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Sauter wins race, Dillon takes title in Homestead

The first race of the three-race Ford Championship weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway -- the Ford 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race -- on Friday night ran 17 laps short of its scheduled distance, as rain brought out the red and checkered flags with 17 to go.

Johnny Sauter did all he could do to claim the series championship by leading the most laps en route to the race win, but Austin Dillon was still able to capture the champion’s trophy with his 10th-place race finish.

“Johnny did all he could do,” Dillon said after the race.

But another thing that Sauter needed to happen to claim his first Truck Series championship was for Dillon to finish 17th or worse. Dillon, after running near the front most of the race, did have a scare late in the event when fellow competitors reported a shiny left-front tire and fluid coming from Dillon’s No. 3 truck in the closing laps.

“I guess I had to scare everybody on that last restart,” Dillon said.

The issues did drop Dillon back to the 16th spot, but the truck kept going and he was able to get back up to 10th by the time the rain started falling.

Dillon, 21, became the youngest driver to become Camping World Truck Series champion, and the 2011 title was the second for truck owner Richard Childress, who won the championship in the season’s inaugural season of 1995 with Mike Skinner as driver.

The race win was Sauter’s second of the year.

“Two wins in a season,” Sauter said. “I’ve been trying for years to do that.”

The third of the three championship contenders, James Buescher, started the race on the pole, but lost the lead to Kevin Harvick on lap 9. Elliott Sadler and Denny Hamlin also each spent time up front in the early laps. Buescher and Harvick made contact a couple of times during the race, once on a restart and another time getting onto pit road, and neither looked to be serious contenders for the win for the remainder of the race.

Sauter assumed the race lead on a restart following a lap 30 caution, but lost the top spot on lap 39 to Sadler. When the field cycled through green flag stops around lat 70, though, Sauter cycled back into the lead and built up a cushion of nearly four seconds before another caution, the fourth of the race came out with 38 laps to go.

During that caution, Sauter got off pit road first to hold on to his lead, and he continued to run up front the rest of the way. Hamlin finished second after nearly getting by Sauter just before the red flag came out for rain. Harvick was third, Nelson Piquet Jr. fourth, and Joey Coulter rounded out the top-five. Buescher finished outside the top-10.

With his top-five finish, Coulter claimed series Rookie of the Year honors to give Richard Childress Racing both the driver’s championship and the Rookie of the Year.

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Photo of Austin Dillon courtesy of NASCAR Media



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