Johnny Sauter, unlike his ThorSport Racing teammate Matt Crafton, didn't find a lot to find comfort in during four hours of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series practice Friday at Gateway Motorsports Park while driving his No. 98 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff / Curb Records Toyota Tundra.
On Saturday, Sauter hopes to correct the handling deficiencies he experienced Friday to maintain his red-hit record at Gateway, site of the evening's Drivin' For Linemen 200, NASCAR's first national event at the unique, 1.25-mile oval since July 2010 and the 14th Truck Series race here since 1998..
Sauter has a couple Truck Series starts at Gateway and in them, he attained an average start of fourth and an average finish of 2.5. For good measure he has two seventh-place finishes in NASCAR Busch Series races at Gateway.
"I love Gateway, and I always have," Sauter said. "It's the type of racetrack I really enjoy, like a short track but with a lot of speed to it. If we can get our Smokey Mountain Curb Records Tundra working a little bit better we'll have a shot Saturday."
Thursday's opening two-hour practice, held in conditions that will be close to Saturday afternoon's Keystone Light Pole Qualifying session, was a source of puzzlement for Sauter, who struggled to get his Tundra turning positively from the center of the corners off.
Sauter and his crew chief, the veteran Dennis Connor, threw a lot of changes at their green Tundra, with little success. Sauter ended up 17th of the 27 trucks on the sheet, with a best lap in 34.009 seconds, an average speed of 132.318 mph.
In the second two-hour session Sauter's Tundra sat idle early in the practice while the team made a myriad of adjustments. Sauter ended up running 23 laps and ran his best of the day, 33.46 seconds, an average speed of 134.489 mph, on his 12th lap.
"We were just on the splitter too much and it was really hurting our drive up off the corner (and) our ability to turn," Sauter said. "We were throwing shocks and springs and (sway) at it but I think we've got a good direction for Saurday morning."
Sauter ran a couple sets of laps at the end of practice, after making incremental adjustments, that resulted in him lapping within hundreths of a second of his best lap.