Sauter sees success after shedding No. 13
April 13, 2013, Zack Albert, NASCAR.com
ROCKINGHAM, N.C. -- There's no apparent triskaidekaphobia -- fear of the number 13 -- as the reason why Johnny Sauter's truck number changed before the start of the season. Whether it's luck, omens or mere coincidence, good things have followed Sauter since he shed the No. 13.
Sauter will bid for a third straight victory to start the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season in Sunday's North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Rockingham Speedway. As with his wins at Daytona and Martinsville, he'll continue the numeric change of pace by carrying the No. 98 for ThorSport Racing.
Sauter enjoyed plenty of success in ThorSport's No. 13, winning at least one race in each of the four years he campaigned the unlucky number for team owner Mike Curb. The team also tempted fate in recent seasons with sponsorships from peanut brands; the snack has long been viewed as a source of sour luck in stock-car racing circles.
"I believe in giving 100 percent, and whatever happens, happens."
-- Johnny Sauter
"I'm not superstitious at all," said Sauter, who leads rookie Jeb Burton by 12 points in the Truck standings. "I believe in giving 100 percent, and whatever happens, happens. But that seems to be the hot topic, people pointing to the number change. Then a lot of people said I had the double whammy -- I had peanuts on the truck and I was 13. So whatever.
"The number's cool. I actually like the look of the truck and the number 98, so to me, it's a win-win. I can't honestly give any feedback on that. If there is luck or superstition, then I'm way off base. Whatever it is, it's working so I just want to leave it alone."
No driver has ever started the season with a three-race win streak since the Truck series began in 1995, something Sauter hopes to achieve at Rockingham. Even with the modest string of victories, it's difficult to say if momentum is on his side. Shortly after his victory in the season opener at Daytona, the truck tour took a five-week layoff.
The break may not have allowed Sauter to build up a head of steam, but he quickly regained stride at Martinsville.
"I think some people think that momentum exists and some people maybe don't completely believe in that," Sauter said. "I think you give 100 percent no matter what and at the end of the day, you get what you get -- not just the driver, the whole team, everybody. Momentum is cool and I think it sounds cool, but I've been racing in the Truck series long enough to know there's a big break after Daytona and the first year or two that I ran the trucks, it was kind of hard to get used to. Now I've kind of gotten accustomed to it, and it's actually kind of nice, especially when you have a good run at Daytona."
Based on his efforts last season, Sauter has a fighting chance at Rockingham this weekend. In 2012 on the historic mile track, he led 40 of 200 laps before finishing fourth behind race winner Kasey Kahne.
Besides his past performance, Sauter has savored the history, the variety of racing grooves and the premium on tire management that The Rock offers.
"You've also got options. You can run the bottom, run the middle, run the top … you don't have a lot of race tracks like that," Sauter said. "This place here, you feel like Superman on sticker tires and 10 laps into the run, you're slipping and sliding. I think this is great. I couldn't be happier. It's like driving back in time coming back this morning."
If Sauter can realize his goal of a 3-for-3 start, then the number change success theory may gain more traction … unless ThorSport teammate Matt Crafton follows through on a playful pre-race threat.
"He's gonna have a 13 on his truck if he keeps this streak alive," Crafton said. "It's going to be under his seat, under the truck somewhere. I'm going to put it on there and he's not going to know about it. The 13 will be planted on Johnny somewhere."
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