Homestead, Fla – Friday night’s Championship 4 contenders at the Homestead-Miami Speedway was a vast array of veterans vs. youth. On one side, you had two veteran drivers who’ve combined to win three of the last four NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championships. On the other side, you had two drivers, one a rookie the other a second year driver.
One of the veterans was hoping that his end of season surge would be enough to put the pressure on youngster Christopher Bell and force him to make a mistake. Instead, Bell looked like the season vet while Johnny Sauter came up just short on defending his Truck Series crown.
Bell, finished second in Friday night’s Ford EcoBoost 200 while Sauter followed him across the finish line in third. It gave the Wisconsin native a second place finish in the final standings.
But, it was another great year for the GMS Racing driver, one he can hang his hat on. Sauter, started 2017 off with five top three finishes in the first six races and nine top 10’s in the first 10 events. In fact, out of those nine top 10’s were seven top three finishes.
But, he went through a mini slump that saw him next finish with just two top five finishes over his next 10 starts.
How would that work out in the second round of the playoffs?
He’d turn it around quickly.
Sauter, finished third at Martinsville then won at both Texas and Phoenix. On Friday night at Homestead, he’d finish third again for four straight top three’s to close out the year. He ended up with 11 top three finishes in 2017, five in the first six and four in the last four.
If not for Bell’s strength, Sauter was certain to get a second career title.