BROOKLYN, Mich. — For a team that wasn’t sure it’d have sponsorship to run the full season, it’s been quite the year for Ben Moffitt and his Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota. That spectacular season continued Saturday as Moffitt stole a win from Johnny Sauter with a last-lap pass coming out of turn four to earn his fifth victory of the season.
“It’s good to have one work out,” Moffitt said. “I wouldn’t say we had the most speed today, but we had a really good-handling truck and that was what was key. We’ve had good trucks all year long.”
Moffitt said it was an extra bonus to get the win over Sauter.
“I already see, unless something weird happens, he’s going to be one of the final four at Homestead,” Moffitt said. “We’re tough competitors, and we don’t like losing to each other. It’s good to come out on top.”
Moffitt has had a knack lately for late-race passes for victories. He said it’s all about being able to perform when necessary.
“I’m a better hunter than hunted,” he said. “It seems to be if the money’s on the line, I can grab that extra gear and get aggressive. You don’t need to lead all of them.”
Sauter inched his way forward all day long, leading to turn four before Moffitt got a run to battle him side-by-side to the line. Sauter took the blame after the race for letting one get away.
“I screwed up,” he said. “There’s no ifs ands or buts about it. I should have run the bottom.
“I still feel like if I could have run the bottom, I don’t know what he could have done,” Sauter said. “I’m pretty pissed at myself for giving up a win.”
Moffitt was asked if Sauter had stayed low, could he have still made the pass.
“I had momentum,” Moffitt said. “I don’t know. That’s a good question. It probably would have been easier for him to slide up and block. I was able to hold it wide open and get a good run down in there, and once I got to his quarter panel, it was kind of the nail in the coffin.”
A second-place finish is still an improvement for Sauter, who has struggled over the past several weeks after his fourth win of the season back at Texas in June. But he said some of that has been by design.
“A lot of people have been questioning where we’re at,” Sauter said. “You’ve got to try some stuff too along the way.”
“I feel like we’ve learned a lot over the last couple weeks,” he added. “It’s definitely been a character building experience.”
Sauter said he has also made mistakes along the way that have contributed to the struggles.
“If anybody’s got anything to clean up, it’s me,” he said. “I promise you I’ll get it cleaned up when it’s time.”
There was no dominant truck during the race, as several had stints at the front of the field as some strategies differed during the event. Noah Gragson and Matt Crafton both led the most laps at 18 apiece. Gragson finished in fourth while Crafton wound up 10th. Sauter and Grant Enfinger both led 16 apiece and Stewart Friesen led 12.
Friesen was one of the stronger trucks all day, but a penalty on the final pitstop forced him to start at the rear. He was only able to battle back to eighth.
In all, there were 16 lead changes among nine drivers.
There were five cautions for 22 laps in the race.