Track best finish for Sauter at the Tricky Triangle
Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, the 11th stop on the 2014 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) schedule, was not a track Johnny Sauter had circled on his calendar as one of his favorite stops on the circuit. However, following a second-place finish in the Pocono Mountains 150 on Saturday, Sauter may just change his mind. The strong run was not only a track-best finish for the driver of the No. 98 Nextant Aerospace/Curb Records Toyota Tundra, it was a season-best finish for the ThorSport Racing driver.
The Necedah, Wisc. native had mixed results in his four previous starts at Pocono, but a solid qualifying effort placed the No. 98 Tundra sixth on the grid to start the 60-lap race. Early in the event, Sauter radioed to his crew that his Tundra was "really tight on exit" as he started to fade back in the running order. Fortunately, a caution fell on lap 18 for an accident in Turn 2 and crew chief Dennis Connor brought the ThorSport Racing driver to pit road for two tires and multiple chassis adjustments to combat a loose on entry and tight on exit balance. Sauter restarted the event on lap 21 from the ninth position and would hold serve until several of the leaders began making their way down pit road.
In preparation to pit under green, Sauter reported that his Toyota Tundra was "still free on entry and tight in the center, but better than it was before." In order to gain time on the leaders, Connor elected to pit for fuel only on lap 38, allowing the ThorSport team to gain valuable track position under the green flag. Unfortunately, the balance was not to Sauter's liking and the No. 98 machine fell outside the top-12 on the scoreboard.
The turning point in the race came on lap 48 when the second caution of the afternoon came out for an accident in Turn 1.The team discussed the possibility of pitting, but knew they could gain valuable track position if several trucks in front of them pitted and they remained on the track. Although the No. 98 machine was still "really loose on entry and tight off," they remained on the track to restart from the sixth position on lap 52 of 60. The decision to stay out paid off, as Sauter was able to endure two restarts, including a green-white-checkered finish, and bring his No. 98 Nextant Aerospace/Curb Records Toyota home in the runner-up position behind race winner Austin Dillon. The solid run was Sauter's second top-five finish at the "Tricky Triangle" and his fifth top-five finish of the season.
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