Sauter grabs 2nd Texas pole; Crafton, Bodine strong

Johnny Sauter's Thursday night pole for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series' WinStar World Casino 400 at Texas Motor Speedway surprised him, but with the Wisconsin native's record at the wide-open track it shouldn't have.


Since he made his Texas debut for ThorSport Racing with the pole for this race in 2009, Sauter's TMS record has been outstanding. He'll roll to the green Friday night attempting to win his third straight Texas Truck Series start and improve his average finishing position of 5.8 in the eight races since his ThorSport debut.


His fifth career Truck pole, Thursday night in the No. 98 Carolina Nut Co. / Curb Records Toyota Tundra, already improved his Texas starting average to 8.2. There's no question Sauter loves Texas -- and not just for its cool racetrack


"I love coming here (and) I joke about this all the time -- I don't know if I'm more excited to come here and get on the racetrack or to go to downtown Dallas and eat my grandma's chicken and dumplings," Sauter said Thursday. "This has been a great racetrack for us -- just a good racetrack. We seem to always have speed here and I'll be quite honest with you, (Thursday's) pole run was a shock to me.


"Our truck was pretty comfortable in race trim, but I just didn't know we had the speed in qualifying trim because we elected not to make a mock qualifying run in practice -- just didn't think it was necessary, I guess (because) we were really focused on trying to make it race well. I'm proud of everybody on the Carolina Nut / Curb Records Toyota. The guys did a great job and this is a shot in the arm for sure."


Sauter's precision enabled co-crew chiefs Jesse Saunders and Dan LeMasters to earn their first poles in that role, with crew chief Joe Shear Jr. still serving a four-race suspension. Sauter's relishing Texas, where he was second to rookie Jeb Burton in practice Thursday, even without his main man Shear at the track.


"For whatever reason, I've always liked Texas (Motor Speedway)," Sauter said. "We won both races here last year with kind of two different setups and we're here again with kind of a different setup.


"You constantly have to be changing things and evolving and working on setups and things like that. I really think a driver's mentality going into a weekend has a lot to do with the success they have. Who knows -- anybody can win any given race, that's the way I always look at it, so you just have to put your best effort forth."


It's lining up as a stellar evening for ThorSport. Truck Series' championship leader Matt Crafton will start his 25th Texas Truck race eighth in his No. 88 Goof Off / Menards Tundra. Crafton was fifth-best in practice and hopes that's a sign he'll be a contender from the start Friday night.


"We definitely have short-run speed, but long-run speed we are definitely missing that a little bit," Crafton said. "We practice during the day and race during the night here, so you can only judge so much of how your truck is, during the day. We just have to look back on our notes to see how much this track does change (because) it always does change dramatically at night.


"It's always interesting to see how much this place has changed each and every year. Grip keeps going away. I would say it's starting to get like Atlanta and that one's of my favorite racetracks, without a doubt."


More than anything, Crafton's relishing starting closer to the front after he scored come-from-behind top-five finishes at Martinsville and Charlotte topped by a win at Kansas under similar circumstances.


"This year, we've been dotting our 'I's', crossing our 'T's' and keeping our fingers crossed and luck on our side," Crafton said. "I have a great crew chief, 'Junior' Joiner -- we believe so much in each other. We've always been able to fine-tune this truck and it's been really good.


"It's just all about the people. You're only as good as the people you work around and I have an awesome, awesome group of guys right now."


Todd Bodine "loved" his No. 13 SealMaster Tundra on Thursday in a single rain-delayed, then interrupted practice. He went from the top of the sheet to ending up 12th in the end in a truck being tended at the track for the first time by crew chief Jason Miller, but fell to 22nd in qualifying.


But Bodine has a series-best six career victories at Texas and he appears to have a weapon to challenge for a seventh.


The season's seventh race, the WinStar World Casino 400, takes the green flag just after 9 p.m. ET with live TV on SPEED Channel, preceded by The Setup pre-race show. MRN Radio has the live broadcast, also beginning at 8:30.


Thorsport PR

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Steven B. Wilson

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