Johnny Sauter hasn’t been standing around tapping his foot waiting for Friday night’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series WinStar World Casino 350K at Texas Motor Speedway, but with the history he has there with his No. 98 Carolina Nut Co. / Curb Records Toyota, he could’ve been.
As is the case with several tracks the Truck Series competes at, Sauter has the best average finish at Texas, 6.5 in 10 races, of any driver that’s competed in at least five races there. In his nine TMS starts since joining ThorSport Racing in 2009, Sauter has eight top-seven finishes and two pole positions, including the top starting spot earlier this season, in June, when he finished seventh.
In 2012 Sauter put the exclamation point on exactly how he feels about the bumpy, demanding and high-speed, high-banked 1.5-mile track by winning both Truck Series races, including a one-two finish with his ThorSport teammate Matt Crafton, in June.
A year ago Sauter set the race-record average speed of 154.737 mph when he finished a Texas season sweep. In all, Sauter’s led 224 laps in all his Texas starts, including at least 11 laps led in each of his last six races there.
“Texas is just one of my favorite racetracks, plain and simple,” Sauter said. “Like everywhere we go, you have to have a truck that’s working well — in the case of Texas you really have to have your truck working across the bumps — but once you do you can run it wide-open and it doesn’t get much better than having a truck that’ll do that, lap after lap, at Texas.”
Sauter comes to Texas solidly in the top-five in the standings, after getting there with a top-10 finish at Martinsville that opened a 10-point lead on Miguel Paludo and rookie Ryan Blaney, who are tied for sixth in the standings with three races remaining.
Sauter has eased himself into a spot that will be recognized at the season-ending awards banquet in Miami Beach, Fla., following the Homestead finale by scoring top-10 finishes in his last five races, including three of them with the blue-trimmed Tundra that he’ll use at Texas.
“This truck has just been really consistent and really fast everywhere we’ve used it, lately,” Sauter said of the chassis that’s part of a refurbished fleet of Toyotas that’s been assembled by crew chief Dennis Connor and his team since Connor took over Sauter’s team in August. “We’ve done a good job of continually tuning on our trucks and getting them as good as they need to be when it really matters.
“This weekend in Texas we’re practicing in about the same timeframe that we’ll be racing in, so I anticipate us having a really fast Tundra.”
Sauter will make the 128th Truck Series start of his career, in which he has a better than 54-percent level of top-10 finishes, with 68; when he takes the green flag Friday night in a race that’ll be the first of three consecutive NASCAR tripleheaders in conjunction with the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series.
The Texas Truck Series weekend begins Thursday with a pair of practice sessions, from 6-7 p.m. ET and 7:30-9 p.m. Keystone Light Pole Qualifying to set the starting lineup is scheduled at 3:10 p.m. ET on Friday, with coverage on FOX Sports 1.
Friday’s 147-lap, 220.5-mile WinStar World Casino 350K will be telecast live on FOX Sports 1 at 8:30 p.m. ET, preceded at 8 by The Setup pre-race show. The live broadcast on MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio also begins at 8. Live timing & scoring for the weekend’s events will be at www.nascar.com