Johnny Sauter, driver of the No. 13 Safe Auto/Curb Records/Carrier.com Chevrolet Silverado, came to Charlotte as a self-proclaimed "underdog." In two previous NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts at the famed track, the second-place points leader had fought track conditions and luck for no better than a 12th place finish. Friday night, however, despite a wild ride for 135 laps, leading 13 and scuffling on track with Ron Hornaday - Sauter posted a track-best finish of sixth.
"I knew coming into Charlotte that we had a bone to pick with the track itself, both me and Joe," Sauter said. "Like a few other tracks in the past two years, this one made us scratch our heads trying to see what to fix. It's a famous place for grip issues and being loose, but that's not something I'm afraid of anywhere. We knew we were going to have to scrape and bump this one out, but we've got a fast intermediate program this year so it was going to be a fighting chance. It was great to have my wife Cortney and son Penn there to cheer me on."
Posting second-fastest practice times in both sessions at the one-day show, Sauter qualified in seventh position on the grid. From the beginning of the race, the "scratching and clawing" for position began for all drivers - within the first 31 laps, having only 15 green flag laps. Sauter fought grip issues but incorporated fast pit stops and strategy with his crew chief - leading the race for 13 green flag laps.
After pitting for four tires and fuel while other leaders took fuel-only stops, Sauter pushed back out 14th and made a run up the field to fifth within six laps. With 34 laps to go, the No. 33 of Ron Hornaday pushed down the track and damaged the nose. The team stayed out during the final pit cycle, and Sauter showed impressive wheel skills in powering home in his NCWTS track-best finish in sixth.
"That truck had the front caved in, so I'm proud of where we could bring it home. Joe and I both know we had a top three truck, if not a truck that could take Kyle on there at the end. Hey, it happens, and Hornaday and I had some heated words there after the race - but you'll see we talked it out by the haulers. This is a year that the veterans know what we've got to do to win races. Tonight wasn't my night, but we'll regroup and come back in Kansas. I won there last year, so it's time to get that truck ready to go to try for a repeat."