Johnny Sauter’s just half of a potent one-two punch for ThorSport Racing at Iowa Speedway this weekend in Saturday night’s American Ethanol 200 presented by Enogen, but the fact is statistically, Sauter’s been the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ best at Iowa in the series’ five-race history at the .875-mile “superspeedway short track.”
Sauter, who with teammate and NCWTS championship leader Matt Crafton are the only drivers to have completed every lap raced at Iowa, is a cut above the rest with five top-five finishes that give him a series-best 3.8 average finish among drivers with multiple starts.
While Crafton is one of five different drivers that has won at Iowa, where five different drivers have won pole positions, Sauter — who’ll run his No. 98 Carolina Nut Co. / Curb Records Toyota this weekend trimmed in blue for the first time this season — has the series-best average start, 5.2 and he’s completed 99 percent of his laps at Iowa while running in the top-15 positions.
“The racetrack at Iowa just suits Johnny, and I kind of like it myself since it’s a lot like what we came up racing on,” said crew chief Joe Shear Jr., who’s been with Sauter for all his Truck Series success at Iowa and who also has a visit to Victory Lane there himself, in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series’ East-West Showdown, in 2008 with former Roush Fenway Racing development driver Brian Ickler.
“We’ve run well at Iowa, but there’s no guarantee of what we’ll see this weekend. But the guys have been working hard as ever, and Johnny might carry some of that momentum from his Late Model race up in Milwaukee.”
Sauter last Tuesday raced his own Super Late Model car in the ARCA Midwest Tour Howie Lettow Memorial 150 at The Milwaukee Mile and finished third behind NASCAR Sprint Cup standout Kyle Busch and his nephew, Travis Sauter.
One of Johnny Sauter’s ThorSport tire changers, Kyle Shear, finished fourth in his first LM race this season, in the companion Big 8 Late Model main event. But, as Sauter noted, whatever he’s done — either at Iowa, earlier this season when Sauter won the first two Truck races of the year or earlier this week on one of his favorite tracks — doesn’t matter when 35 entered trucks unload in Newton, Iowa.
“It’s another race, another racetrack and we’ve got to produce this weekend,” Sauter said. “It’s going to be good to have Joe back at the racetrack with us, because as hard as the guys worked while he was out, it’s gonna be good to have his face back in my window and his voice on the radio.”
Joe Shear missed the last four races — spread over two months — due to a technical violation at Kansas in April. The penalty cost the team 25 points and dropped it from the lead in the championship, based on Sauter’s top-five finishes in the first four events, to where they currently sit, in fifth and 47 points behind Crafton.
“We’re in a position where we need to start making up some of the ground we’ve lost to Matt, who’s been super-consistent,” Sauter said. “Iowa’s a good place for us to gain a few points and start that process in the right direction.”
The Truck Series has two practices on Friday, from 3-4:55 p.m. ET and from 6-8 p.m. Truck Happy Hour is on Saturday from 12:30-2:30 p.m. A Truck Series driver autograph session is scheduled outside the main grandstands from 3:30-4:15 p.m., with all three ThorSport drivers, including first-time ThorSport Truck driver Frank Kimmel, scheduled to participate.
Truck Series’ qualifying is at 6 p.m. ET, with tape-delayed coverage on the SPEED Channel at 7 p.m. American Ethanol 200 coverage begins with The Setup pre-race show at 8 p.m. with the season’s ninth race at 8:30. MRN Radio has live coverage, also beginning at 8.
Pre-race and the race telecast are scheduled to replay on SPEED Friday at 11 p.m. ET.