By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Former NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series champion Johnny Sauter, driver of the No. 13 ThorSport Racing Ford F-150, has been suspended for one race due to his actions during Sunday’s M&Ms 200 at Iowa Speedway.
The feud began two weeks ago at Texas Motor Speedway after Sauter was taken out by Austin Hill, eliminating him from a race win. Their clash continued during Sunday’s race, specifically on the 137th lap.
Hill turned Sauter around in Turn 3, which led the former champion to retaliate under caution by turning Hill around and kept damaging his No. 16 Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota Tundra. NASCAR parked Sauter for the incident while Hill finished 12th.
Then on Tuesday, NASCAR officials laid down the law by benching him for Saturday’s CarShield 200 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.
Despite being suspended, Sauter won’t lose his championship eligibility and wasn’t either fined or docked points for his behavior at Iowa.
Scott Miller, NASCAR’s Senior Vice President of Competition, said suspending Sauter after the altercation with Hill was warranted. However, taking him out of the title picture after already locking himself into the playoffs thanks to his win at Dover, would’ve been harsh.
“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 that we have at hand,” said Miller. “In this case, we felt like his actions certainly warranted being sat down for an event, 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.”
Hill wasn’t reprimanded for causing the incident, but Miller said there was some discussions about handling Hill’s actions and they’ll keep a close eye on him going forward if he potentially crosses that line with Sauter or any other competitor.
“We did talk about that,” Miller commented, “and while we haven’t typically reacted in the form of a penalty to those things, there will certainly be further discussions with the driver of the 16 and he will definitely be placed under a little bit more of a microscope as far as us watching his actions on the race track.”
Entering Gateway, Hill sits seventh in the championship standings, one spot ahead of Sauter.
ThorSport Racing have yet to announce Sauter’s replacement and whether or not they’ll appeal NASCAR’s decision.
As for Sauter’s plans regarding this weekend, he tweeted that he’ll be racing in Saturday’s Dick Trickle 99 feature at Dells Raceway Park in Wisconsin.
— Johnny Sauter (@JohnnySauter) June 18, 2019
Two days later, ThorSport announced that last year’s Rookie of the Year Myatt Snider will replace Sauter, returning to the truck he won the honor.