Johnny Sauter is likely feeling the postseason pressure.
With only five races and five spots remaining, the 2016 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series champ has yet to secure a spot in the upcoming 2020 playoffs — something his three ThorSport Racing teammates have basically already done.
RELATED: Official results
Grant Enfinger continues to be the only Gander Truck Series regular with multiple victories this season (two; Daytona International Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway). Reigning champion Matt Crafton snapped a 67-race drought at Kansas Speedway. They both are locked into the 10-driver field, along with the three other drivers with wins.
Ben Rhodes is then safely inside the playoff picture thanks to his points alone. He is currently the top contender among those who can fight their way into the title battle without a guaranteed victory berth, riding an 85-point cushion well above the elimination pool.
Sauter, meanwhile, sits three spots and 72 points below the cutoff line. He must know this. It at least seemed evident Friday night when he aggressively raced Enfinger for the lead in the Gander Truck Series’ Henry Ford Health System 200 at Michigan International Speedway. Sauter pushed so hard, trying to keep the advantage, he spun out his own No. 13 Ford with 16 laps to go in the scheduled 100-lap event.
It wasn’t Sauter’s first time out front either. He led three different times — the most lead steals out of the field — for 18 laps overall.
Ultimately, Sauter finished 16th — not the worst out of his teammates, not the best. He did capture his first stage win of 2020.
Rhodes had the strongest showing out of the ThorSport Racing crew. His No. 99 Ford placed 11th. Crafton was 23rd in the No. 88. Enfinger and the No. 98, despite leading a race-high 38 laps, wound up 33rd.
Crafton’s subpar showing was the result of getting caught up in a multi-truck wreck on Lap 50.
Like Sauter, though, Enfinger also wrecked while leading. Enfinger’s checkered-flag hopes came to an end during the first lap of the race’s second NASCAR Overtime. The front three trucks bunched up and collided on the restart, and Enfinger took the brunt of the impact, sliding off the track and to the back of the pack without drawing a caution.
Zane Smith capitalized on the chaos and scored his first career victory on Lap 107.
Sauter’s next chance at a playoff bid will be Aug. 16, as the Gander Trucks Series takes on the Daytona International Speedway Road Course for the first time ever (noon ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).