HAMPTON, Ga. – Johnny Sauter passed Kyle Busch mid-race in Saturday’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series event at Atlanta Motor Speedway. But he couldn’t replicate the move in the waning laps, as Busch surged to his record-setting 52nd career victory in the Truck Series.
“Honestly, I was kinda trying to wreck him and I just couldn’t get there,” said Sauter, who finished second. “I was locked onto him and I was hoping he would spin out, but he did a great job of blocking.
“So, in hindsight, maybe (I’d) go to the top, but I just don’t feel like I would have had the momentum to get him off the corner. I might think differently after I watch the replay.”
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While Sauter didn’t nab the checkered flag, the No. 13 driver was one of three ThorSport Racing drivers who finished in the top five in the 130-lap event, with Grant Enfinger and Ben Rhodes coming up third and fifth, respectively (the fourth driver Matt Crafton finished 14th). At one point, all four of the team’s drivers were running first through fourth, providing a strong showing for a group of drivers that was fully finalized just weeks ago.
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“It’s great, obviously I’m a late addition to the party,” said Sauter, whose ride was announced Feb. 13. “Those guys have had a lot of speed toward the end of last year, I felt like. So, when the opportunity came back and (owner) Duke (Thorson) gave me the ring to come back, I was like, ‘Hell, yeah, let’s do it.’ … I feel like we’ll be able to carry this for a while.”
Rhodes’ No. 99 ride for this season was announced the same day as Sauter’s, with the 21-year-old driver having piloted ThorSport’s Nos. 27 and 41 entries in years prior. His strong run at Daytona International Speedway last week was interrupted by the “Big One,” so he appreciated a top-five finish this week.
“The funny thing is we were kind of running a little bit different packages to suit the drivers,” Rhodes said. “We were all different but we were different in a good way, so it showed strength, it showed unity with the team. The driver lineup at ThorSport, I think is pretty stout this year, between Grant and Crafton and Sauter. …
“I think as a team we can get better at some stuff back at the shop and that will just translate to some really good, raw speed off the hauler.”