Sauter to win the Camping World Truck Series championship in Friday night's Ford 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

NASCAR called the event with 15 laps left with Sauter in the lead and Dillon in 10th place, giving Dillon, 21, the youngest champion in series history, a six-point edge over Sauter in the final series standings.

Ford 200

Results
Pos.DriverMake
2.Denny Hamlin Toyota
3.Kevin Harvick Chevrolet
4.Nelson Piquet Jr.Chevrolet
5.Joey CoulterChevrolet

Dillon is the first driver in series history to win the rookie of the year title in his first full season and the series championship the following year.

"I remember my first championship with Dale Earnhardt," said team owner Richard Childress, Dillon's grandfather. "I had the same feeling [Friday] watching my grandson."

"You can't go out of the Truck Series any better than this," said Dillon, who will graduate to the Nationwide Series with RCR next year.

Denny Hamlin finished second in the No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports truck, followed by Kevin Harvick, Nelson Piquet Jr. and Joey Coulter, who won the 2011 rookie of the year title. Coulter is a teammate of Dillon's at Richard Childress Racing.

Early in the race, patience was a virtue for Dillon, who steered clear of potential complications and found a comfortable place to run at or near the back of the top 10.

As the race progressed, so did Dillon, who had worked his way into the second position behind Sauter before Ross Chastain's spin on Lap 96 caused the fourth caution of the evening. The subsequent restart, however, brought more stress than Dillon ever could have expected.

Dillon fell back to 15th, fearing that he might have a problem with the right front fender on the No. 3 Chevrolet. Shortly thereafter, Sauter clinched most laps led, putting Dillon in danger of losing the championship if he lost more positions by the end of the race.

But Dillon drove back to the 10th position before rain halted the race on Lap 119 of 134 with Sauter in the lead.

"The fender got bent in -- I don't know how it happened," Dillon said. "I didn't hit anybody on the track, but I think it happened on pit road. We got real tight once I got back there [in traffic]. I think it was more on the conservative side when I was three-wide. We were three-wide in the middle, and to force a spot right there was not worth it."

Sauter, who won his second race of the season and the fourth of his career, wasn't aware of how far behind Dillon had fallen on the restart.

"I had no clue," said Sauter, who won more than one event in a season in a top NASCAR touring series for the first time in his career. "Not one time [Friday] did they tell me where the No. 3 truck was. It didn't really matter where he was running. We knew what we had to do, and that was lead the most laps and win the race.

"It's a huge accomplishment, coming out here and doing what we needed to do. Six points is a bummer. You can think back on the season -- dominating Kentucky, broke an axle, 20 to go, leading the race; ORP [Indianapolis], leading the race, flat tire; the lane violation at Texas, 22 points; six points at Pocono. You can go down the list -- but everybody can. That's just racing."

Greg Biffle and Travis Kvapil won rookie of the year honors and Truck Series championships, but not in consecutive years. Biffle accomplished the feat in 1998 (rookie) and 2000. Kvapil was rookie of the year in 2001 and champion in 2003.

Harvick had clinched the owners' championship with his No. 2 truck before the series arrived at Homestead.

Notes-n-Nuggets

• This is Johnny Sauter's fourth career victory in his 86th start.
• Johnny Sauter earned his first career victory at Homestead in his fifth race.
• Johnny Sauter is the eighth driver to win at Homestead since the reconfiguration in 2003.
• This is Johnny Sauter's second victory of 2011. He also won at Martinsville in the spring.
• ThorSport Racing earned its seventh Truck Series victory, third win of 2011 and first win at Homestead.
• Denny Hamlin finished second in his first Truck Series start at Homestead. He finished 1-2 in his two starts in 2011.
• Kevin Harvick (third) earned his fourth consecutive top-five finish at Homestead. This was his ninth top-five of 2011 in 10 starts.
• Nelson Piquet Jr (fourth) finishes the season 10th in the Truck Series points standings in his rookie season after six top-fives and 10 top-10s.
• Joey Coulter (fifth) is the 2011 Truck Series rookie of the year and ties his career best finish with fifth-place finish -- his fifth of 2011.
• Ty Dillon (sixth) earned his Second top-10 finish in his third Truck Series start.
• Elliott Sadler (seventh) scored top-10 finishes in six of his nine starts in 2011.
• Timothy Peters (eighth) finishes the season fifth in 2011 with seven top-fives and 12 top-10s.
• Austin Dillon (10th) wins the 2011 championship two wins, 10 top-fives and 16 top-10s.
• James Buescher (12th) finishes third in 2011 with 10 top-fives and 19 top-10s in only 24 starts.

Championship Notes-n-Nuggets

• This is Austin Dillon's first championship in his second full-time season.
• Austin Dillon is the 11th different driver to win a Truck Series championship in 17 Truck Series seasons.
• Austin Dillon becomes the youngest series champion at 21. The previous youngest was Travis Kvapil at the age of 27.
• This is the 14th time the Truck Series championship was decided in the final race.
• Austin Dillon is the third former rookie of the year winner to go on and win the championship.
• This is only the third season (2003, 2006) that the champion did not have the most wins, top-fives or top-10s in the season.
• Austin Dillon is the second driver to win a Truck Series championship while driving for Richard Childress Racing.
• Austin Dillon is the 11th NASCAR driver championship for Richard Childress Racing.
• This is the 11th time a Chevrolet driver has won the Truck Series championship.
• This is crew chief Danny Stockman's first Truck Series championship. Stockman was part of Ron Hornaday's 2007 and 2009 championship crew.
• The No. 2 Kevin Harvick Inc. team won the owners' Championship. This is only the second time there has been a split driver/owner championship (2010).

Championship Video: Austin Dillon | Kevin Harvick Inc. | Joey Coulter