Looking for his second consecutive NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Championship, Johnny Sauter finished the first practice session in first and the final session of the morning in 14th. As trucks took to the track for qualifying, Sauter was fastest in the first round but after the ISM Connect Chevrolet swung loose on his second round lap, he qualified 11th for Friday night’s season finale.
Shortly after the green flag waved, Sauter reported he was fighting the same loose condition he battled in qualifying, but was running comparable lap times to the leaders. Finishing the first stage in the eighth position, he brought his Chevy to pit road for tires, fuel, and air pressure and chassis adjustments under caution. The race returned to green on lap 48 with Sauter immediately getting to work, entering the top five on lap 61. On the last stop of the night under the stage two break, crew chief Joe Shear, Jr., brought his driver to pit road for another round of adjustments for the continuing loose-handling condition.
The handling troubles continued for the No. 21 team as the race progressed, with Sauter sitting in the fourth position with 10 laps to go as fellow Championship contender Christopher Bell ran in third. Needing a caution to close a nearly 10-second gap, Sauter maintained his position within the top-five to earn his 13th top-five finish of the season and 19th top-10.
Sauter earned a runner-up finish in the NCWTS Championship in just his second season with GMS Racing. Headlined by four wins, the 2017 season marked the best season of his career.
“We started the race way too free, the loosest I’ve been in I don’t know how long. We made some good adjustments on the first stop, but it just eventually went away on me and was still way too free. I could never commit to the top, I’d have to drive in the corner shallow. I thought we had a little bit for the 4 toward the end but I just couldn’t touch the throttle on corner exit. We gave it everything we had, but I guess that’s what you get when it comes down to one race like this. I’m proud of everyone’s effort at GMS Racing, we did a good job, we’ve just got a lot of work to do.”
- It was announced Friday morning that Sauter will return to GMS Racing in the No. 21 truck for the 2018 NCWTS season.
GMS Racing PR