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NASCAR trucks: Sauter wins down low

Published February 22, 2013

When the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers finished racing in their two qualifying races Thursday at Daytona International Speedway, they all said – or most of them, anyway – that the fast line was the high line.

Not so Friday night as the drivers in the Camping World Series trucks stuck pretty much to the low line and, in the end, winner Johnny Sauter was down there, as was runner-up Kyle Busch and third-place finisher Ron Hornaday Jr.

On any number of occasions during the 100-lap race, which saw three or four crashes, including one Big One that involved 13 trucks but no injuries, drivers tried to make the high outside lane work and even the middle lane (that’s when they were going three wide), but the only consistent speed was found down low against the double yellow line.

Another assumption that was going to be tested, but wasn’t because of a yellow flag that was thrown a blink after the white flag was shown, thus negating any further action and making the race finish under caution, was that second or third place was a better place to be than out front when the last lap started.

Everybody assumed Busch would pull out sometime during the last lap and slingshot around Sauter to steal the victory.

It’s too bad Busch didn’t try, because it would have put to rest all the speculation. The facts are, however, that first place might very well be the best place to be at Daytona these days and that if you’re first going into the last lap in front, you’ll very likely be in the catbird seat.

That was the case Thursday in the qualifyers and again Friday night. Even thought the caution came out to put a stop to racing before the checkers were thrown, the fact of the matter is that Sauter was in first place after 99 laps and he was the one who went to Victory Lane.

Watch for that to be the case in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race and then on Sunday for the Daytona 500. Better to be first when the chips are down and have to hold everyone else off than to be second and never really stand a chance.

Saturday, TSN2 will be the place to watch NASCAR. A preview of the Sprint Cup season can be seen at 11 a.m., a Nationwide preview will be seen at 11:30, the Nationwide race from Daytona’s pre-race show will start at noon and the race itself – Trevor Bayne is on the pole – will go to the post at 1:15 p.m.

Sunday, TSN will broadcast the Daytona 500, starting with pre-race activities at noon to be followed by the big race at 1 p.m.

Now, when I talk about the big NASCAR race at Daytona in July, I still call it the Firecracker 400, just as I tend to call the 600-miler at Charlotte on U.S. Memorial Day weekend the “World 600.”

I like tradition. I really don’t know what I’d do if the folks at the Indianapolis Speedway sold the naming rights to the Indy 500 because – well, it really wouldn’t be the same.

I’m telling you all this as a warmup to saluting the Subway sandwich shop people for getting the word “Firecracker” back into the name of the race they sponsor at Daytona in the summertime.

It was announced this week that Subway will call the Nationwide race the “Subway Firecracker 250,” starting this July.

I think that calls for a foot-long, don’t you?

Here’s a NASCAR sponsor that puts its money where its mouth is. Quicken Loans Inc., a U.S. mortgage lender, announced Friday that every time Ryan Newman finishes a Sprint Cup race in the top five, it will make the mortgage payments for a month for five of its customers.

Can you imagine a bank or mortgage lender in Canada doing that?

In your dreams.

One of my best friends in life, as well as racing, used to have a team in the near-big leagues. He was one step below the top series and raced in that class for years and with great success.

But like many, many people in motorsport, he let his passion get the better of his judgment and three years ago, at Kansas Speedway, two of his cars were destroyed and he was wiped out because one of his drivers was racing on credit.

So I was most interested to read on the autosport.com website Thursday of a team in the European GP2 Series that is folding its tents and shutting down even before the season starts because it doesn’t have the money in hand to stay in business.

Paul Jackson, who runs iSport Racing, said he’s trying to sell his cars and his entry into this year’s championship because he doesn’t owe anybody any money now and doesn’t want to start down that road.

Better to bail out now than to try to muddle through and go broke in mid-season and look stupid, he told autosport.

I’m impressed.

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