Who is John King?
That was the question everyone was asking at the end of Friday’s Next Era Energy 250 as the Tennessee native drove the #7 to Victory Lane for Red Horse Racing. It was understandable no one knew him – it was only King’s third career win, the other two coming in dirt late model and late model stock. But the rookie driver clinched the victory on a green-white-checkered finish in just his 7th truck start. He was certainly the winner no one saw coming.
Johnny Sauter, the driver of the #13 car, did not see it coming either. He had the lead coming into Lap 106 when King hit him from behind.
“I flat out wrecked him,” King said over the radio, his car taking the lead position after Sauter’s crash prompted the second green-white-checkered of the night. He held that lead through a third GWC and was locked in as the winner in a caution flag finish.
Rookie King was sure to apologize post-race to Sauter. “I shouldn’t have been there,” he said. “I am so inexperienced. I closed up real fast in the tri-oval… I couldn’t get off him.”
The driver of the #22 Joey Coulter was also caught up in the final carnage of the night, flying into the catch fence on the final overtime and sending the race into a caution flag finish. Coulter did not seem to have any hard feelings, tweeting, “Well that’s what I call a wild ride! Just so you know, I’m okay, no pain anywhere. Thanks for watching tonight.”
It was a miracle all the drivers came out okay after the melee that was the Camping World Truck race. They used up all three tries at green-white-checkered finishes, finally finishing the race under caution. Miguel Paludo, the pole sitter, was quick to thank NASCAR’s safety efforts and the SAFER barriers for saving his life in an intense high impact white flag crash a la Danica Patrick out of turn 4. It was a frustrating finish for the Brazilian as he had held the top spot for the majority of the race until taking the hit, but he was at least able to finish unhurt and having led more laps in the race than in his entire 29 starts combined.
As for King, he will go in history as the winner who went from a nobody to a champion NASCAR’s most prestigious track. No doubt a great start to the season for the rookie.