Johnny Sauter doesn’t have to withdraw much from his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series memory bank to ensure a positive aura around his No. 98 Nextant Aerospace / Curb Records Toyota Tundra in Friday evening’s 18th annual WinStar World Casino & Resort 400 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Sauter is the defending Keystone Light Pole Award winner at the bumpy, fast 1.5-mile oval. In 2012 Sauter swept both the summer and fall events. So it’s not hard to get a fix on his mindset when it comes to Texas.
“ThorSport as an organization has always ran well there — we had the sweep in 2012, then won the pole and I finished second there in the fall,” Sauter said. “That was when Dennis (Connor, crew chief) and the team helped us put together seven straight top-10 finishes that pretty much locked us into the top five in the standings.
“We always run super-strong (at Texas), and for whatever reason, I wish it would correlate over to some of the other mile-and-a-halfs that we run on, for myself, but it doesn’t. It’s just a cool racetrack with a lot of throttle-on time, like we experienced last weekend at Dover.”
The Truck Series has been in a spate of races in which long, green-flag runs have been interspersed with shorter, caution-plagued bursts. Sauter’s hoping his expertise at Texas will help him come to the front whatever the circumstances.
“Handling is a pretty big premium at a place like Texas — especially deep into a run,” Sauter said. “You’ve got those big bumps over the tunnel, between Turns 1 and 2 right in the middle, where you see the trucks really bouncing around over them.
“That’s one of those places where I feel like I’ve got a pretty good sense of what I need, not necessarily on sticker tires but deep into a run and for whatever reason it’s paid off for us.”
Indeed, Sauter and ThorSport Racing teammate Matt Crafton finished one-two at Texas in June 2012 — one of three one-two finishes ThorSport’s achieved in its 19-year NCWTS career. All of them have been with Sauter leading Crafton, and all of them occurred on 1.5-mile tracks.
That being the case as he said, Sauter wishes his Texas success would spread around a bit to some of the circuit’s other 1.5s, but it’s not that simple, the Wisconsin native explained.
“People ask me about that all the time — they say they don’t understand, ‘isn’t a mile-and-a-half just another mile-and-a-half?'” Sauter said. “Charlotte, to me is a place all to itself — the two ends are completely different. In Texas, I don’t really know what sets it apart, but there are two tricky spots there.
“The tunnel turn with the big bump puts a big emphasis on making your truck be able to drive over those bumps being on the throttle, which is easier said than done. And the entrance to Turn 3 — the thing that throws people for a loop is it’s a flatter corner and you tend to get loose getting into that turn and that throws a curve at the guys because there’s a lot of racetracks that just aren’t that way.
“Even though they all look the same there are so many different characteristics and I think that’s why you see so many different guys winning these races all the time. Whoever gets the setup right is the guy and fortunately that makes for some good racing.”
Given his history, that’s a good thing for Sauter — and Crafton, for that matter.
“It would be pretty cool to have a good run (at Texas), now that we’ve got a three-way battle for the (point) lead with Timothy (Peters) up there leading,” Sauter said of he and Crafton being tied in second, one point behind. “Whoever comes out of Texas with the best finish is probably going to be leading the points, so we need to go to Texas and capitalize.”
The Texas weekend begins Thursday afternoon with opening inspection followed by 150 minutes of Truck Series practice. A one-hour practice from 6-7 p.m. ET is scheduled to be followed by final practice from 7:30-9 p.m. There is no TV coverage scheduled for practice.
Friday’s schedule includes the Truck Series’ third elimination-style, three-session Keystone Light Pole Qualifying event of the season, at 5:10 p.m. ET to set the up-to-36-truck starting lineup of up to 36 trucks. There is no TV coverage schedule.
Friday night’s 167-lap, 250.5-mile main event will be telecast live on FOX Sports 1 at 9 p.m. ET, preceded by The Setup pre-race show at 8:30. The live broadcast on MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio begins with pre-race coverage at 8:30. Live timing & scoring for the weekend’s events will be at www.nascar.com.
ABOUT NEXTANT AEROSPACE:
Nextant Aerospace is recognized as the first company in the world to introduce aircraft remanufacturing to the business jet market. The Nextant 400XTi is a completely-rebuilt Beechjet 400A/XP with Williams FJ44-3AP engines and the Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21™ integrated avionics suite. The new aircraft also has major aerodynamic enhancements and an improved engine mounting configuration with redesigned nacelles and pylons. The 400XTi is delivered with a two-year full-aircraft warranty and after-sales support provided by a global network of owned and authorized service centers. Founded in 2007, Nextant is based in Cleveland, Ohio. Nextant is a Directional Aviation Capital company. For more information, please visit, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @NextantAero or join us on LinkedIn.
ABOUT CURB RECORDS:
Curb Records is one of the world’s leading independent music companies. Owned and operated by Mike Curb since 1962, Curb Records has achieved 375 Billboard number one records, nearly 1,200 Billboard Top Ten records and charted just under 4,000 Billboard records. Today’s roster includes some of the top names in Country, Christian and Pop/Rock music. Curb Records was honored as Billboard Magazine’s 2001 Country Music Label of the Year and Radio & Records Magazine’s 2005 Overall Gold Label of the Year. For more information visit www.curb.com.
ABOUT THORSPORT RACING:
ThorSport Racing, based in a state-of-the-art 100,000-square-foot facility in Sandusky, Ohio, is the longest-tenured NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team. ThorSport, which has run in the Truck Series since 1996, in 2014 will run the No. 88 Menards Toyota Tundra driven by 2013 drivers’ champion Matt Crafton, the No. 98 Nextant Aerospace/Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff/Carolina Nut Co./Curb Records Toyota Tundra driven by Johnny Sauter and the No. 13 Carolina Nut Co. Toyota Tundra driven by Jeb Burton in the Truck Series and the No. 13 Toyota Camry in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards.