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Sauter passes Kyle Busch to win at Martinsville

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(AP Photo/Steve Helber)

By JENNA FRYER

AP Auto Racing Writer

MARTINSVILLE, Va. (AP) Johnny Sauter passed Kyle Busch one lap before the finish to win the Trucks Series race at Martinsville Speedway on Saturday.

Busch had the race wrapped up until a caution with nine laps to go set up one final restart. He had a good start, but Sauter reeled him in and passed Busch right before the white flag.

Sauter then pulled away for his first win of the season, and third in 65 career series starts.

"Somebody finally beat Kyle Busch!" crew chief Joe Shear Jr. yelled after Sauter crossed the finish line.

Sauter took some satisfaction in beating Busch, who settled for second. Busch has five wins this year spanning NASCAR's top three series, including one in the Trucks.

"Even if you are not a NASCAR fan, you know who Kyle Busch is because he wins every week," Sauter said. "It's cool to beat Kyle Busch, I can tell you that."

The win pushed Sauter into the points lead, and he's the first non-Sprint Cup Series driver to win a race this year. Cup drivers had won every event in all three of NASCAR's national series prior to Sauter's victory.

Busch, who led three times for 64 laps, believed he would have won if not for the final caution.

"We had a shot, we just gave it away," he said. "During that last restart, I couldn't turn. If we didn't have that last caution, we probably would have been alright. I hate losing at Martinsville, I'd like to win one here someday."

That's how Sauter felt, too.

Martinsville had never been good to him, even though he'd steadily improved over the years. In the Trucks, his previous career best finish was 16th.

"This win is really big for me and really important to me," Sauter said. "The times I have been here, whether it was Cup or Nationwide or Trucks, just never had nothing to show for it. Now I have something to show for it."

Ron Hornaday Jr. finished third and was followed by Kevin Harvick and Timothy Peters.

Cole Whitt was sixth, Austin Dillon seventh, and Ricky Carmichael, Brendan Gaughan and Max Papis rounded out the top 10.

Tires was the overwhelming discussion post-race, as the Cup drivers fretted over what Sunday's race will bring. The Goodyear tires all weekend have shown excessive wear, and are leaving marbles made of rubber all over the track.

It's a different tire than the one used last year because Goodyear wanted to prevent grating on the left-side tires that often occurs when cars slide from the asphalt racing surface into the concrete corners.

"We had to come in and take camber shims out of it and there still is no right rubber on the race track," Harvick said. "It put all the teams in a box that really isn't necessary. I don't know why we take good tires that we race here for years and change them."

Busch also complained about tire wear and the affect it had on the race.

"You run on the inside, you're running through marbles. You run on the outside in the corners, you run through marbles," Busch said. "There's only one lane you're not running through balls of rubber, and then you just slide into the next corner. As soon as you get to the next corner, you might as well just park it.

"I don't see it getting better at all. Anything could surprise us, but I doubt it."

Asked if NASCAR needed to throw competition cautions, Busch smirked.

"No, we'll just wreck each other," he said. "We'll be the cautions. I don't think we'll have to throw cautions because we're blowing tires. We'll wreck ourselves."

Sauter said he didn't have an issue with the tire because it forced teams to figure out how to manage them, which played to his advantage. Sprint Cup Series director cited that in defending the tire issue heading into Sunday's Cup race.

"The winner is standing in Victory Lane, saying it's the best tire he's ever run on and he loved it," Darby said. "You've got your fourth-place driver who jumps out and says this is just not good."

Harvick didn't expect any other response from NASCAR.

"You can't tell them anything," Harvick said. "They're on their own agenda it seems like. We've got what we've got, and this is what we're going to face tomorrow. We'll deal with it."

Updated April 2, 2011

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