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NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series veteran Johnny Sauter was suspended Tuesday (June 18) for one race by series officials. The punishment comes two days after he and Austin Hill tangled in Sunday’s M&M’s 200 at Iowa.
Although he will miss this weekend’s Gateway 200, Sauter remains eligible for the NASCAR playoffs and championship. The driver of the No. 13 Ford has already won this season, which means a postseason bid is nearly assured.
The incident in question involved Sauter and Hill making contact in turn 1 at the speedway, causing both trucks to get loose. Hill followed up by spinning Sauter into the wall, and Sauter further retaliated by wrecking Hill under caution with 60 laps to go.
"I know you don't like that, NASCAR, but that's the second week in a row that guy's wrecked us."
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) June 17, 2019
Sauter was then parked by NASCAR, refusing to speak with reporters on his way to the NASCAR hauler.
He will not race this weekend’s event at the newly renamed World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway. However, Sauter will retain his aforementioned championship eligibility.
The decision evokes memories of similarly handled incidents, such as Kyle Busch’s one-race suspension in the Xfinity and Cup series after crashing Ron Hornaday at Texas in 2011. Matt Kenseth was suspended in Cup for two races after retaliating against Joey Logano at Martinsville in 2015.
NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Scott Miller took to SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Tuesday afternoon to discuss the penalty decision.
“We look back at the history of everything we’ve done and try to react with the precedents that we’ve set and then obviously tailoring those to the situation we have at hand,” he explained. “In this case, we felt like [Sauter’s] actions certainly warranted being sat down for an even, but it felt a little too harsh to take him straight out of the championship, so we think we landed on what we feel is fair and a deterrent.
“We tend to look at incidents under caution as more of a retaliatory thing. Obviously, him driving half a track with a smoking truck and winding through a few cars to get to the (No.) 16 and then running over him, then bouncing off the wall and running into his door, it was pretty aggressive. It was definitely anything that could in any way, shape or form be defended as a racing incident.”
Miller said officials did discuss a potential penalty for Hill but ultimately declined to do so, though he will be “under a little bit more of a microscope as far as us watching his actions on the track.” Miller also mentioned that both drivers will have another conversation prior to the next race they’re set to be on the track together in to ensure they have a clear understanding of acceptable behavior.
According to Kickin’ The Tires, ThorSport Racing general manager David Pepper said, “No decision had been made on whether to appeal.” He described Sauter’s suspension as “unfortunate.”
No replacement driver for ThorSport Racing’s No. 13 Ford F-150 has been named.
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