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Sauter Chickens Out At Texas Motor Speedway

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, November 3 2012

Johnny Sauter got a boost from his grandmother in Texas on Friday night at TMS. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Gregg Ellman)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

FORT WORTH, Texas – Johnny Sauter’s season of disappointing double-digit results in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series does not include the two races run at Texas Motor Speedway.

When he races at TMS, Sauter conveniently develops a case of “Romnesia.”

“I’m worried about Tuesday and Mitt Romney winning (the presidential election)…that’s the next worry on my mind,” Sauter joked in the afterglow of his victory in Friday night’s 14th annual WinStar World Casino 350. Sauter passed Parker Kligerman, who took only two tires during his last pit stop, with 11 laps to go en route to completing a sweep of the 2012 NCWTS events on TMS’ high-banked, 1.5-mile quadoval.

Meanwhile, point-leader James Buescher drove his wounded truck to an 11th-place finish to maintain his championship lead after 20 of 22 events. Buescher, who began the night with a 21-point lead, exited his home racetrack with a 15-point advantage over runnerup Ty Dillon after the latter’s fifth-place run.

“To be able to sweep Texas, it’s really cool,” said Sauter, driver of the No. 13 SealMaster/Curb Records Toyota Tundra fielded by ThorSport Racing. “Grandma lives right up the road and that’s two races in a row that she’s made me chicken n’ dumplings. I think that’s beginning to be my good luck charm. Just proud of everybody and this is a team effort.”

Sauter scored his first win of 2012 in the WinStar World Casino 400 in June, holding off teammate Matt Crafton by 2.101-seconds. Sauter started Friday’s 147-lap/220.5-mile race 13th and worked his way into the lead twice for a total of 28 laps en route to his sixth series victory. Sauter is only the third driver to score a Truck Series sweep at TMS, joining four-time series champion Ron Hornaday Jr. (2008) and Brendan Gaughan (2002-03).

“It’s been a season of peaks and valleys, for sure,” said Sauter, who has 12 finishes of 11th or worse. “Just can’t thank Duke and Rhonda Thorson (team-owners), Mike Curb and everybody that’s been very patient with us this

Johnny Sauter is 2-0 at TMS this year. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

year. We’ve had the truck to beat and just had a lot of bad luck this year, quite frankly. Just an awesome performance.”

Sauter finished 2.199-seconds ahead of second-place Kligerman, driver of the No. 7 Camp Horsin’ Around Toyota fielded by Red Horse Racing. Pole-sitter Nelson Piquet Jr. ran third in the No. 30 TAG Heuer Avant-Garde Eyewear Chevrolet Silverado fielded by Turner Motorsports.

Sauter passed Piquet Jr. on Lap 100 and quickly began to stretch his advantage. The margin reached nearly three seconds before the handling of Sauter’s truck began to deteriorate. Kligerman cut the edge to less than a second before the lead-lap trucks began a round of green-flag pit stops on Lap 113.

Quick pit work on a two-tire stop put Kligerman into the lead by more than three seconds over Sauter by time the pit stops cycled through. But Sauter _ running on four new Goodyear tires _ caught and passed Kligerman on Lap 137 of 147.

“When we made our green-flag pit stop I took care of everything and made sure that we didn’t get any penalties,” said Sauter, whose truck is tuned by crew chief Joe Shear Jr. “And we passed the No. 30 (of Piquet Jr.) and then a half-lap later they said, ‘Hey, the No. 7 (Kligerman) truck took two tires and he’s the leader.’ I looked up and he was pretty far out there. I was like, ‘Oh boy!’ At that point they kept telling me my lap time and that I was two, three, four-tenths faster than him per lap. I knew that two tires _ with as much time as was left in the race _ I didn’t think they would prevail.”

Meantime, Buescher’s bid for his first championship took a minor points hit. Buescher started the race beside teammate Piquet Jr. and was running in the front group when Crafton’s No. 88 Menards/Tough Built Toyota made contact with his truck on the Lap 70 restart after the second caution. Buescher began dropping back and was passed by Dillon a few laps later. Along with body damage to the truck, Buescher was heard on his radio complaining about a bad vibration.

“Just the minor damage that we had changed the handling of the truck completely,” said Buescher, driver of the No. 31 Great Clips Chevrolet. “It went really, really tight and I wasn’t able to make it through the corners with any kind of speed. It created a lot of drag down the straightaways, too. It didn’t look like a lot of damage when I got out but it definitely changed the way the thing drove.”

Buescher, last of 11 drivers to finish on the lead lap, was amazed the race produced only two cautions for a record total of eight laps. The 2009 NCWTS spring race was run with two cautions/10 laps.

“We never got another caution, so we never got an opportunity to fix our truck,” said Buescher, who grew up in nearby Plano and drives for father-in-law Steve Turner. ”Our green-flag stop we did a little bit to try to fix it but we didn’t want to give up time and thought we could possibly catch a break, and it never came. The track was just really slick and I think that any time the track is really, really slick like that there’s less cautions. Everybody’s just more cautious and it’s part of it.”

Dillon, a series rookie, emerged as one of nine drivers leading at least one lap. “It was a good night,” said Dillon, driver of the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevy fielded by grandfather Richard Childress. “Obviously we want to win the race, but we gained points and I think it’s going to be all right. Hopefully he’s (Buescher) just worried about us and that’s hurting him. We’ll keep fighting and keep getting points and make a battle out of this.”

With Piquet Jr.’s third-place finish, Chevrolet captured the 2012 Manufacturers’ Championship for the eighth time since the series’ inception in 1995. Chevy drivers have gone to Victory Lane 11 times this season, with Buescher scoring a series-high four wins to-date.

Next up is the Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix International Raceway on Friday, Nov. 9. The race is scheduled to be televised live on SPEED beginning at 7:30 p.m. (EST) and broadcast live on the Motor Racing Network beginning at 7:45 p.m.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, November 3 2012
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