“There is no greater danger than underestimating your opponent.” – Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher
If there is one guy who should be feeling confident entering Homestead-Miami Speedway (and who has the numbers to back it) it’s Johnny Sauter.
The veteran, who will bid for his second championship in the Camping World Truck Series Friday night for GMS Racing, has scored a series-high six wins in 2018 to enjoy the best season of his career. And lining up alongside youngsters Justin Haley, Noah Gragson and Brett Moffitt, many put the experienced Sauter as the favorite heading into the Ford EcoBoost 200.
Except for Sauter.
“I don’t consider myself a favorite at all,” Sauter said. “People say all the time, ‘Does experience matter?’ I think it does a little bit. But with technology and all the things these kids have that their disposal, I don’t know.”
With a championship won in 2016, Sauter has also lost his share of titles to young drivers such as Austin Dillon in 2011 and Christopher Bell in 2017. With these losses behind him, Sauter has learned to not pick favorites — especially himself.
“All of them are threats,” he said. “I’ve been racing long enough to know you don’t count anybody out. Having said that, anybody can get it right. It’s one race. If someone gets a setup right, that’s the way it goes.
“I look at everybody as a threat because anything can happen. I’ve been racing too long.”
No matter how long Sauter has been putting on a Truck Series helmet, 2018 has been his best as far as wins, top fives (tied with 2010), laps led and average finish. With these numbers in his head, 40-year-old Sauter knows the championship is necessary to end 2018.
“You come this far and you have the season we’ve had, to not cap it off with a championship, would definitely be a disappointment,” he said. “I think I speak for GMS when I say that.”
More than anything, Sauter wants a second chance to enjoy a championship.
“I do think there is an opportunity there to enjoy [a second title] more,” he said. “The first one, you’re caught in everything that’s going on around you. If you can get a second one, you’re going to take a little more time with it and enjoy it.”