Sauter Gains Whole New Perspective With Daytona VictoryFew current competitors have greater success in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series than Johnny Sauter. The Wisconsin driver counts victories in every season as a fulltime driver, a Sunoco Rookie of the Year award and two top-three championship finishes.
Missing, however, had been a top performance at Daytona International Speedway, where accidents in three successive season openers left Sauter digging himself out of a championship hole.
Not this year.
Sauter finally won the season’s crown jewel, the Feb. 22 NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway, in a tense duel with Kyle Busch. He’ll go to the April 6 Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway with the wind figuratively at his back.
He won the 2011 Kroger 250 and finished fourth in the track’s fall race the same season.
"Every year we've been looking at being 25th to 35th in points, depending where we finished, going into the season, and we came close to winning the championship two years ago," said Sauter, who won both series races at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012 but finished ninth in points. "So I'm digging right now where we're sitting, that's for sure."
Sauter’s Daytona victory established a pair of milestones – one for his manufacturer, the other personal. The ThorSport Racing team recorded Toyota’s 100th victory since the truck maker entered the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2004. Toyota now has won seven straight Daytona truck races.
For Sauter, winning at Daytona continued a family racing tradition. His father, Jim, won the track’s ARCA 200 in 1978 – the same year Sauter was born. The family’s patriarch and siblings Jay and Tim also have competed in the series.
"This is cool for me personally," Johnny Sauter said.
Season Opener Suggests Banner Year For NCWTS NewcomersIt never hurts to hit the ground running, especially if you’re new to NASCAR. Several NASCAR Camping World Truck newcomers did exactly that in Daytona, although with mixed results.
Darrell Wallace Jr. experienced the highs and lows of a series and Sunoco Rookie of the Year debut. Wallace overcame an early pit road miscue to bring his No. 54 KBM Toyota home 12th – two positions higher than he qualified.
"There were times when it was nerve wracking, but we made it through with very few scratches," said the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East graduate.
Rookie contenders Jeb Burton, 20, and Ryan Blaney, 19, did even better. Burton, driver of the No. 4 Turner Scott Motorsports Chevrolet, finished fifth. Blaney’s No. 29 Brad Keselowski Racing Ford was eighth.
The week’s most spectacular performance wound up being its own reward. Brennan Newberry became just the second official rookie contender to win a NCWTS pole at Daytona. The 23-year-old Californian’s No. 14 NTS Motorsports Chevrolet was swept up in a multi-truck accident and finished 33rd.