Crafton, Sauter still seeking CTMP speed
Sauter ran a total of 26 laps in his No. 98 Carolina Nut Co. / Curb Records Toyota and ended up 18th on the first practice sheet, 10th on the second and 10th overall -- which is critical because the overall compilation of the four practices scheduled between Friday and Saturday will determine the session drivers enter in Coors Light Pole Qualifying on Saturday.
"There's no substitute for track time and the more comfortable we get the truck and the more comfortable we get the driver the better off we're going to be," Sauter said in the CTMP paddock, which serves as an open-air 'garage area.' "We've got more learning to do, but we made great progress on it (Friday) and we made some good adjustments and got the truck faster virtually every time we went on the racetrack."
Indeed, Sauter turned his fastest lap of the day, in 83.014 seconds, an average speed of 106.637 mph around the up and downhill 2.459-mile road course, on his next-to-last lap in the closing moments of practice.
Crafton ran a total of 17 laps and was 11th in the first session, 16th in the second and 16th overall. Crafton ran his best lap, in 83.582 seconds, an average speed of 105.683 mph, on his eighth of 12 laps turned in the final practice.
"This is all about speed and we need to find more of it," Crafton said after final practice. "We've been battling a push in our truck. We need to get it to turn better without sacrificing forward drive off the corners."
Road racer Mike Skeen, a Virginian living in Charlotte, N.C., who won both Pirelli World Challenge races last season at CTMP, was fastest in both Friday sessions with a best lap in 81.449 seconds, an average speed of 108.686 mph, in the No. 6 Chevrolet.
Both Sauter and Crafton tested NASCAR Canadian Tire Series stock cars earlier this month at CTMP and Sauter said everything he experienced Friday was exactly what he expected at the high-speed, variable-elevation road course.
"The two vehicles are very different," Sauter said, grinning. "The truck is much more throttle-on, so it's considerably faster and it has better brakes. So far we've figured out we need to get more front-end response without hurting the transition off the corners.
"The biggest positive about the test was that I was extremely comfortable with the track, where I needed to be on it and where it was going right from the start of the day."
This weekend is the first Truck Series road race since 2000, at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. None of the drivers entered this weekend competed in that race, but Ron Fellows, a co-owner of CTMP, finished third in that event at the track where he won five NASCAR races, two in the Truck Series and three in the Busch Series.
On Saturday, two practices are scheduled, from 9:30-10:30 a.m. ET and 12-1 p.m. A public driver autograph session, in which both Sauter and Crafton are scheduled to participate, is scheduled from 1:45-2:45 p.m. in the infield. Coors Light Pole Qualifying is at 5:05 p.m.
Chevrolet Silverado 250 TV coverage on FOX Sports 1 begins at 1 p.m. Sunday with The Setup pre-race show. The green flag, which will also be covered on MRN Radio, with live timing and scoring on NASCAR.com, is set for 1:30 p.m.
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