Crafton, Sauter ready for Talladega draft
Sauter, in particular, knows the way it is at NASCAR's biggest speedways. At Daytona International Speedway in the 2013 season opener, Sauter's No. 98 Carolina Nut Co. / Curb Records Toyota only qualified 25th and actually started last after making adjustments to the truck after qualifying -- but in the end Sauter won.
After Sauter led the 2012 Daytona race coming to the white flag and was second to Parker Kligerman last fall at Talladega -- after working to set the Connecticut youngster up for a last lap pass only to have a caution prematurely end the race -- he knows how these things work.
"Qualifying was pretty uneventful like it always is and the (lack of) speed is not a disappointment to me -- not a big surprise or anything," Sauter said. "For whatever reason, we don't ever seem to qualify well at these speedways, but we race good.
"This is the same truck that won at Daytona and was second here, last fall so it's got to mean something for us. Hopefully, we can translate that into another good run (Saturday)."
Sauter got plenty of drafting work in two hours of practice Friday on the 2.66-mile speedway, from running from the front through the middle and to the back of an eight-truck pack to working in a tandem with Justin Lofton, which almost had a disastrous result when Sauter bumped Lofton in the middle of Turn 3 -- a normal tandem-drafting tactic -- which turned Lofton's truck sideways in the midst of about eight trucks running in a variety of formations but too close together.
Sauter lifted off the throttle and held his line with a bird's eye view of Lofton doing a spectacular job of gathering his truck and moving along. Later, Sauter said practice, in which he ran 31 laps and posted the ninth-best speed, 186.503 mph, gave him plenty of information about who he could work with.
"I think a tandem draft is going to win the race, when it comes down to the last five laps," Sauter said. "So it's going to be who can get connected and execute that the best. I tried to find a couple people I was comfortable with and make it work, but it's tough -- and for some reason Justin and I just got crossed-up and we were lucky to bring that one back alive."
Sauter said the same assets would pay dividends Saturday.
In Saturday's race, which will be telecast live on FOX Sports 1 at 4 p.m. ET, preceded by The Setup pre-race show and broadcast live on MRN Radio and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio with live timing and scoring at www.nascar.com, Crafton will be trying to maintain his 41-point lead in the championship over defending Truck Series champion James Buescher, who will start fourth.
Sauter is trying to get back into the top five in the standings. He's currently eighth, 26 points out of fifth.