Johnny Sauter of Necedah and Natalie Decker of Eagle River took the green flag at the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Strat 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Friday (March 1) night and while they took different routes, they were still close together 134 laps later.
Sauter crossed the line eighth in his #13 Tenda Horse Ford F-150 and Decker took another big jump charging back in the second half for a 13th place finish, her best of the three in the series so far in her #54 N29 Technologies Toyota Tundra.
Coming off a second place finish at Atlanta a week prior and entering a race on a track where Sauter has enjoyed success, the bar was set high coming in with his #13 Tenda Horse Ford F-150 and he led the way in early practice sessions. He dropped back quickly in the race, battling a loose car and Sauter said afterward despite the work of his crew in stops, he apparently couldn’t find the middle spot between loose and tight.
Decker was facing similar issues, starting the race well and climbing as high as seventh place before handling issues also had her fighting the Tundra.
“The start of the race, the truck was super free,” said Decker in a post-race press release on her team website. “I couldn’t roll to the outside and just getting in I had to pinch the corner way off. It was super free. We came down after the first stage, made an adjustment. It helped a little, but it was still pretty free.”
Both finished back in the pack through the first two stages but managed to run consistent laps through the second half of the race and Decker benefited when the entire field needed to make green flag pits for refueling in the second half. Her team elected to stay out a little longer helping her move well into the top 10 before a quick pit had he among the top half of the field in the late laps.
Sauter managed to get enough control of his car to battle back to inside the top 10 while Decker was at 15th when some late race pit dashes helped her move up a couple more spots.
The eighth place points have Sauter sitting sixth in series points, 15 behind leader Grant Enfinger. Decker sits 21st with 42 points.
The Gander Outdoors Truck Series will get a couple weeks off before returning for the fourth race of the season on a short track, Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Va.