News & Media

From the notebook: Sauter on top of the world

April 07, 2011, Dave Rodman,

Win, new baby daughter cap off outstanding week; Raines locked in for Texas

Last weekend might have been the best -- both from the standpoint of racing and life in general -- for Camping World Truck Series championship leader Johnny Sauter.

"I'm pretty high on life right now -- honestly, it can't get any better," Sauter said through a rolling laugh on Tuesday morning. "To go to a place like Martinsville and to be able to win there and get a grandfather clock means a lot to me, because I love short track racing.

"And to know before the weekend -- the racing part of it -- that I was going to have a baby girl on Monday ... And then to have her delivered and know that she's healthy and everything's good -- it just can't get much better, for me."

Sauter's and wife Cortney's daughter, Paige Gertrude, joins older brother Penn. The icing on the cake last weekend for Sauter came in a variety of flavors -- in that he beat three of the Truck Series' best: Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and four-time champion Ron Hornaday. The fact Sauter vaulted over ThorSport Racing teammate Matt Crafton into the lead in the standings, albeit by a narrow five-point margin, only amplified his good feelings.

"Obviously I've been going there for a couple years with ThorSport, now, and the record book doesn't indicate how good we've run, as far as being fast and competitive. So to go there and win [where I won, how I won and who I beat] were all pretty huge. Kyle's winning 50 percent of all the races he's in."

And Sauter and his team manager and spotter, David Pepper, agree it could be just the start of much better things for the team based in the unlikely-for-NASCAR locale of Sandusky, Ohio. Crafton finished 11th at Martinsville, which broke a 19-race streak of top-10 finishes.

"If 11th is a bad race, I think we can accept that pretty easily," Pepper said of his organization's rip-roaring start. Last year, ThorSport's two trucks finished third [Sauter] and fourth [Crafton] in the championship.

"I'm happy to win anywhere," Sauter said. "But I'm more proud of where we've come, as a team. At the end of last season we were threatening to win races. We went through the offseason, worked on our pit crew, worked on our trucks and I feel like we're gonna win some races this season."

With fewer than two laps to go at Martinsville, Sauter nudged Busch just enough coming off Turn 2 to enable him to outrun Busch to Turn 3, and it was turn out the lights. Busch, Harvick and even Hornaday, who was involved in a post-race skirmish last year at Martinsville with Sauter, all praised the Wisconsin native post-race.

"It's cool to have that respect," Sauter said. "But now, you're happy that you won, but the racer inside of you -- now you just want more, you know what I mean?"

Owners' points ploys pay

Just how critical a point here and a position there are in the Sprint Cup Series in 2011 came into sharp focus at Martinsville Speedway last weekend -- and it may result in agony for TRG Motorsports this weekend in Texas.

Heading into Saturday night's Samsung 500 at Texas, Front Row Motorsports' No. 37 car and TRG's No. 71 are tied for the 35th position in owners' points. But the 37, which has been driven most of this season by Tony Raines, gets the spot based on a better finish -- 25th twice, at Phoenix and Martinsville -- against the 71's best of 28th, also at Martinsville at the hands of Hermie Sadler.

So with Cup rookie of the year candidate Andy Lally back in the seat at Texas, and TRG fielding a Ford for the first time in its existence, they have the pressure of trying not to be the one car of nine that will go home after qualifying Friday.

Casey Mears, who had raced into the top 35 despite missing the Daytona 500, fell back to 37th, two points out of 35th. On the other end of the spectrum, with a gutty, gambling 24th-place finish, Frank Stoddard's FAS Lane Racing team is now 22 points clear of 35th with Ken Schrader again driving the car this weekend.

Herman is the face of American Ethanol

Anyone who knew that Kenny Wallace would debut his American Ethanol sponsorship this weekend in the Nationwide Series at Texas -- but then saw the NASCAR ad for ethanol that prominently featured Sprint Cup driver Greg Biffle's countenance and car -- don't worry.

"That ad was done a long time ago," Wallace said earlier this week. "I'm still serving as the spokesperson for American Ethanol and we're looking forward to having it on our RAB Racing car this weekend."

Tommy Baldwin supports veterans

Tommy Baldwin Racing will support "Manpower to Horsepower" through a campaign leading up to Memorial Day Weekend. Manpower to Horsepower, a disabled veteran's vocational rehabilitation program, had the organization's logo on the No. 36 Chevrolet beginning at Martinsville Speedway last weekend. TBR and Manpower to Horsepower will work together in the upcoming weeks to show support to members of the military with the culmination of the partnership to include festivities during Memorial Day Weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

With approval from the Veteran's Administration, Manpower to Horsepower is an accredited program through the Rowan-Cabarrus (North Carolina) Community College and offers a certificate program in Motorsports Management Technology for military veterans with physical disabilities.

Manpower to Horsepower began with the creation of a handicapped-accessible ride-along dirt car developed by Sue Roberson and SMP Motorsports. With support from the USO of North Carolina, Manpower to Horsepower campaigned to expand the program to include hands-on training at the SMP Motorsports shop located in Mooresville, N.C.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.