The Frontstretch: 2013 NASCAR Driver Review: Johnny Sauter by Beth Lunkenheimer -- Thursday December 5, 2013

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2013 NASCAR Driver Review: Johnny Sauter

Beth Lunkenheimer · Thursday December 5, 2013


2013 Ride: No. 98 ThorSport Toyota
2013 Primary Sponsors: Curb Records, Carolina Nut Co., Nextant Aerospace
2013 Owner: Mike Curb
2013 Crew Chiefs: Joe Shear, Jr. (Daytona – Kansas & Iowa – Pocono); Jesse Saunders (Charlotte – Kentucky); Dennis Conner (Michigan – Homestead)

Stats: 22 starts, 1 pole, 3 wins, 9 top 5s, 14 top 10s, 3 DNFs, 4th in points.
Best Finish: 1st, three times (Daytona – February; Martinsville – March; Talladega – October).
Average Finish: 10.3.

Johnny Sauter and family

2013 Team Ranking: 2nd of 2. Teammate Matt Crafton finished in the top 10 19 times in 22 races and won the championship. It’s hard to beat a season like that.

High Point: Winning back-to-back races is definitely how any driver would like to start the year. Having posted an average finish of 25.75 at Daytona in the past, for Sauter to even survive the race without getting caught up in a wreck was enough. He got more; a trip to Victory Lane looked like an indication that 2013 could be a strong year for the driver of the No. 98 Toyota. Fast forward a few weeks to Martinsville and Sauter, along with teammate Matt Crafton, managed to cause rookie Jeb Burton to use up his truck before the finish, putting Sauter in the Winner’s Circle a second straight race.

Low Point: Is there really just one to point to? Simply put, Sauter would probably like to forget this past summer ever happened. Beginning with Kentucky in June, all the way to Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in September, Sauter finished inside the top 10 just once (fourth at Bristol) in that seven-race stretch. But the bright side to that low point is that, aside from a 16th-place finish at Homestead to close the season, the No. 98 team managed to finish in the top 10 in each of the remaining events.

Summary: From the beginning of the year, it began to look like Sauter and the No. 98 team were poised to make another strong run at the championship, but it all began to go downhill with a penalty for an illegal fuel cell at Kansas Speedway in April. After being docked 25 points and losing crew chief Joe Shear, Jr. to a four-race suspension, very little lined up for the driver of the No. 98. In fact, the brightest spot for Sauter in the remainder of the season came with a victory at Talladega in the aftermath of one of the most terrifying Truck Series wrecks in recent history.

2014 Outlook: Sauter and ThorSport Racing signed a multi-year agreement for the driver of the No. 98 Toyota. He’ll be back with his same team and able to work alongside the defending champion next year and for years to come.

2011 Grade: A-.
2012 Grade: NR.
2013 Grade: B-.

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