A grinding mid-race wreck in Friday night’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ SFP 250 at Kansas Speedway prevented Johnny Sauter from taking sole position of the series lead that he came to the Midwest tied for with his No. 98 Nextant Aerospace / Curb Records Toyota Tundra.
Crew chief Dennis Connor and his men made a dogged attempt to repair Sauter’s mangled Tundra, which went to the garage area on the leader’s 87th lap. But the damage and race-time remaining to fix it forced the team to withdraw, relegating Sauter to 21st at the finish.
“Thanks to the guys,” Sauter said after a long stretch sitting in his Tundra’s cockpit as work swirled around him. “They never quit hammering on this Nextant/Curb Tundra, but we just ran out of time.”
It was a massively disappointing outcome for a weekend that had started so positively. In two practice sessions Sauter and Connor concentrated on race runs rather than sheer speed in the draft. Toyota’s timing system showed Sauter’s Tundra was one of the most consistently fast trucks based on average lap times.
Sauter’s was the best of three ThorSport Racing Toyotas earlier Friday afternoon in the season’s first “knockout” qualifying session after scheduled sessions at Daytona and Martinsville were rained-out. Sauter lined-up third in the 31-truck field as a result.
As the 167-lap race opened Sauter never fell below seventh in the running order, including the first pit stop of the night. But on the second stop, Sauter immediately felt a loose lug nut and had to return to pit road to correct it under the race’s seventh caution, at lap 78.
That knocked him back to 15th for the subsequent restart and when front-runner Ryan Blaney spun in Turn 2 and came to a stop sideways in the groove, a melee broke out behind the spin.
“Our Tundra was the best it had been all night, at that point,” Sauter said. “But that’s what happens when you don’t tighten your lug nuts — you’re back there running where you don’t need to be and don’t want to be.
“I don’t really know what happened (in the accident with Blaney). We were three-wide, and I think another truck ran into me in the back and sent me from the bottom of the racetrack to the top. When I got there Ryan was sideways and stopped and there just wasn’t enough room between him and the wall.”
Connor’s assessment was even blunter.
“That was self-inflicted and you just can’t have that,” Connor said. “But I’m proud of the way the team rebounded and tried to fix our Tundra — as well as how well they worked to get to that point in the race.”
A year ago Sauter came to Kansas in sole possession of the series lead but after a fourth-place finish behind race-winning ThorSport teammate Matt Crafton a rough stretch of the season ensued that knocked Sauter out of championship contention.
Connor rejoined ThorSport as Sauter’s crew chief and they engineered a seven-race top-10 finishing string — including Sauter’s third win of the season — that got them back into fourth in the championship by season’s end.
After Friday night’s setback Sauter fell to fifth in the championship, 15 points behind series leader Matt Crafton, who for the second consecutive season took the points lead after Kansas.
On the positive side the Truck Series’ next race is on May 16, a second consecutive night race, on the similar 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway. The team tested there several weeks ago but that truck was wiped-out Friday night.
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.