Johnny Sauter won the Ford 200 NASCAR
Camping World Truck Series 2011 season finale on the intermediate 1.5-mile oval Homestead-Miami Speedway on Friday evening, but it wasn't enough to allow him to beat Austin Dillon for the series championship.
Dillon held on to finish just 6pts ahead of Sauter in the standings, becoming the youngest driver to claim the title (at 21) and also the first driver to win the title the season after also clinching the rookie of the year accolade.
"You can't go out of the Truck Series any better than this," said Dillon, who is moving to a full-time Nationwide Series seat in 2012. "How does it feel? Amazing, best feeling I've ever had in my entire life! ... It's going to be a wonderful week, a wonderful month.
"The championship ... it's amazing. You get to spray champagne everywhere. You're on top of the world. It's the best feeling in the world!"
Sauter was trying to put on a brave face at narrowly missing out on the title. "It's a huge accomplishment, coming out here and doing what we needed to do," he insisted, but admitted: "six points is a bummer.
"You can think back on the season: dominating Kentucky, broke an axle, 20 to go, leading the race; ORP [Indianapolis], leading the race, flat tire; the lane violation at Texas, 22 points; six points at Pocono. You can go down the list, but everybody can. That's just racing."
Ultimately rain played a big part in the evening's proceedings, causing an early finish having already washed out the qualifying runs earlier on Friday afternoon. That had left James Buescher and Ty Dillon on the front row for the start of the evening race, based on earlier practice times and car owner points.
Buescher led for the first eight laps, but lost the lead to Kevin Harvick at the first restart after a caution for oil on track. Buescher reclaimed the lead shortly after a second caution on lap 21 - a pre-scheduled competition caution to allow teams to check the condition of their trucks after all the earlier rain.
An accident involving German Quiroga and Max Gresham in turn 4 on lap 31 brought out the next caution, which allowed Sauter and Elliott Sadler to vie for the lead before Sadler emerged on top and led for the next 30 laps. Then after the next sequence of green flag pit stops cycled through, Sauter emerged out in front and led from lap 80 through to the end of the race - when NASCAR
had to call it because of the return of the rain on lap 119.