TALLADEGA, Ala. – Johnny Sauter led all 20 laps and scored maximum points during the opening stage of Saturday’s Fred’s Pharmacy 250 powered by Coca-Cola at Talladega Superspeedway.
Sauter, who started on the outside pole, utilized a push from GMS Racing teammate Justin Haley to take the lead off Turn 2 on the opening lap of the race and never trailed again, with he and Haley holding the top two positions all the way until a stage-ending caution flag flew coming to the last lap of the stage.
For Sauter, it was his sixth stage win of the season, and he has won all three of the stages contested so far at restrictor-plate race tracks.
Behind the GMS duo of Sauter and Haley, pole winner Christopher Bell crossed the line in third, followed by Stewart Friesen and rookie Myatt Snider.
Matt Crafton, John Hunter Nemechek, Ben Rhodes, Cody Coughlin and Parker Kligerman completed the points-scoring drivers in the top 10 at the first stage break.
Playoff contender Chase Briscoe, who entered Talladega fifth in the standings and 10 points above the cut line, went to the garage on lap eight of the stage after heavy smoke developed behind his No. 29 Cooper Standard Ford F-150.
Briscoe later returned to the race with two to go in the stage, with Roush Yates Engines representatives confirming that the issue was a pinched O-ring in the motor, but that the engine itself was unharmed mechanically.
Those issues for Briscoe were followed by heartbreak for fellow playoff member Kaz Grala, who was hit from behind by Ryan Truex in an accordion-style crash coming into the tri-oval, being turned hard into the outside SAFER Barrier and sustaining race-ending damage as a result.
As a result of the crash, Grala was officially eliminated from contention to advance to the Round of 6, having entered the race below the cut line and being relegated to what will end up as a 29th-place finish.
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 23-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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