By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
MARTINSVILLE, VA – Although Johnny Sauter is not competing full-time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, the shift to a part-time schedule has allowed him to have more fun competing.
Persistent mist and rain washed out practice and qualifying for the Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 200 at Martinsville Speedway. That forced Sauter to rely on his past champion’s provisional to make the field for the second time this season. However, it allowed the 43-year-old to make a charge through the field.
Sauter didn’t break into the top-10 until the second Stage. The No. 13 Protect The Harvest Toyota Tundra TRD Pro lined up second with just under 100 laps to go, choosing the outside lane. Despite another three cautions, the ThorSport Racing driver held off charges from teammates Ben Rhodes, Christian Eckes, and two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch. Ultimately, a call for an adjustment on an early pit stop left Sauter too tight in the closing laps. He took the checkered flag in second.
“This is our first in-house chassis, in-house body, that we completed, come out here and it finishes second,” explained Sauter. “I called for an adjustment early in the race to just tighten it up a little bit and at the end it just was too much. Hats off to Junior Joiner and all the guys at ThorSport. It’s fun, this is the way it’s supposed to be. That’s what this whole deal was about, just to try and go for wins.”
The second-place finish was a welcome change of pace for the Necedah, WI native. Winless the past two seasons, Sauter’s performance had trailed off. By taking a step back for the 2022, he is now picking and choosing where and when he competes. That allows Sauter to choose tracks he excels at, and ultimately races he’ll have fun competing in.
Of those tracks, Martinsville is one of them. Sauter has four victories at the track nicknamed ‘The Paperclip.’ A run through the field, contact with Hailie Deegan, and a wayward adjustment just added to the fun for the NASCAR veteran.
“There’s no question the last couple years haven’t been up to standards, shall we say so?” reflected Sauter. “It’s cool to take a step back and get reinvigorated and to have fun. That’s what this is all about. To come here and get no practice and you obviously start shotgun on the field and end up second, that’s a solid day. The group of guys that are working on this truck, I know what they’re capable of and seconds just not good enough.”
Sauter’s schedule with ThorSport is fluid. The plan likely includes up to of eight races, though more, or less, are possible. For now, Sauter simply plans to continue having fun in the Truck Series.
Featured Photo Credit: Photo by NKP / NKP Photo.