Handling hinders Texas pole winner Sauter
Johnny Sauter's second career Texas Motor Speedway NASCAR Camping World Truck Series pole position was little consolation when Sauter failed to win his third consecutive WinStar World Casino 400 Friday night, finishing seventh when his No. 98 Carolina Nut Co. / Curb Records Toyota's set-up didn't match what the track needed.
Sauter swept both 2012 Truck Series races at Texas and was in a similar position to earlier this season, when he won the first two races and had a chance to make NASCAR history by winning the first three events of a national series' schedule. At Texas, however, Brendan Gaughan has the most significant Truck Series winning streak, going to Victory Lane for four consecutive races in 2002-2003.
Sauter's pole lowered his average start in the eight Truck Series races he's run at Texas since joining ThorSport Racing in 2009 to 8.2, including the pole for his June 2009 team debut. But Sauter failed to capitalize on it despite his 5.8 average finish in his seven previous Texas starts for ThorSport.
Sauter battled a truck that was alternately loose and tight and, even though he led the race's first 11 laps from the pole to gain his 2013 series-leading 10th bonus point and never fell out of the top 10 in the running order, Sauter was frustrated in the end not to be able to mount an attack in the race's second half that was dominated by youngsters Jeb Burton and Ty Dillon, who finished one-two.
Sauter lost several spots on his first pit stop, under the race's first caution, which put him in position to make a narrow escape when Joey Coulter crashed in Turn 3 on lap 53 while running right outside Sauter's truck's right-rear quarter panel.
Unfortunately, getting back in traffic heightened the effect of Sauter's truck's handling shortcomings and he was never able to recover.
Despite that Sauter scored his sixth top-10 finish in seven races this season, which is second-best in the series to his ThorSport Racing teammate, point leader Matt Crafton. Sauter had four consecutive top-five finishes this season before he was intentionally wrecked at Charlotte by James Buescher.
With his seventh-place finish, Sauter remained in fourth in the Truck Series' championship standings, 10 points behind third-place Brendan Gaughan. But Sauter dropped two more points behind Crafton, who finished fourth at Texas and is now 45 points ahead of him.
Sauter and his crew now have one more race remaining -- at Kentucky Speedway on Thursday, June 27 -- before crew chief Joe Shear Jr. can return in July from a four-race suspension incurred for a technical violation at Kansas Speedway in April.
Shear will be able to work with the team this week at a two-day test at Kentucky.