Published — Sunday 24 February 2013
Last update 24 February 2013 3:05 am
DAYTONA BEACH, Florida: Johnny Sauter was taken out on the final lap at Daytona International Speedway last year.
On Friday night, another late wreck helped him get to Victory Lane.
Sauter caught a break when defending series champion James Buescher crashed on the final lap of the Trucks Series opener, bringing out a caution that prevented veteran Kyle Busch from making a last-lap move on the leader.
Instead, Sauter cruised to victory.
“I was having flashbacks of last year,” said Sauter, who was turned by race winner John King in 2012. “They always say you want to be second going into the last lap. It just didn’t work out that way. ... I’m not going to lie, I was happy to see that caution come out at the end. Just a wild race. Speedway racing is just crazy. ... I’m just ecstatic to be in Victory Lane.”
Getting there wasn’t easy, either. After Sauter performed a burnout, he got lost trying to find Victory Lane.
“I didn’t have a clue where it was,” Sauter said. “I couldn’t see. I was relying on the spotter to tell me where to go. He told me to turn into that entrance. It was the wrong one. Nobody was more confused than I was.”
Maybe that’s why just about everyone watching the 250-mile race figured Sauter was a sitting duck with Busch on his bumper.
But before Busch could make his move, Buescher spun Jeff Agnew back in the pack. That brought out a final caution, and since the leaders had already taken the white flag, the race ended under caution.
“Thought I was in the perfect spot,” Busch said. “Was gonna somehow make a move on the last lap. Unfortunately, it was only a 99-lap race today. We didn’t get the full 100 in and wasn’t able to make a move coming down toward the end.”
Busch wound up second for the third time in the series opener.
“Yeah, it’s another year in waiting,” said Busch, who has wins at Daytona in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series.
It was the 100th win in the series for Toyota and the manufacturer’s seventh straight at NASCAR’s most famous track.
Ron Hornaday Jr. was third, followed by Justin Lofton, rookie Jeb Burton and Ty Dillon.
Buescher finished 13th, one spot behind highly touted rookie Darrell Wallace Jr.
“It’s a lot harder to win a restrictor-plate race than you think,” said Sauter, who failed to win in his first four races at Daytona.
The race was clean for the first 26 laps, until Scott Riggs’ engine blew.
That was minor compared to the next caution.
Brendan Gaughan, trying to pull off one of the strangest moves of Speedweeks, tried to squeeze between pole-sitter Brennan Newberry and fellow rookie German Quiroga in turn three.
It failed miserably.
All three trucks slid into the outside wall, setting off a melee that collected about a dozen others. Burton, Ryan Truex, Tim George Jr., John Wes Townley and Jason White were among the 13 trucks involved.
After six laps of caution and lots of cleanup, the race restarted — but just briefly.
White slammed into the wall shortly after the restart, bring out the third caution.
The fifth yellow set up the frantic finish.
Truex and Buescher were making a run toward the front on the outside lane when Truex’s left-front tire started to go flat. Truex started to slow down and make his way to the bottom of the track, but he got sideways and collected several others.
“We saw a couple of crashes,” Busch said. “That’s part of the game. Everybody is fighting for the front, but there’s only those guys up there that can be up there.”