Sauter, who had passed Hornaday for the lead with a powerful run through Turn 4 on Lap 130, was penalized for moving from the outside lane to in front of Hornaday before crossing the start/finish line on a green-white-checkered restart on Lap 167. The race went 168 laps, one beyond its scheduled distance.
“Good way to steal one,” Hornaday said. “I think we had a third- or a fifth-place truck, but it worked out for us. On that restart, he was the leader, but he kind of blocked, basically.”
Asked at what point he realized Sauter had broken the restart rule, Hornaday said, “Soon as the green dropped he turned in my lane, and I was yelling, ‘He’s in my lane!’ At that time we had a second-place truck, but it was a (good) call. I spun my tires, he spun his tires, and his spotter must have said, ‘Clear.’ ”
The black flag call was made by series director Wayne Auton, who Hornaday said specifically addressed the issue during Friday’s driver’s meeting.
“He said, ‘This is your last warning.’ I think he said it three times,” Hornaday said. “ ‘You go into another guy’s lane, better give it back before you get to Turn 1.’ Sticky call. But you can’t change lanes until you pass the start/finish line. And I hate that rule.”
Sauter, the series points leader, was scored 22nd, the last vehicle on the lead lap.
“He’s got a lane to race down there,” Sauter said as he walked to his hauler. “We both spun the tires.”
Asked if he would confront NASCAR officials over the decision, Sauter said, “It’s official, isn’t it?”
Hornaday, a four-time series champion, earned his 48th career victory and first of the season. It was his third victory on Texas’ 1.5-mile quadoval. Parker Kligerman finished second for his third top 10 of the season. He is the second-highest rookie, eighth in the standings.
David Mayhew’s third-place run easily eclipsed his previous best series finish of 14th. Brian Ickler and rookie Joey Coulter rounded out the top five.
Contact between Austin Dillon and Matt Crafton—fourth and fifth in the point standings, respectively—ended Crafton’s night after a grinding crash into the outside and infield retaining walls on Lap 90. The two were entering the quadoval off Turn 4 when Dillon hooked the right rear quarter panel of Crafton’s truck and sent it spinning.
Crafton exited uninjured, but rather than head for the ambulance, he proceeded to walk toward Turn 4 to “confront” Dillon as he cycled around. Crafton raised his arms in a “What were you thinking?” pose as Dillon drove past. After reviewing the replay, Crafton was considerably cooler.
“I was a little bit loose and trying to get out of the throttle and turn back to the left,” Crafton said. “But when you get hooked in the rear on the front straight, that’s a tough way to go out at Texas Motor Speedway.”
Earlier, Todd Bodine saw his shot at a seventh victory at Texas end via contact and a crash with David Starr. Their crash on Lap 68 in Turn 2 was the second of the night involving Bodine, who was caught up in another Turn 2 incident with Ickler on Lap 52. Bodine won this event in 2009 and 2010.