Johnny Sauter’s the highest-rated NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver over the past eight years at Kansas Speedway, he loves the greater Kansas City area and he won the 2010 SFP 250.
So it’s no wonder — despite the uncertainty surrounding the Truck Series’ first visit to the track that was repaved last year and re-configured to include “progressive banking,” that Sauter — whose No. 98 Carolina Nut Co. / Curb Records Toyota holds a comfortable lead in the series’ standings thanks to two wins and a fourth-place finish in the season’s first four races — is fired-up to be in chilly Kansas.
“Kansas is one of those places I just like going to, in general,” said Sauter, who leads the Truck Series’ standings by 16 points over Jeb Burton and 20 over his ThorSport teammate, third-place Matt Crafton. “I like that part of the country a lot. I spent a lot of time there when I drove for (sponsor) Yellow Transportation and it’s just a good part of the country… It reminds me a lot of home (in Wisconsin) and we’ve always seemed to run pretty well there, as far as the truck’s concerned — and we’ve won there.
“So it’s just a good racetrack with great fans in that area, as far as I’m concerned.”
Sauter’s statistics at Kansas bear that out. His average start in four races is eighth and his average finish, ninth. His high NASCAR Loop Data driver rating is a series-best 149 and his average rating is a series-best 108.3. Sauter’s average running position in his four career starts is 6.7, which is pretty much why he has two top-five finishes and three top-10s there.
“Handling is always important and ultimately wins every race,” Sauter said. “I keep going back to Michigan and Pocono — two racetracks that were fresh repaves for us last year. We had a really strong truck at Michigan, where we ran in the top three all day and we have the same truck in Kansas — No. 38 — which finished fifth at Kansas in 2011 and we won with it there in 2010.
“It’s always had speed on freshly-paved racetracks and I think that bodes well for us.”
Sauter said he felt the progressive banking had the potential to introduce a second racing groove but he’s looking to a teammate to give him a potential ace in the hole.
“I’m lucky to have Frank Kimmel, my ARCA teammate at ThorSport that’s raced there, last fall,” Sauter said. “We all watched the ARCA and Cup race weekend last fall and it’s fast! So I called Frank on my way home from Rockingham (last Sunday) and I was picking his brain about it. He said it has a lot of grip and more banking than it used to have because of the progressive banking so it’s kind of a whole new deal and I’m hoping that will lead to multiple grooves to race in.
“Typically when they repave a racetrack a lot of times it’s essentially one groove and extremely fast, so (at first) I would anticipate a fast, one-groove racetrack — and track position obviously will be real important.
“But the cool thing is, it was repaved last summer, and it’s essentially sat for eight to 10 months and it’s had a tough winter on it. So I think that helps to try to make it double-file racing. It’s not going to be totally new and from everything I’ve heard it’s going to be super-fast.”
The season’s fourth race gets the green flag at 2 p.m. ET Saturday. Live television begins at 1:30 p.m. with “The Set-up” pre-race show on SPEED Channel, followed by the race broadcast. MRN Radio has live coverage, also beginning at 1:30 p.m.