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Sauter wins 2nd consecutive NASCAR trucks Chase race

(AP Photo/Steve Helber)

By STEPHEN HAWKINS

AP Sports Writer

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) Johnny Sauter is still alone in qualifying for the title-deciding race in the first Chase in the NASCAR Truck Series.

Sauter won his second consecutive playoff race Friday night with a late pass of Chase contender Matt Crafton, getting a victory at Texas that prevented anyone else from clinching a spot to contend for the championship in the finale at Homestead in two weeks.

"This is amazing," Sauter said after climbing out of the No. 21 Chevrolet in Victory Lane. "I feel very lucky to be here. ... Matt was content to keep running the bottom, so I'm going to the top."

Just before reaching the line with two laps remaining, Sauter went high and passed Crafton for the lead.

There were only three yellow flags in the 147-lap race, each after the caution clock had expired. Crafton took the lead after the final restart.

But just like at Texas in June, Crafton got passed on the high side late and finished second. Rookie driver William Byron, another Chase contender, beat him five months ago after his winning pass with five laps remaining.

"It is what it is," Crafton said. "I'm not worried about the Chase. I'm worried about winning races. The Chase will take care of itself."

It was Sauter's third win this season. He won the opener at Daytona and last week at Martinsville to earn the first of four spots available for a chance to win the inaugural Chase championship for trucks.

With only next week's race at Phoenix before the finale at Homestead, there are still three spots up for grab.

The next four drivers after Sauter in the points - Bryon, Christopher Bell, Crafton and Timothy Peters - are separated by only five points. Ben Kennedy is the sixth driver still in Chase contention.

If Sauter or a non-Chase contender win at Phoenix, the final three spots would be determined by points.

Polesitter Spencer Gallagher, who led three times for 88 laps, was in front with the final caution came out. But he dropped six spots on pit race and restarted seventh on the restart with 18 laps to go, when Sauter and Crafton got out front.

The only 15 laps Sauter led were those right after the final caution. Sauter led twice for only six laps.

"I was able to throw caution to the wind," Sauter said.

Sauter did offer one apology after the race. That was to the fans for not doing a customary extended burnout on the frontstretch of the 1 1/2-mile, high-banked track.

"I know that was lame," he said. "I've got to have this truck for Homestead."

Updated November 4, 2016

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