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Friday August 24, 2018

Johnny Sauter was crowned the regular season champion in the Camping World Truck Series, but knows from experience if he wants to claim the bigger prize, a series championship, a successful trip to Martinsville on October 27 is crucial.

In 2016, Sauter turned a win in the Texas Roadhouse 200 into a series title and hopes to pull the same trick in 2018.

“It’s a very pivotal race and it’s almost like a restrictor-plate race where anything can happen,” Sauter said. “Sometimes that is out of your control. It is a big shot in the arm when you come out of there with a win. It gets everybody pumped up and keeps the momentum flowing. I’ve also been on the flipside of that when I came out of there saying ‘Oh boy.’ That’s a place where you have to manage your competition but you also have to manage your equipment and the racetrack and that’s what makes it a little more challenging.”

Sauter’s ability to manage the factors that make Martinsville an unpredictable venue for the Truck Series, along with his five Truck Series so far in 2018, have him feeling that a win is in the cards on October 27.

“I think the way we’re performing and considering I really like that racetrack a lot – it’s in my top-five favorites to race on – I feel like we can win every time we roll through the gate at Martinsville,” Sauter said. “A win is what we’re looking for. It’s been a great racetrack for us and if we do everything right, we should be right there.”

That ability to feel that success is in his grasp is something Sauter did not feel in his first few trips to the historic half mile speedway.

“First couple of times I feel like I was trying to make things happen that shouldn’t necessarily happen. As a driver your tendency is to try to take something that isn’t there or overdrive your equipment,” Sauter said. “As you get older you realize that if you let the truck do all the work it makes your job a lot easier. You have to have patience. The key to that place is making a long run in practice to know what direction your truck is heading.”

The Wisconsin native and short-track ace noted that he has also learned how to deal with the physicality of racing at Martinsville and the emotions that come along with it.

“You have to manage your expectations and your emotions. You’re going to get run into somewhere along the way,” Sauter said. “A lot of times it’s by accident and a lot of times it’s not. That’s what you have to decide – do you think the guy did it on purpose or not – but you can’t let it get the best of you because you’ll find yourself in a compromising position down the road or abusing your equipment. It snowballs out of control so you have to take care of everything without letting people get you upset and that is easier said than done.”

His proficiency at handling all of the factors that go along with short-track racing did not come about by accident. Sauter can often be found at short-tracks racing Super Late Models throughout the Midwest and southern states during off weekends for the Truck Series.

Those weekends honing his craft help “tune” the driver for trips to short tracks driving for GMS Racing in the Truck Series, and also give him a little extra pep in his step if he earns a victory.

“Winning in anything is cool, I think it keeps you pumped up. Short track racing, whether it is a truck or a late model, the basic principles still apply. I think it does help,” Sauter said. “Martinsville is a big rhythm race track where you get into a rhythm hitting your marks and that’s exactly what short-track racing teaches you – that discipline of trying to carry the right amount of speed. It’s a good tuning tool for a driver.”

With just 200 laps to get the job done in October and secure a spot in the Camping World Truck Series Championship Four, Sauter said he is excited to put his experience turning laps and earning victories at short tracks in a variety of series to work as he looks for a fourth grandfather clock trophy to add to his collection despite the challenges every driver faces along the road to victory at the Half Mile of Mayhem.

“I don’t know if it’s confidence or just that I’ve been there and seen every scenario play out. That’s a race where you can be minding your own business and get caught up in somebody else’s mess pretty quick,” Sauter said. “Martinsville is a tough little place, everything can be going your way then something throws a wrench in your plans. That’s a racetrack where I feel like you race the racetrack all day, take care of your stuff, then hope you’ve got something left with 50 laps to go.”

The First Data 500 weekend is October 26-28.

Advance ticket prices for the First Data 500 begin at just $46 with youth tickets for fans 17-and-under costing just $25 regardless of location. Youth 17-and-under will be admitted free to the Texas Roadhouse 200 presented by Alpha Energy Solutions NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race as well as Friday’s practice day.

The weekend starts with a practice day for the truck series on Friday. On Saturday, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is in action with the Texas Roadhouse 200 presented by Alpha Energy Solutions. Following the race the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will qualify for Sunday’s First Data 500.

Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased by calling 1-877-RACETIX or online at www.martinsvillespeedway.com.

 

Tags: Henry County, Martinsville Speedway, NASCAR, Racing