Johnny Sauter, unlike his ThorSport Racing teammate Matt Crafton, didn’t find a lot to find comfort in during four hours of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series practice Friday at Gateway Motorsports Park while driving his No. 98 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff / Curb Records Toyota Tundra.
On Saturday, Sauter hopes to correct the handling deficiencies he experienced Friday to maintain his red-hit record at Gateway, site of the evening’s Drivin’ For Linemen 200, NASCAR’s first national event at the unique, 1.25-mile oval since July 2010 and the 14th Truck Series race here since 1998..
Sauter has a couple Truck Series starts at Gateway and in them, he attained an average start of fourth and an average finish of 2.5. For good measure he has two seventh-place finishes in NASCAR Busch Series races at Gateway.
“I love Gateway, and I always have,” Sauter said. “It’s the type of racetrack I really enjoy, like a short track but with a lot of speed to it. If we can get our Smokey Mountain Curb Records Tundra working a little bit better we’ll have a shot Saturday.”
Thursday’s opening two-hour practice, held in conditions that will be close to Saturday afternoon’s Keystone Light Pole Qualifying session, was a source of puzzlement for Sauter, who struggled to get his Tundra turning positively from the center of the corners off.
Sauter and his crew chief, the veteran Dennis Connor, threw a lot of changes at their green Tundra, with little success. Sauter ended up 17th of the 27 trucks on the sheet, with a best lap in 34.009 seconds, an average speed of 132.318 mph.
In the second two-hour session Sauter’s Tundra sat idle early in the practice while the team made a myriad of adjustments. Sauter ended up running 23 laps and ran his best of the day, 33.46 seconds, an average speed of 134.489 mph, on his 12th lap.
“We were just on the splitter too much and it was really hurting our drive up off the corner (and) our ability to turn,” Sauter said. “We were throwing shocks and springs and (sway) at it but I think we’ve got a good direction for Saurday morning.”
Sauter ran a couple sets of laps at the end of practice, after making incremental adjustments, that resulted in him lapping within hundreths of a second of his best lap.
Saturday’s schedule opens with a 90-minute final practice, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. ET, with no TV scheduled. A one-hour public NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver autograph session — which will include Sauter’s ThorSport Racing teammate, Jeb Burton — is scheduled from 2:15-3:15 p.m., in the infield with access to the public
Then, the Truck Series’ fourth elimination-style, three-session Keystone Light Pole Qualifying event of the season goes green at 5:10 p.m. ET to set the starting lineup of up to 36 trucks. Live coverage is scheduled on FOX Sports 2 and Sauter will be trying to extend his string of making the “pole round” in all three sessions held to date.
Saturday night’s 160-lap, 200-mile main event will be telecast live on FOX Sports 1 at 8:30 p.m. ET, preceded by The Setup pre-race show at 8. The live broadcast on MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio begins with pre-race coverage at 8. Live timing & scoring for the weekend’s events will be at www.nascar.com.
ABOUT SMOKEY MOUNTAIN:
Smokey Mountain is America’s original and best-selling tobacco-free smokeless brand. Appealing to adult smokeless tobacco consumers who are seeking tobacco-free and nicotine-free alternatives, Smokey Mountain is available in long cut and easy-to-use pouches. For more information visit www.SmokeySnuff.com .
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.