By MARK LONG
AP Sports Writer
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Johnny Sauter won the season-opening NASCAR Truck Series race Friday night at Daytona International Speedway for his third victory at the famed track.
Sauter used a big run to pass David Gilliland for the lead with eight laps to go and then held off Justin Haley, Joe Nemechek, Ben Rhodes and Scott Lagasse Jr. None of those chasers provided much of a challenge down the stretch.
Sauter dedicated the win to crew chief Joe Shear Jr., whose wife died unexpectedly in late December.
It was Sauter's 18th victory in 222 starts in the Truck Series. He previously won at Daytona in 2013 and '16.
Sauter took the No. 21 Chevrolet to victory lane after a series of late crashes wiped out about half the 32-truck field. Only 15 trucks finished on the lead lap, and only nine of those were in the lead pack in the closing laps.
The single-file racing made it considerably easier for Sauter to hold off the competition.