May 30, 2011

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series would close out their first decade of racing at Kansas Speedway with what is arguably one of the greatest truck series finishes to date.  The battle between 2009 rookie of the year, Johnny Sauter and four-time series champion, Ron Hornaday Jr. was reminiscent of a classic 1970’s Richard Petty-David Pearson clash for the checkers.

Ten years in, no truck series driver had been able to claim win number two at the Kansas City, Kan. facility but it certainly wasn’t for a lack of effort in the 10th running of the O’Reilly Auto Parts 250.

In qualifying, Hornaday claimed his third flame-covered pedal car in a row, the traditional trophy given to Kansas Speedway quick-timers by laying down a 169.194 mph average lap.

Under threatening skies, the field took the green flag and Hornaday asserted himself as the early favorite, leading a majority of the first part of the event. Sauter, however, was unwavering and grabbed the lead from his rival on lap 36 and would keep it for much of the race.

For the second year in a row, Mother Nature interrupted the event at lap 114 for about 90 minutes. When action resumed, the race proved worth the wait. For much of the final segment, Sauter and Hornaday would be forced to navigate lapped traffic in lockstep. 

With just two laps remaining, the battle climaxed when Hornaday entered turn three, diving under Sauter for the lead. When the veteran encountered a lapped truck, Hornaday was forced to move up the race track to avoid contact. As Hornaday ‘s Chevrolet ventured up the race track, he struck Sauter’s No. 13 machine,  forcing both drivers to drift through turn four.

Amazingly, both drivers emerged from the cloud of smoke unscathed and Sauter would drive his ThorSport racing entry into Gatorade Victory Lane. The win was the Wisconsin native’s first at Kansas Speedway and second in the series overall.

“That was out of control,” said Sauter after the race. “I thought that dirty bugger Hornaday got me again. That was awesome.” 

Sauter’s only win of the 2010 season came at Kansas Speedway and he finished third in series points, 261 markers behind truck series champ, Todd Bodine. Austin Dillion, who finished sixth at Kansas, would claim the rookie of the year title in 2010.

The 11th running of the O’Reilly Auto Parts 250 (June 4) marks the truck series 400th start. Will another new winner emerge or will someone finally break through and enjoy their second trip to victory lane in Kansas?