NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Johnny Sauter, driver of the No. 13 Safe Auto/Curb Records Chevy Silverado for ThorSport Racing, brought home a ninth place finish this past Saturday night. The Necedah, Wisc. Native & veteran driver fought track conditions, truck conditions, record cautions and a track long-known for "biting" drivers over the course of 147 laps to earn his top 10 - and not a Darlington stripe. The finish delivers ThorSport Racing its second top 10 of the season for the No. 13 team and keeps Sauter in championship contention at fifth highest in driver points so far.
"I felt like we really earned that fourth place finish in Phoenix, but man, this ninth place finish was a hard-won battle with the whole night," said Sauter. "I like this track a lot. We had a fast Safe Auto/Curb Records Chevy and felt like we really dialed it in during that second practice, but we fought all night."
Known for his renegade driving style as well as his knowledge under the hood, Sauter showed he was the man with "bite" rather than bark from practice to qualifying to race night in the one-day show. Running in the top seven in both practices (and top 3 in final practice), Sauter started the race in third position with a qualifying lap time of 28.437 - less than one tenth out of pole range.
Running third through the first caution of a record 11 for the night, Sauter battled not only a legendary track and his fellow competitors, but a truck moving tight to loose. Early on, he communicated with crew chief Joe Shear, Jr that "in one and two I'm all over it. Just working on the straightaways." He went on to run in the top ten while navigating cautions, splitter challenges and track debris on the windshield for forty laps.
After an unavoidable connection with another competitor and taking two tires under caution with 30 laps to go, he radioed in to the team that he was "loose and tight. Loose and tight, guys. I just can't seem to figure out what this is. We've just got to fight here to keep position," with frustration. Not only did he keep position, he proved his driving prowess by pushing up the field from 16th at lap 122 to ninth at the checkers - powering down seven positions at the 1.36-mile egg-shaped oval in just 25 laps and through a caution period at lap 139.
"We had a fast Chevy Silverado from the get go, and we know we had a better finish in us than ninth for the night," Sauter continued. "It is what it is, we're still looking into what was off - the guys are tearing into the truck right now as we speak. Literally, it's not an off day on Sunday, and they work around the clock to be the best and I appreciate that. We got our top ten, but we wanted a win against that 18 truck. We had it in us. We had two fast practices and a fast qualifying, so I was looking forward to showing what we could do at Darlington. That win was in the crosshairs, but like I said, it was a fight to the finish to get us home where we did. That's racing, when you've got to earn it like that. We'll get back to the shop, figure it out and go short track racing at Martinsville in a few weeks. We will keep racing to win."