NASCAR Race Weekend Central

2014 NASCAR Driver Review: Johnny Sauter

Johnny Sauter

2014 Ride: No. 98 ThorSport Racing Toyota
2014 Crew Chief: Eugene Wachtel (two races), Dennis Connor (10), Jeff Hensley (10)
2014 Points Finish: Fourth
2014 Truck Series Stats: 22 starts, 1 win, 8 top 5s, 16 top 10s, 1 pole, 154 laps led, 2 DNFs, 9.2 average start, 9.3 average finish.
2014 Best Finish: First (Michigan)

High Point: For the first time since 2010, Johnny Sauter did not score multiple wins in a season. That made the race he did capture – at Michigan International Speedway in August – all the sweeter. Sauter didn’t dominate the Careers for Veterans 200, leading only the last four laps and 25 overall, but he was able to muscle past teammate and eventual champion Matt Crafton to do so in a rare instance of a long, long green-flag run that went from lap 15 to the finish. Under those circumstances, being able to catch and pass the leader is far more impressive.

Low Point: A race at Talladega Superspeedway is a beacon of hope for anyone, a chance for the lesser-knowns to score solid finishes and even a potential victory. For Sauter and his team, one of the series’ best, Talladega was far more integral; the No. 98 team was in the running for a championship, Sauter’s first. Instead, his truck’s engine expired, relegating him to a 31st-place finish 24 laps in and dashing what little hope was left in catching teammate Crafton for the trophy.

Summary: Sauter has been a full-time driver in the Camping World Truck Series for six years now. As such, one might expect – given the caliber of his team combined with his resume prior to joining the series – that he’d have a championship by now. So while 2014 wasn’t a dud, it was still yet another miss for Sauter. The 36-year-old won only one race, though he managed his second-best average finish in his full-time campaigns in the series.

Sauter’s temper, key to the consistency needed for a championship run sometimes gets the better of him. After a disappointing 31st at Talladega, he then took to Martinsville and got into a post-race spat with Timothy Peters. It was part of a six-race stretch with no top-five finishes, allowing Crafton to pull away and Sauter to slump to fourth in the final standings. Even worse, Johnny’s father, former Cup driver Jim, passed away this season, a personal tragedy that left the driver in need of some offseason healing.

2015 Outlook: Sauter, with solid sponsorship and the support of Thorsport ownership is signed to drive this truck through 2015. Expect a seventh try at the title as he looks to give Crafton a run for his money.

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