Press Release

NCWTS points leader Sauter digging for win at Eldora

NCWTS points leader Sauter digging for win at Eldora

ROSSBURG – Johnny Sauter leads the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series points standings. He has a series-high four victories. And in 10 of 12 races this season he’s finished among the top five.

Sauter has excelled on asphalt in pursuit of his second NCWTS championship in three seasons. His track record on Eldora Speedway’s dirt, though, has experienced its share of ruts.

The driver of the No. 21 ISM Connect Chevrolet for GMS Racing, though, plans to keep on truckin’ at the sixth Eldora Dirt Derby on the famed high-banked, half-mile oval. Sauter’s dirt experience is limited to what he’s done at Eldora Speedway. So far that’s resulted in a best finish of eighth place in the 2014 Dirt Derby. Sauter’s average starting position at Eldora is 10.8. His average finish is 19.0.

“If you want to know the truth I feel like I’m regressing instead of progressing,” Sauter said. “It’s a tough one for me. I’ve spent 40 years asphalt racing and it’s just a tough deal to learn. I love the atmosphere and I love going out there. I think it’s a really cool place.”

Sauter enters Eldora holding a 42-point lead over Noah Gragson. He leads the playoff points with 22, a six-point lead over Brett Moffitt. All three have wins this season meaning they are locked into the playoffs. That takes some pressure off Sauter, who can concentrate more on wins than salvaging high finishes.

“If I’ve got an opportunity to win at Eldora I’m taking it,” Sauter said. “The points aren’t a concern to me at all. We’re pretty much locked in. We have the opportunity to win that race – which would take a miracle – we’re going to take it.”

Sauter looks to last season’s Dirt Derby champion, Matt Crafton, for inspiration. Crafton has started running a dirt modified but came from an asphalt background. He led 24 of the 150 laps to join Austin Dillon (2013), Bubba Wallace (2014), Christopher Bell (2015) and Kyle Larson (2016) as Dirt Derby champions.

Since that personal-best eighth-place finish in 2014 Sauter has finished 22nd, 13th and 23rd last season.

“I think anywhere from fifth to 10th is a good day. That’s my personal expectation for it,” Sauter said. “Would I like to win? Of course. But I’m a realist. I would be totally satisfied with fifth to 10th.

“It’s tough when you only do it once a year. I don’t do any extra-curricular dirt racing. I do asphalt. I’m 40-years old. It’s hard to undo everything you know. … If I was 20 I’d be more apt to go out and really try to learn it. But I’ve got four kids at home that like time with their old man.”

Sauter is one of five drivers with NCWTS victories this season along with Moffitt (3), Gragson (1), Ben Rhodes (1) and Justin Haley (1). A win at Eldora – and getting to take home a Golden Shovel trophy – would add to Sauter’s 2018 win list that already includes Daytona, Dover, Charlotte and Texas.

“The tricky part for me is just how much the race track changes,” Sauter said. “You forget how heavy the track is when you first go out. The hardest thing for me is what do you adjust? Is the driving style that needs to adjust or the chassis that needs to adjust? Asphalt racing is pretty easy. The race track is pretty consistent. With dirt I don’t know if it’s me or the truck that needs adjusted. That’s what always catches me off guard.

“Just having the opportunity is cool, especially at this point in my career because you’re seeing a youth movement coming in. And there are also lot of good drivers that don’t have jobs. Having the opportunity to win races and compete for a championship is all you can ask for at this point. I’m having a blast. I know someday (retirement is) going to come knocking so I want to have fun with it.”