CHANNELING THE KULWICKI CHAMPIONSHIP? On Halloween week, everybody finds an alter ego. For Johnny Sauter, he arrives in Texas with two thoughts: first, redemption. Second, Alan Kulwicki's spirit sitting on his shoulder for guidance. Tied for third in driver championship points in the NCWTS after a strong top five finish at Martinsville, his underdog status is reminiscent of the 1992 championship run of Kulwicki - a brash perfectionist & fellow Wisconsinite who came from behind to take the title. Sauter has made six appearances in NCWTS at Texas Motor Speedway, five with ThorSport Racing in 2009, 2010 and 2011 - with his best start in pole position in 2009. Sauter knows that aggressive racing, sound pit strategy and Kulwicki-style bravado is what it's going to take to make the run at a track where he's dominated - with top six finishes in four of the last five races and podium visits for two.
NO LIMITS, TEXAS-STYLE...RETURNING TO THE SCENE: Sauter isn't skittish to return to Texas, scene of an unfortunate black flag which ended his Victory Lane run back in April - after leading the last 56 laps of the race. Out of his appearances with ThorSport Racing, statistically Sauter shows Texas as one of his best tracks on the circuit - starting out of the top seven only once, and finishing out of the top six only once due to the penalty. In 2010, both appearances at the fast intermediate track resulted in second-place finishes for the driver.
SHOWING HIS 'WOLFISH' SIDE TO TEAMMATE CRAFTON: Sauter and wife Cortney, along with the Bodine and Kyle Busch families, hosted a Halloween-themed wedding shower Monday for teammate Matt Crafton in his late model shop. The driver, known for a spry sense of humor, got to show his "wolfish" side to Crafton and fiancée Ashley Greer by dressing up as the Big Bad Wolf to wife Cortney's Little Red Riding Hood. Straight from the driver: no comment!
CHASSIS HISTORY: The No. 13 team will utilize chassis No. 039 this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. Considered one of the most successful chassis in the 13 fleet, it showed its speed at Texas in the year's spring race. Its last appearance was in September in Atlanta, where it finished 29th after contact with a competitor and tire woes.
PREVIOUS RACE RECAP: Sauter drove the No. 13 home to a 4th place finish at Martinsville Speedway after starting in the 4th spot for the day. Sauter led 36 laps of 200 and heavily raced in the top four most of the day. The top five finish, tenth of his 2011 season, also preserved his championship points position - but tied him at third with Ron Hornaday going into Texas.
THOUGHTS FROM THE DRIVER: Johnny Sauter
So what's with the 'Kulwicki Path to glory?'
"I'm going to use the Alan Kulwicki approach to his championship run in '92. No one even considered him to have a chance but by the end of the day, he was champion. You can't listen to everybody and what they say. We just have to keep racing hard. Probably some things are going to have to happen, but you never know what will happen. That's what makes racing so great. I wouldn't want it to be a situation where somebody's ahead by 30. That's just not interesting."
So do you think it's going to come down to Homestead, based on that answer?
"I sure hope so. That's what I've been saying all year - that you can't focus on the points, and it's going to come down to the last race. It's been a hairy year for a lot of us. So I'm planning on the championship being decided just like Kulwicki's run - right there at the final race, lots of action. We've had top 10 finishes for the last few races and just had a little trouble in the pits last year. That's how I want to win and how I'd want anyone to win, you've got to earn this."
So you're liking the underdog status going back into Texas?
"That's fine with me. Most people who know me, know I don't really want the attention. We've just got to get out there, lead laps, fly under the radar and execute and do our thing. Everyone is focused on Hornaday and Dillon right now, and that's okay, they've both had great performances lately. To pull this off would be amazing and probably the biggest moment of my career - I can't even imagine what it would be like. It would mean so much to all of the Sauter family, Wisconsin and North Carolina. A lot of validation there for years of racing."
What would a win mean to you in Texas?
"It would mean a lot to my grandma! She's 92 and lives not too far from the racetrack, and I always stay with her when I come to Texas. I spend as much time as I can with her. She'd be over the moon if I won - she was when I almost did it last year, and back in April. It would just be really special."
Thorsport Racing PR