Sauter avoids wreck, wins in Kansas

5/2/2010 - NASCAR

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Driving four wide, the lead on the line, Ron Hornaday Jr.. bumped Johnny Sauter, sending their trucks into tire-smoking slides.

At nearly 45-degree angles, going over 150 mph, both drivers white-knuckled their steering wheels.

Somehow, almost miraculously, they both straightened out.

Sauter stayed in front after his improbable save, holding off the hard-charging Hornaday to win a wild, rain-delayed NASCAR trucks race at Kansas Speedway on Sunday.

"That is awesome, isn't it?" Hornaday said after watching a replay of the late-race slide show.

A packed field of 40 trucks set the stage for a day of bang-off-the-walls racing that featured five cautions in the first 41 laps around the 1.5-mile track.

The best collision came last -- and didn't result in a crash.

Hornaday, the pole sitter, had the fastest truck all weekend, making several charges despite a troublesome fender problem that had his rear left tire billowing smoke.

The four-time series champion and 2008 winner at Kansas reeled in Sauter in the closing laps, failing on one pass, then attempting another with 13 laps left in the 250-mile race.

Starting to make his move underneath, Hornaday found himself in trouble when one lapped truck tried to pass right in front, sending him up the track and into Sauter. Hornaday clipped the back left of Sauter, jolting both trucks into a slide that looked like something more from a rally-car race than trucks.

Their noses pointing toward the infield, the drivers made grip-the-steering-wheel saves, white smoke billowing from all four tires on both trucks. Sauter got some unexpected help from the wall, the impact straightening out his back end. Adding to his fortune, the truck was still in decent shape, allowing him to pull way for his second career win.

"That's unbelievable stuff right there," Sauter said.

These two have met like this before.

At the Martinsville race in March, Hornaday got into Sauter and spun him out. Sauter recovered to finish 15th, but came into Kansas saying he owed Hornaday one, joking he might take him out at the start.

"Me and Ron always have animosity," Sauter said. "We have animosity sitting around drinking beers."

Even starting behind the pole in third, Sauter had no chance of hitting Hornaday at the green flag, watching from behind as the veteran led the first 37 laps.

Then came the fender troubles.

A similar problem caused a blowout at the Atlanta race in April and Hornaday didn't want to take any chances, so he went into the pits for a lengthy, unplanned pit stop that dropped him to 25th. He worked his way to the front again, but the fender was still troublesome following a 90-minute rain delay, leading to another long stop and another freefall through the field.

With smoke puffing from his left rear tire on nearly every bump, Hornaday passed like everyone else was on pit road, pulling up to Sauter's bumper in the closing laps. He didn't have enough to get Sauter once and tried again late, causing the side-by-side super slide.

Hornaday straightened out, but the smoky save all but ruined his worn-down rear left tire, ending his hopes of catching Sauter again.

"That's the way you're supposed to race," said Hornaday, the trucks series' career wins leader with 45. "That's what truck racing is all about."