Johnny Sauter's hoping his qualifying prowess at Kentucky Speedway, the bumpy, high-speed 1.5-mile oval that's the site of Thursday evening's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series UNOH 225, leads to a better-than-average finish.
Sauter, who drives ThorSport Racing's No. 98 Carolina Nut Co. / Curb Records Toyota, has the best average start among series regulars with more than five Kentucky starts, 6.7, in his six Truck races there -- all for ThorSport.
Sauter did finish sixth in both Kentucky Truck races last season, though he didn't lead a lap in either. But in the three races preceding 2012 he led 50 laps total, so he sincerely hopes his karma is on the upswing.
"It really has been a feast or famine racetrack for me -- I can't explain it," Sauter said. "I really should have won there, twice in a truck. One time we finished second and another time we broke the rear axle on a green-flag pit stop, with 20 (laps) to go, leading the race.
"We lost an engine one time, broke a transmission -- so it's just been one of those places where it's been really good, or really bad."
Sauter broke an engine in his Kentucky Truck Series debut, in 2009 and finished 22nd. He qualified on the pole in 2011, to date his career year in the series, but his truck's transmission broke and he finished 24th.
"You just never know what you're gonna get when you go to Kentucky," Sauter said. "So I just drive it, all-out like I always do and we'll see where it stacks up at the end of the night."
Sauter could especially use another good finish as he tries to march back toward the front of the series' standings. Sauter won the season's first two races and had four consecutive top-five finishes before he was intentionally wrecked at Charlotte.
With crew chief Joe Shear Jr. this week serving the last race of a four-race suspension for a technical infraction at Kansas in April, Sauter's managed to log top-10 finishes in his last two starts and he currently sits fourth in the standings, albeit 45 points behind ThorSport teammate Matt Crafton, the championship leader.
"We've just got to keep doing what we've done, and that's to keep communicating as best we can and making good decisions," Sauter said of working with his co-crew chiefs, 2013 truck chief Jesse Saunders and his former truck chief Dan LeMasters. "We're looking forward to getting through this race and getting things back to normal, getting Joe back at the race track.
"Nothing really changes -- Jesse and Dan and the guys have done a good job. I just need to give as good feedback as I can and keep driving as hard as I can and as long as everybody else does their part it'll all work out."
Sauter's team will have a chance to fine tune their truck in a pair of Thursday practices, from 10:30-11:30 a.m. ET and 12-1:30 p.m. Sauter is scheduled to appear at the Toyota Pit Pass display outside the racetrack, with teammate Brett Moffitt at 3 p.m. Qualifying to set the 36-truck starting lineup is at 5:05 p.m. Thursday.
The season's eighth race will be telecast live on SPEED Channel Thursday at 8 p.m. ET, preceded by The Setup pre-race show at 7:30 p.m. MRN Radio's live broadcast also begins at 7:30.