News & Media

Truck Preview: Talladega is linchpin in Sauter's title hopes

October 21, 2011, Sporting News Wire Service,

If veteran can get through this weekend, rest of the schedule sets up well for him

Based on experience and results, the odds are stacked in Johnny Sauter's favor to become the 2011 Camping World Truck Series champion.

Sauter, however, isn't one to make bold predictions.

"I don't think you can ever proclaim yourself to be the odds-on man to win anything. I think it's just way too competitive."


That's because the very same experience that could give him a leg up over the season's final four races is the same experience that has taught him to make no assumptions.

"I don't think you can ever proclaim yourself to be the odds-on man to win anything," the ThorSport Racing driver said. "I think it's just way too competitive. I've seen the cycles of this sport where you're on top, and technology changes, things just change so fast."

Nowhere can things change faster than at Talladega Superspeedway, site of Saturday's Coca-Cola 250.

Sauter, who jumped up a spot to second in the standings and closed within five points of championship leader Austin Dillon last weekend at Las Vegas, is admittedly a little worried about Talladega -- a high-speed 2.66-mile circuit notorious for multicar wrecks.

"Talladega in my opinion is the linchpin that determines a lot of the outcome of what's going to go on in the points," said Sauter, who holds a two-point edge on third-place James Buescher. "The strategy for me is going to be very simple, and that's ride around for 85 laps and see what you can get in the [end]. That worked for us last year. When you're racing in that tight of a pack, somebody's going to make a mistake somewhere along the way and it's going to be havoc for everybody else."

If Sauter can escape Talladega without losing much ground, the series' final three stops could play to his favor in the championship battle.

The 33-year-old Wisconsin native's resume is better -- and deeper -- at the remaining tracks than those of Dillon and Buescher, a pair of 21-year-olds with promising futures but not nearly the seat time of Sauter, who has been around the block in all three of NASCAR's national series.

At Martinsville, the track following Talladega, Sauter won from the pole this spring while Dillon finished seventh and Buescher 35th.

At Texas, this season's penultimate event, Sauter finished second in both of last year's races and led 56 laps in the spring before a late penalty relegated him to 22nd. Dillon, meanwhile, has finished outside the top 20 in two of his three visits to the Lone Star State, while Buescher has finished no better than sixth in five outings at TMS.

As for the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Sauter also carries the statistical edge, with top-10s in two of four starts, including a third-place run last November.

Dillon's lone Homestead outing yielded a 31st-place finish, while Buescher has been no better than 18th in three starts at the South Florida track.

All this could bode well for Sauter. Or does it?

"A week ago a lot of people would have told you we were out of it, so anything can happen and obviously we know that," Sauter said. "So we've just got to keep going to the race track and doing our business."