Sauter drawing on positive Texas experiences this Friday

Johnny Sauter doesn't have to withdraw much from his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series memory bank to ensure a positive aura around his No. 98 Nextant Aerospace / Curb Records Toyota Tundra in Friday evening's 18th annual WinStar World Casino & Resort 400 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Sauter is the defending Keystone Light Pole Award winner at the bumpy, fast 1.5-mile oval. In 2012 Sauter swept both the summer and fall events. So it's not hard to get a fix on his mindset when it comes to Texas. 

"ThorSport as an organization has always ran well there -- we had the sweep in 2012, then won the pole and I finished second there in the fall," Sauter said. "That was when Dennis (Connor, crew chief) and the team helped us put together seven straight top-10 finishes that pretty much locked us into the top five in the standings.

"We always run super-strong (at Texas), and for whatever reason, I wish it would correlate over to some of the other mile-and-a-halfs that we run on, for myself, but it doesn't. It's just a cool racetrack with a lot of throttle-on time, like we experienced last weekend at Dover."

The Truck Series has been in a spate of races in which long, green-flag runs have been interspersed with shorter, caution-plagued bursts. Sauter's hoping his expertise at Texas will help him come to the front whatever the circumstances.

"Handling is a pretty big  premium at a place like Texas -- especially deep into a run," Sauter said. "You've got those big bumps over the tunnel, between Turns 1 and 2 right in the middle, where you see the trucks really bouncing around over them.

"That's one of those places where I feel like I've got a pretty good sense of what I need, not necessarily on sticker tires but deep into a run and for whatever reason it's paid off for us."

Indeed, Sauter and ThorSport Racing teammate Matt Crafton finished one-two at Texas in June 2012 -- one of three one-two finishes ThorSport's achieved in its 19-year NCWTS career. All of them have been with Sauter leading Crafton, and all of them occurred on 1.5-mile tracks.

That being the case as he said, Sauter wishes his Texas success would spread around a bit to some of the circuit's other 1.5s, but it's not that simple, the Wisconsin native explained.

"People ask me about that all the time -- they say they don't understand, 'isn't a mile-and-a-half just another mile-and-a-half?'" Sauter said. "Charlotte, to me is a place all to itself -- the two ends are completely different. In Texas, I don't really know what sets it apart, but there are two tricky spots there.

"The tunnel turn with the big bump puts a big emphasis on making your truck be able to drive over those bumps being on the throttle, which is easier said than done. And the entrance to Turn 3 -- the thing that throws people for a loop is it's a flatter corner and you tend to get loose getting into that turn and that throws a curve at the guys because there's a lot of racetracks that just aren't that way.

"Even though they all look the same there are so many different characteristics and I think that's why you see so many different guys winning these races all the time. Whoever gets the setup right is the guy and fortunately that makes for some good racing."

Given his history, that's a good thing for Sauter -- and Crafton, for that matter.

"It would be pretty cool to have a good run (at Texas), now that we've got a three-way battle for the (point) lead with Timothy (Peters) up there leading," Sauter said of he and Crafton being tied in second, one point behind. "Whoever comes out of Texas with the best finish is probably going to be leading the points, so we need to go to Texas and capitalize."
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Steven B. Wilson

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