Johnny Sauter ready to see what 2013 Trucks Series holds

After 6-week break, Truck Series to crank up at Martinsville, Va.

Thursday, Apr. 04, 2013

Anybody remember who won the NASCAR Truck Series opener at Daytona?

Yes, it was Johnny Sauter, and he certainly remembers.

But it is six weeks since the series last raced and everyone from series director Chad Little down to the drivers and crews are ready to return to action in Saturday’s Kroger 250 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.

Former series director Wayne Auton “told me this was going to be the best part of my job was the five-week vacation following Daytona, and then it was time to get busy,” Little said.

“I think the competitors are anxious to get back to Martinsville. Most of them come from the short-track circles and it’s most near and dear to their hearts.”

Sauter, a former champion in the American Speed Association (a series dominated by short tracks), certainly is one of them.

He has had a mixed record of success at Martinsville but was excited to leave Daytona without having to dig out of a sizable points hole for a change.

“The Truck Series has been a tough row to hoe for me” at Daytona, Sauter. “Every year we’ve been looking at being 25th to 35th in points, depending where we finished, going into the rest of season.

“Hopefully we can get back to championship form. I think we can. I know the guys are working hard. We’re going to Martinsville next – we’ve won there.

“I’m digging right now where we’re sitting, that’s for sure.”

Sauter has competed at all of NASCAR’s elite levels – Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Truck. He is in his fifth consecutive season driving for ThorSport Racing owners Duke and Rhonda Thorson.

Sauter, 34, has never won a driver’s championship in any of NASCAR’s three national series. He came closest in 2011 when he was runner-up and six points shy of Truck Series champion Austin Dillon.

Sauter shared in the 2003 owner’s championship in what is now the Nationwide Series. He and Kevin Harvick shared the driving duties in Richard Childress Racing’s No. 21 Chevrolet that season.

Sauter grew up around racing. One of 12 children of legendary short-track racer Jim Sauter, Johnny still had to fund his racing efforts as he decided to pursue it as a career.

Because of his father’s rule that he must finish high school before competing on a regular basis, Johnny’s foray into racing didn’t come until the summer after his graduation.

It didn’t take long to find success, as Johnny Sauter won the ASA national championship with a record 10 wins in 2001 at age 23.

Asked what it would mean to win his first driver’s title, Sauter was emphatic.

“It would obviously be the biggest accomplishment of my career for myself and for my family,” he said.

“I grew up in racing with my dad and brothers. However, I don’t think I’ll truly know what it means until it happens.”

A good finish this weekend and Sauter might be well on his way to finding out.

Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter
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