Sauter comes up one spot short in bid for back-to-back titles

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HOMESTEAD, Fla. — There would be no repeat for Johnny Sauter in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series on Friday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“This is hard. This is tough,” Sauter said, “To come down to one race. They were just better than us tonight.”

The 39-year-old Wisconsin native finished third in the race and second in the championship behind Christopher Bell, a sizeable 13 seconds behind him in the race as the Toyota driver won his first title. Austin Cindric finished fifth in the race and third in the standings, Matt Crafton sixth and fourth, respectively.

Ultimately, an eighth top-10 finish in 11 races at Miami wasn’t enough for Sauter.

Chase Briscoe, who was not eligible for the championship, won his first career race.

Sauter improved through the second of three segments and ended the second session in fifth place, second of four championship-eligibles behind Bell. He restarted sixth, third among the hopefuls.

GMS Racing announced before the race that Sauter, 39, had signed an extension to return to the team in 2018. He’d locked into the final with a win at Texas Motor Speedway and won again at Phoenix Raceway to enter the final with momentum and markedly better statistics than when he captured his first crown with the first-year team in 2016. Sauter won three races last season but entered Friday with four, his average finish improved and he’d led 455 laps as opposed to 130.

RELATED: Sauter set to return to GMS Racing in 2018

Sauter had finished fourth in the series for three consecutive years before winning the inaugural NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs last season. He also finished second — by just six points to Austin Dillon — in 2011.

“One spot too short, I guess,” Sauter said. “We had a great year and we get to do it again next year, so I look forward to that.”