(Photo: Zach Catanzareti)

Johnny Sauter Enjoys Return XFINITY Race in Dover

Though under tough circumstances, Johnny Sauter had a blast Saturday at Dover International Speedway.

Following Spencer Gallagher‘s suspension due to a substance abuse violation, the No. 23 GMS Racing seat became available. And it was given to Sauter, who would make his first XFINITY Series start since 2014.

In a car that has been consistently in the top 10 with Gallagher in 2018, Sauter kept the pace moving without hesitation. The 40-year-old qualified his Chevrolet 11th before running top 10 most of the day toward a sixth-place finish.

But all wasn’t easy, as even a veteran can learn something new on a racetrack.

“I realized I was driving too hard and not letting the car do the work,” he said. “As I got disciplined as the race went on, we kept freeing it up. If we could start the race where it ended and work on it from there, we would’ve had a hell of a day.”

Sauter won Friday’s dramatic Camping World Truck Series race for GMS and found distinct differences between the two machines on the same Dover turf.

“You can drive the heck out of a truck,” he said. “You can drive all the way to the center of the corner, blip the throttle and get right back to it. These things, you have to lift real early and carry part-throttle through the middle.

“For lack of a better way to put it, you really have to drive these things easy. Be disciplined to lift early, let the car roll through the corner.”

A sixth-place finish stands as Sauter’s first XFINITY Series top 10 since 2006. The competitive stance throughout Saturday was littered with close calls and wild restarts.

“We found ourselves in some action [laughs],” he said. “Top of three-wide, restarts were hairy. For the most part, it was fun. Racing with some guys I raced Trucks with the last couple years. Familiar territory.

“I had a lot of fun just filling in, getting the call just a day or two ago. Hopefully, they learned something today, too, and they can apply it later on.”

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Growing up in Easton, Pa., Zach Catanzareti has grown his auto racing interest from fandom to professional. Joining Frontstretch in 2015, Zach enjoys nothing more than being at the track, having covered his first half-season of 18 races in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2017. With experience behind the wheel, behind the camera and in the media center, he thrives on being an all-around reporter.

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