Johnny Sauter had a streak of five consecutive top-five NASCAR Camping World Truck Series finishes at Iowa Speedway coming into Saturday night’s American Ethanol 200 presented by Enogen — but his 11th-place in his No. 98 Carolina Nut Co. / Curb Records Toyota might’ve been one of his best on the .875-mile oval.
Sauter suffered a flat tire and hit the wall with the right side of his truck just after halfway, which spoiled a run that was frustrating, because the truck wasn’t handling as well as Sauter had expected, but still had a lot of promise.
Sauter started eighth but worked his way up as high as third in the first 50 laps — before he slid through his pit stall on his opening stop under the race’s first yellow flag and had a 25-second stop on account. Despite dropping back to 13th Sauter raced back to eighth, right behind ThorSport Racing teammate and Truck Series point leader Matt Crafton, before Sauter called on his radio to say he was feeling a vibration in the right front of his truck.
Before Sauter could make it to pit road the tire deflated, and Sauter smacked the outside fence with his truck’s right side. Luckily the caution flew at lap 113 for debris and Sauter was able to make it to pit road, where the crew scrambled to repair his truck — suffering another flat as Sauter came to pit road before they were able to get it into good enough shape to race from almost out of the top 20, to almost into the top 10.
Sauter picked up two positions in the last six laps of the race, as he maintained his enviable record, which he shares with Crafton, of being the only two drivers in the Truck Series’ history at Iowa that have completed every lap raced.
In practice, Sauter and crew chief Joe Shear Jr., who was back at the track for the first time in more than two months after serving a NASCAR-mandated four-race suspension for a technical violation in April at Kansas, had worked on comfort over sheer speed. But Sauter found out his truck, which for the first time was carrying a blue-and-black paint scheme honoring Carolina Nut’s “Sea Salt & Pepper” variety of roasted peanuts, was quick on the long run as well.
But the final adjustment that might have gotten him at least to the upper half of the top-10 never happened when he hit the fence. With his finish Sauter had a streak of five consecutive top-five finishes in the previous Truck races at Iowa come to an end. Crafton, on the other hand, maintained his streak of six consecutive top 10s at Iowa.
“We needed to make up some ground in the championship and we didn’t, because Matt had a decent night (finishing sixth) and we had a problem,” Sauter said. “But it was great to have Joe back on the box and we worked hard to almost get back into the top 10.
“But this one hurts because we really wanted to win to celebrate having Joe back with us, and I think we had a shot to do it.”
With the combination of events in the race, Sauter remained in fifth in the standings, but he lost ground to leader Crafton, who he’s now 52 points behind, and third-place James Buescher, while gaining on second-place Jeb Burton and fourth-place Ty Dillon, who suffered bigger problems than Sauter and finished 22nd and 16th, respectively.
Race winner Timothy Peters, who won his second consecutive victory in a truck at Iowa, moved into eighth in the standings but he’s still 24 points behind Sauter.
The Truck Series is off this weekend before it executes NASCAR’s first national-series dirt race in more than 40 years, on July 24 at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. Sauter and Crafton tested a week ago at Oakshade Raceway in Wauseon, Ohio — west of Toledo and north of Rossburg.